The recent accident of a B-737 Max taking off Jakarta brings once again the perspective of technology into the human factors alley. We always, as humans, wish to point the blaming finger at one cause for an accident. This makes things simple and well set in a neat compartment of our mind. Now, Boeing a very respected aircraft manufacturer is being scrutinized for an alleged design flaw on it’s newer (and time tested) 737. Some are saying that the issue of a subsystem stabiliser trim component may be a cause for concern. One way or another, the startling effect of a worst case scenario runaway auto-trim combined along with the flight controls being very heavy to operate longitudinaly makes flying very miserable. The procedure, by the way, is handled quite efficiently by the QRH (Quick Reference Handbook) memory items. We were all witnesses to the startling effect, some now call it the “Sully Effect” during the US Air 1549 elegant, I may add, water landing in New-York. The issue at hand is precisely this “hand”: handflying albeit in a positive way.
In 2010, the flight Safety Fondation presented work by Captain Michael Gillen “The diminishing skills”. Essentially, the degradation being caused by approved over dependency on “automatic” systems. These systems ranging from Flight Management Systems, autopilots, authothrust and autotrims. Add to this our Sully Effect and the result is as mentioned miserable. Of course, pilots still know how to fly but they essentially become “rusty” when it comes to hand flying once sitting in modern equipment. This threat is ever so slowly being recognized but still widely sidelined by training departments due to the cost involved. The problem with flight safety is that it does not produce financial dividends at the end of the fiscal year.