[Note: This book is available through the IAFTP Library.]
Publisher’s Introduction: “On 4 November 2010, a flight from Singapore to Sydney came within a knife edge of being one of the world’s worst air disasters. Shortly after leaving Changi Airport, an explosion shattered Engine 2 of Qantas flight QF32 – an Airbus A380, the largest and most advanced passenger plane ever built. Hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the wing and fuselage, creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were destroyed or degraded.
In other hands, the plane might have been lost with all 469 people on board, but a supremely experienced flight crew, led by Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny, managed to land the crippled aircraft and safely disembark the passengers after hours of nerve-racking effort.
Tracing Richard’s life and career up until that fateful flight, QF32 shows exactly what goes into the making of a top-level airline pilot, and the extraordinary skills and training needed to keep us safe in the air. Fascinating in its detail and vividly compelling in its narrative, QF32 is the riveting, blow-by-blow story of just what happens when things go badly wrong in the air, told by the captain himself.
Melbourne born and educated Richard De Crespigny got his first taste of a future flying career as a fourteen year old when his father took him on a tour of the RAAD Academy at Point Cook in Victoria. In 1975, aged seventeen, he joined the RAAF. One year later, he started flying. During his eleven years with the RAAF, he was seconded as Aide-de-Camp to two Australian Governors-General – Sir Zelman Cowen and Sir Ninian Stephen. Richard remained with the RAAF until 1986 when he joined Qantas.”
[For reviews of this book, click HERE.]
COMMAND LESSONS FROM QF32
Airlines are now adapting their pilot training for aircraft captains in the light of recent aviation incidents involving highly automated airliners. A report of some of the key issues at the recent RAeS ‘The Aircraft Commander in the 21st Century’ conference.
[The following is an edited summary; full text is available HERE]
On 20-21 March 2012, the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) held its first “The Aircraft Commander in the 21st Century” conference. Organised by the RAeS Flight Operations Group, the conference sought to explore the changing role of the aircraft commander, particularly as civil airliners get ever more automated and complex.
This issue has recently been thrown into sharp focus, as incidents like Qantas QF32 and Air France AF447 have demonstrated differing responses from pilots to ever more complex aircraft.
In particular, the industry now is reassessing the training given to pilots. A major theme that emerged from the conference was that, in the past 20 years, pilots have been taught to ‘Follow the ECAM (Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor)’ – the computerised glass display that in Airbus (and Boeing as the EICAS Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System) which shows critical engine and systems information. While this ECAM display makes life easy in many respects, following it blindly can lead to disaster. Previous training, said one speaker, relied on following the ECAM procedure step-by-step and pilots ‘never considered not doing the procedure’.
That aircraft (and crews) are now safer than ever is not in doubt and the statistics bear this out. However, the aviation industry is always striving for perfection. Furthermore, there is a growing unease that the previous ways of learning (and command) need adapting to new and future generations of automated aircraft. Ex-military pilots with ‘nerves of steel’, experience of flying at the edges of the envelope yet unwilling to talk to juniors has given way to systems managers and team players. However, these new pilots, fluent in the latest crew management skills, may also be lacking some basic ‘stick and rudder’ skills and be too willing to trust the computer.
The highly automated aircraft also provides fresh challenges. The issue is not the technology itself but the gulf between normal and non-normal (i.e. emergency) operations. In normal operations a highly automated airliner is easier to fly than previous generations of aircraft but, in a non-normal situation, it is comparatively harder.
It is this gulf between normal and non-normal which is the issue and is so difficult to train for because of the extreme rarity of non-normal emergencies. As one speaker pointed out, in the old days he had flown as a third pilot observing the crew routine and watching them deal with multiple engine failures as part of his apprenticeship to command. Today, a trainee captain riding a jump seat as an observer would be extremely unlikely to witness an in-flight emergency to ‘learn’ from the more experienced crews.
In short, some forward-thinking airlines are already adapting their approach to training and command issues in making sure that the aircraft commander of the future has the correct mix of technical and non-technical skills and, more importantly, knows when to ignore, question or override the computers. As Captain David Evans observes, the commander must: “work out the solutions with the help of technology, not depend on technology for the solution”.