Landing/Autopilot Question for the Heavy Drivers [Archive] - Glock Talk

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C150J
12-31-2003, 15:40
Hey guys,


I was wondering how often you airline/heavy guys utilize autothrottles/autoland/etc. I imagine you don't log autolandings in your logbook? Are these landings generally consistent, and what are the parameters for use (winds, etc.). How often do you hand-fly the aircraft? Is there company SOP that dictates such action, or do you have discretion? I recently jump-seated on a private 727 and the crew hand-flew to 10,000, then flipped on the A/P.

Just trying to get a sense of how often you guys do things.

Blue Skies!
J.

12-31-2003, 17:07
On the MD-82/83 NOBODY does an autoland, unless they have to (CAT III). It is just too scarey. And even then, nobody likes it. It is an older system, and although it seems to work OK, it just does not instill confidence. Autolanding credit goes to the captain.

The autothrottles are turned on during the takeoff roll. And they usually stay on for most of the flight. They usually come off when "cleared for the visual" or there abouts.

Most guys I fly with will hand fly the plane up to at least 3000-4000 feet, and often up to 10000 feet. Once in a while, someone will hand fly it all the way up to cruising altitude. If there is a lot of bad weather around, most guys will turn the autopilot on sooner, so they can play with the radar a little bit more easily. Typically, guys will turn the autopilot off somewhere between 10000 and 2000 feet in the descent. It is totally our descretion when we use the autopilot, except for a CAT III landing.

It seemed to be standard practice on the 727 (my favorite airline aircraft) to hand fly the thing whenever we were below 10000 feet. And of course, we did not have autoland capability on the 727. But we did have a very nice autothrottle system. It was even voice activated. All you had to say was "cruise power", and a hand would magically appear over your shoulder and set the power;f.

The newer planes (757/767, 777, modern 737, etc)have much better autopilots, and thus most guys tend to use them more.

It sure does make for a lazy pilot though.

dozing4dollars
12-31-2003, 17:50
C150J,

If the airplane has autothrust (a/t), they are used nearly 100% of the time unless they are constantly spooling the engines back and forth (turb/mtn wave) , too slow to react (gusty winds approach) OR are inop. In some cases, you may leave them engaged (Boeing) and just push 'em up/back. Airbus uses a different system-here they are thrust limiters and are simply set in a detent and don't move, unless you use them manually.

Depending upon the pilot, the aircraft and SID/DP, we may engage the autopilot as early as 100' AGL on takeoff (e.g.-AMS) or hand fly to 10,000'+. Most heavy jet pilots will use the a/p down to at least radar pattern altitude and many click off the a/p 3-5 miles out, while leaving the a/t and f/d engaged in the "approach" mode for course/glideslope guidance while hand flying. BTW, in most new generation Cat 2/3 aircraft, the carriers Ops Spec REQUIRE AUTOLANDS out of these low viz approaches (does not apply to most B727,DC9,DC10,classic B-747, etc). These aircraft still manually land out of Cat2 approaches...some HUD aircraft even go to Cat 3 mins.(Alaska ??)

The headwind/tailwind/crosswind limits required to autoland vary by aircraft but generally 25-30 kt HW/XW limits and 10 kt tailwind limits are pretty normal for heavy metal jets. In lower viz Cat 2/3 approaches, a 10 kt crosswind generally applies. These autolandings are generally quite good, near the centerline and within the touchdown zone of the runway ( normally 1500-2000 down). We will use autospoilers, and autobrakes in conjunction with the autoland and the autopilot tracks the runway centerline automatically with localizer course guidance. You have to click off the a/p to manually exit the runway at the end of your rollout.

Believe it or not, both pilots get credit for autolandings with my company. In bad weather, we fly these as monitored approaches on the a/p by the F/O and the CA takes the aircraft at baro/radar mins for the autoland if he/she has the required viz references to land (Cat 2) or cockpit annunciations displayed (Cat 3).If there is a need for a missed approach, the CA orders a go-around which is flown by the F/O.

Hope this helps to answer your question.

;f

C150J
12-31-2003, 18:19
Thanks guys! VERY informative!

Do you enjoy managing these systems? It seems like it could be a beautiful thing to watch and oversee...

Thanks again,
J.

flygirl
01-01-2004, 04:23
According you our Singapore polits they are required to do 8 auto lands per year. 4 in the simulator and 4 for real. The times when they do the autolands vary due to wx, vis, and ceiling base. In Anchorage we have a fog bank that appears in the early morning hours. The vis must be less than 300 meters, must also be a Cat 3 airport with all the goodies that go with that. All of our Singapore guys are Cat 3. I did get the chance to see an autoland the other day. It was done in clear skys just for their own records. Very impressive, and if you have ever been to the Anchorage International airport landing on rwy 14 you'd know what I mean. The darn near landed at my feet.

TheGrinch
01-04-2004, 09:26
Some aircraft have limitations on how low you can engage autopilots on takeoff. 500 agl is common.

The autothrottles and systems like FMS are on the aircraft in order to fly more efficiently, thus saving fuel costs on flights.

The autopilot is used to "fly" the aircraft by either coupling it to an FMS profile (if installed) or by the pilot inputing headings, speeds, vertical speeds, etc into the autoflight system manually.

The autopilot is on the aircraft inorder to free up the pilots to manage other risks, conflicts and decisions. Some of the newer jets have systems that work very well, others don't. It is often far easier to click the thing off and fly manually than to make multiple inputs to comply with complex maneuvers.

Autoland is designed into the autopilot for low visibility landings in calm conditions. All autopilots have wind limits in terms of cross, head and tailwinds. The worse the wind, the worse the autoland. Most pilots don't like autoland very much.

I can tell you this, we had automatic carrier landing system on the F14, and I never had it work to land the jet on the ship. Not once. It would spit you out at about 200 feet, which was exactly what you didn't need, trying to recover from an destabilized position with ten or fifteen seconds to impact.

Best,

Grinch

TangoUniform
01-07-2004, 20:12
I talked to a FedEx Airbus guy a while back who said he autolands our A300s and A310s pretty regularly.. I can't remember his rationale for doing it so often (it's been awhile since I dealt with 'Scarebus' guys)..

I don't know what the FedEx rules are on autoland as far as pilots are concerned. Maybe they have to make one or two a year(?).. I just don't know. But I believe there is also some mandatory # of autolands for the planes themselves -- and I don't know that # either.

Anyway, I think this guy was telling me that most of the FedEx guys don't like doing them.. winds up pushing the plane right up to its "due date" for an autoland, so he just decided to start doing them fairly regularly. (Also helped him to get over his hesitancy to do them..)


Oh, btw, flygirl.. I jumpseated into ANC on an MD-11 a couple years ago and really enjoyed it.. really cool.. mountains were beautiful! :)

flygirl
01-16-2004, 22:21
It's very beautiful when you come in over the inlet. Glad you enjoyed your flight.

FB3
01-17-2004, 19:03
I am fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be involved with autoland systems almost since their inception. I flew the C-141 in the Air Force in the late 60's. They were just being equiped with a Sperry autoland system which we were not allowed to use below what is now CAT I minimums, but we did do some autolands in VMC conditions. It was quite cumbersome and required a self test prior to descent that took almost ten minutes, and maybe was satisfactory 50% of the time. It was a single autopilot system with monitors for gyros, radio altimeters,flight directors, nav radios, compasses,and auto throttles. It actually did a decent job most of the time, considering the technology of the day.

My next experience with an autoland system was much later in my airline career with the A-300. This system was far superior to the old C-141 stuff, but still dated for its time. It worked pretty well, and I sat through numerous CAT 3A autolands in this aircraft.

The L-1011, which pre-dated the A-300, had one of the best automatic flight control systems that I have flown. It used two autopilots and ILS radio nav info for the AFCS. Again, it was relatively old technology, but it did a great job in all flight regimes. CAT 3B landings in the 1011 were a non event. Although it had a limitation prohibiting it, the aircraft would do a really nice autoland with an outboard engine shut down. Nice to know in a real tight situation.

My personal experience ends with the B-767, which is somewhat dated technology today. The FMS, AFCS on this aircraft is quite impressive. It still uses ground based ILS for guidance, but does a really nice job of flying the aircraft to the runway.

So, after all of this rambling, I guess what I am trying to convey is that the new generation aircraft have tremendous capabilities to fly themselves, but the job of the pilots is still paramount. While a CAT 3B approach is really easy when everything is working properly, it still requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill to properly monitor the approach and be able to intervene if something should go wrong. It takes a lot of confidence in yourself and your equipment to sit on the flight deck and watch the aircraft fly itself down to a runway when the RVR is 600. You may see the centerline lights just prior to touchdown. Once on the ground the most difficult part is taxing off the runway and finding your way to the gate.

Neat stuff. Can only imagine what is in store for the future.

01-17-2004, 20:53
Originally posted by FB3
Neat stuff. Can only imagine what is in store for the future.

No pilots at all.:(

We are engineering ourself out of a job. We all ready lost the FE. And the FE is the most important person in the crew, on a COLD winter morning when there is a lot of deicing fluid all over the ramp.;)


I sure do miss having that that FE around lately.

C150J
01-18-2004, 13:16
No pilots at all.


I really hope this isn't the case, but am worried too. It funny, my brother, who makes his living writing software and doing graphics, claims that aircraft will not require pilots in the future. HOWEVER, when this happens, he said he'd refuse to fly! He knows how code can get messed up!


I think human discretion can navigate a squall line better than any computer could be programmed to. After all, software is still human in a sense, being programmed by people.

Another interesting tidbit: DoD is happy with UAVs in MANY ways, but they're crashing more than anticipated, along with being more pricey than originally planned.

Lastly, I think NO ONE would accept the statement "we did everything we could" about a downed pax plane if there weren't pilots aboard.

J.

01-18-2004, 14:01
Yeah, they'll always need someone in the cockpit to unscrew the computers. The systems work pretty well now, but they will never be perfect....like the pilots are now.;)

TangoUniform
01-19-2004, 12:01
i don't think you guys have much to worry about..

i think the industry would be crazy to advertise it and don't think ANYBODY would buy a ticket.
but.. they might try it at some point.. and after the computer gets screwy and a couple of planes crash, then they'll realize how stupid it was to take a human out of the cockpit.

..don't know if the industry could get the insurance companies to buy off on it anyway...

Wulfenite
01-19-2004, 12:41
What do you think the possibliities are of going to a 1 pilot "crew" with a co-pilot that hooks in via data link during emergiencies, take-offs, and landings. Kind of a virtual co-pilot. Splitting the baby between the current system and UAV's.

Depending on scheduling this virtual co-pilot could serve several flights at the same time cutting crew salarys dramatically.

BillCola
01-19-2004, 13:46
Originally posted by Wulfenite
What do you think the possibliities are of going to a 1 pilot "crew" with a co-pilot that hooks in via data link during emergiencies, take-offs, and landings. Kind of a virtual co-pilot. Splitting the baby between the current system and UAV's.

Depending on scheduling this virtual co-pilot could serve several flights at the same time cutting crew salarys dramatically.

That's a very novel idea, but it doesn't address medical or sleeping issues... Carry on...:)

Wulfenite
01-19-2004, 14:55
Well as I envision it the co pilot will be sitting in a 3-d simulator. In addition to the normal flight insturments he'll also have monitors and voice links with the Captians he's working with. You could even set it up so the monitors will be on the left side of the simulator and the camera shots will be of the captians right side. If Captian Friendly strokes out the Copilot will transfer his other duties to another copilot and land the plane just like it was a UAV. If Captian Friendly falls asleep the copilot can find out how much its worth to forget about the whole thing.

In addition to the labor savings this level of automation/insturmentation would have great benifit for crash reconstruction and anti-terror tactics.

C150J
01-19-2004, 15:05
Good points, but I don't know one pilot who would want to sit in a sim instead of being in the air. After all the training required to get into the cockpit of a heavy, I sure wouldn't want to be in that position. Being a first officer also trains that person to later be a captain. It's a good example of on-the-job training.

If you're going to have one pilot up there, you might as well have two. The system works well now. Time required and cost of TSOing a datalink control setup would also be prohibitive.

I can understand taking CAS pilots out of harm's way via UCAVs, but if there are people on board, put a pilot on board.

J.

F14Scott
01-19-2004, 22:21
Originally posted by TheGrinch

I can tell you this, we had automatic carrier landing system on the F14, and I never had it work to land the jet on the ship. Not once. It would spit you out at about 200 feet, which was exactly what you didn't need, trying to recover from an destabilized position with ten or fifteen seconds to impact.

Best,

Grinch

My Tomcat ACLS worked every time I used it, most of the time to an OK or FAIR pass:

"Hey, Stick Monkey, the food's down there!"

;f ;f ;f

F14Scott
01-19-2004, 22:30
Heard a good one the other day:

The next generation of airliners have so much automation that they won't need two men to fly them; the crew consists of a pilot and a dog. The pilot's job will be to feed the dog, and the dog's job will be to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything.

;a

TangoUniform
01-20-2004, 02:18
of course there MUST be more than one pilot for a flight leg.


who the heck is the ONE pilot gonna drink with during the layover if he's by himself?

;)

..feel free to make an exception to this rule for places like SIN, HKG, BKK, MNL/SFS, etc.... heh..

Wulfenite
01-20-2004, 11:44
Originally posted by TangoUniform

who the heck is the ONE pilot gonna drink with during the layover if he's by himself?


The best looking Stew. You've gotta look at the glass as half full. No more of the "I'm the Captian so you get the fat one" issues.

SlimlineGlock
02-06-2004, 07:57
The B-777 does a beautiful auto land. Much better than other Boeings.

Pilot
02-11-2004, 09:01
I fly 3 different models of the new generation B-737 which does a great autoland. We are required to practice at least one autoland per month for several reasons.
These practice autolanding are all logged and tracked for crew reasons as well as system validation.

Autoland procedures are also demonstrated in all sim check rides.
This involves full autoland, emergency manual override at several points, and autopilot go-around. We also demonstrate all sorts of other procedures, including engine out manual flown low visibility approaches.