Opinion: Reminiscence of automation & aviation security change
When I joined aviation, aircraft systems were more complicated. Although planes were always associated with the most advanced technology, operating them was something that required a great specialization.
Back in those days, small commercial aircraft were flown by two pilots; larger aircraft, that carried more passengers or flew longer routes, required two pilots and a flight engineer (or, as they were called, a mechanic) on board.
In addition, flights to Europe, Asia and Oceania also required a navigator - a person that, as the name implies, guided pilots across oceans. Needless to say, the flight safety to a large extent depended on the level of knowledge and performance of the crew - both individually and as a group.
With time, operating costs began increasing day by day: the fuel price grew out of reasonable range and depended on a many variables, including uncontrollable ones. Thus, it was quickly sought to reduce costs and decided to design an aircraft with fewer engines for transatlantic flights.
The experiments with one turbine less began and the DC10 and the L-1011 appeared (manufactured by American companies McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed TriStar accordingly). The results were amazing, costs were significantly reduced, so long-range and trans-ocean flights on these aircraft soon took off.
Although rules were adjusted to new conditions, cockpits remained occupied by two or three pilots. However, some companies operated the new aircraft with two pilots and a flight engineer.
Subsequently, airlines started to retire onboard mechanics and crews began to consist of three pilots - that is, three commanders capable of flying a plane. The reason for this was because there was a system board at the back of a cockpit, therefore it was more convenient to carry three and not two pilots on long-range flights.
But costs of flights, although lower than on four-engine aircraft, remained high. Engineers, looking for better cost saving solutions, began experimenting with two-engine aircraft. The solution of this new challenge fell out of the regulatory frame – so it had to be changed.
On the one hand, a demand for greater systems progress arose; and on another hand, the statistics were now being used to count the failures that occurred during flights and, consequentially, reliability account of important aircraft components was being created. In addition, instead of one arrival airport, all long-haul flights were now required to have several alternate airports en route for safety reasons.
Little by little flights became carried out on two engine aircraft, at a two, three or four hour distance from a coast. In practice, almost half of flights were carried over oceans, including on three and four engines aircraft, as the increased travel demand dictated.
It was at that time decided that to deal with mid-flight emergencies, flights had to be carried out almost automatically. In other words, it was seen as not convenient to wait for a quick and prompt pilots’ reaction.
On top of this, increased requirements for pilots complicated the training, so engineers began focusing on making planes to "basically take care of themselves", as we will see in the next part.
Brief history of CRMIn 1978 United Airlines flight 173 crashed running out of fuel over Portland, Oregon, while troubles...
Top 5 presidential aircraft
Being the first person of a country requires an appropriate transport to air travel from one destination to another rapi...
90 years ago: Hunter brothers 23 days non-stop flight record
Sometimes it seems that long-haul flights between different continents last for weeks, rather than hours. But imagine re...