Modern day’s aviation Fly by Wire is today’s newest battle of Man versus Machine. “The captain of Qantas Flight 72 has opened up for the first time about the day the automation of a plane he was in charge of ‘went psycho’ and repeatedly nose-dived towards the Indian Ocean. More than 100 people were injured when the pilots of the flight, carrying 303 passengers and 12 crew members from Singapore to Perth, lost control of the aircraft on October 7, 2008. The Airbus A330 had been cruising at 37,000 feet when the autopilot disengaged automatically. It nosedived twice before pilot Kevin Sullivan declared a mayday and made an emergency landing at Learmonth Airport near Exmouth, Western Australia, around 50 minutes after the first descent. Now, eight years later, Mr. Sullivan has broken his silence on the incident that changed his life and left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.” (dailymail.com)
“Airbus has not been immune to the consequences of spurious air data, and unexpected incidents illustrate the difficulties designers and regulators face in predicting and avoiding unintended aircraft behavior. Grounding of the Boeing 737 Max followed two fatal accidents involving unreliable angle-of-attack information and persistent automatic nose-down response from the pitch-control system. Airbus types have experienced serious issues which appear superficially similar to those affecting the Max.” (flightglobal)
“On June 1, 2009, Air France Flight 447 crashed into the ocean on its way back from Rio de Janeiro. 216 passengers and 12 crew died on impact. This month, the official investigation is likely to conclude with “human error” as the culprit–pilots making mistakes that forced the plane to crash. But evidence unearthed by The Telegraph tells a different story, that the pilots of the Airbus A330-200, and everyone else on the plane, were really victims of bad design.
Dominated by computers, Airbus designs its planes with less tactile response. It’s fly-by-wire technology, meaning that there’s very limited tactile feedback. If a pilot sets the plane to a 10-degree pitch, they can move the stick 10 degrees once and remove their hand from the controls entirely. Furthermore, co-pilots don’t feel any sort of feedback in their controls, meaning that as Bonin was making this momentary adjustment, the only way his colleagues could know was by looking right at his hands. (fastcompany)
Comparing the A330 and the 737 MAX Incidents
“So, here we have an airplane that tried to push its own nose down multiple times after seeing bad data indicating that the angle of attack was too high. Does this not sound a whole lot like the 737 MAX problem that we’re dealing with today? It does, but obviously, the outcomes were different. The A330 was never grounded, and as far as I know, there wasn’t a huge negative public reaction to the airplane. What was different? Let’s start with the obvious. Qantas 72 landed safely and nobody died. Regulatory agencies have an unfortunate habit of being reactive, but if nobody dies, there’s a whole lot less pressure to react at all.” (crankyflier)
The modern-day aviation has turned pilots into more computer programers that just input flight data and babysit the computer doing the work rather than the traditional hands-on flying that they were originally trained to do. I personally find this very disturbing since it makes the pilot out of practice for doing hands-on flying. Also, all the fly by wire technology has been highly unreliable and disturbing to watch when things have gone wrong over the years. These issues are much more common on Airbus aircraft than the manufacturer is letting the public know. I have personally been on several A330, A320, A321 and A319 aircraft over the years where the aircraft computer has gone psycho either on the taxiway or during flight. The airplane feels as though it has become demon-possessed.
All the lights start flashing in the cabin, automated announcements start going off, the power dies in the cabin, audible chimes start ringing nonstop in the cabin and the plane begins to drop and dive. It is a very unnerving and disturbing situation to be in for sure. I can only imagine the stress and pressure this places on the pilot in command inside the cockpit. Whenever I have called the Captain, it was always the same answer. They had no idea what to do and there was never a solution or a fix to what was happening. It was always, “We will just have to reset the onboard computer and wait 30 to 45 minutes for it to run its analysis and reboot back up.” This would usually fix the issue but sometimes it did not. This whole new issue with the defective A330 airspeed indicators and sensors is an entirely other serious problem with deadly consequences which nobody is really investigating or talking about.
The airlines, manufacturers, NTSB and the Media are always so quick to point to pilot error after a crash. However, now that everything is Fly by Wire in new modern aircraft this leaves alot open to speculation that we are dealing with a great deal of defective and flawed designed aircraft computer systems. It has created a never-ending battle of man versus machine in today’s cockpit. It makes one envision the demonic HAL computer from 2001 Space Odyssey where Capt Dave is giving commands to the computer. Yet, the computer responds with, “I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
The computer has turned on Capt Dave just like the onboard computers have turned on the Capts of the 737MAX and the A330. They are struggling and fighting for their lives to keep their aircraft in the air as these demonic psycho onboard computers are determined to nose-dive their aircraft into the ground. All while they struggle with all their might to prevent it from doing so. I have always felt that all this automation would be the undoing of aviation. Now we have the newly proposed aviation model of a one-man cockpit for the NMA Boeing 797 with the rest being done by a computer automation pilot on the ground. It just continues to have less and less real human interaction in the cockpit. This can not be good for the future of our airline industry. We can only hope that someone is going to take the reins of this out of control industry when it comes to all this dangerous and unreliable onboard computer automation.
Aviation Travel Writer: The Flight Times Blog