Pilots and technology

In my surgery recuperation I was watching a show from one of the History channels (how many are there now?) about runway incursions – almost accidents.  They highlighted the 1977 crash of a KLM and Pan Am 747 – the deadliest crash in aviation history, a story of how a dozen little things happen to make a gigantic crash, it’s terrible and didn’t have to happen.

But the crash did happen and it had lead to some improvements to prevent such crashes from happening again.  The show moves on to talk about some of the technology to prevent crashes.  I have to admit I watched parts of the show 3 times because I kept falling asleep, so I don’t remember what any of it is called.

-There are changes to runway design/layout – such as making taxiways that do not go through runways.  Takes a lot of money and 10-15 year until completion of such a project.
-Then there are red lights they can put in runways that will go on when a plane is going on a runway so that other planes know not to cross – costs lots of money.
-Technology that monitors planes and when it sees a possible incursion redirects the planes (or maybe just 1 plane).  From the show I thought this was starting to be used, but then they said no on is using it, so not sure what the story is.  It does cost a lot of money though.

Then I was reading a blog post which mentioned the whole Ryan Air wanting to get rid of co-pilots.  I had heard some pilot talk about how that might not be as crazy as it sounds with the new technologies coming out, it feels weird, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

But back to my thoughts about the technology that identifies incursions and redirects planes.  I was resisting, I mean, doesn’t the controller know better (possibly the guy who didn’t realize it was happening in the first place).  Uhhh, ok, the computer knows which way it’s directing planes and is giving everyone the same message.  Hmmm.  I remember watching some other show about plane crashes where the controller gave bad information and didn’t correct an incursion.  I’m leaning towards the technology (and you should only know how technology hates me lately).

I’m switching back to Ryan Air’s plan to get rid of co-pilots.  While it still doesn’t feel right, I think if the technology is there, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.  Most plane crashes have to do with human error, if we get rid of the humans wouldn’t we reduce the chance of a crash?

In the meantime, wear your seatbelt on the taxiway, it’s dangerous there!

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