In nearly 100 million flights by United States passenger airlines over the past decade, there has been a single fatality. Other than most landings and takeoffs, the planes have largely been flying themselves.
The origin of this problem is with the basic training and testing of pilots. One of the weakest parts of most IFR checkrides is the applicant’s demonstration of basic instrument flying skills (without the automation). This is an increasing trend despite the FAA’s urgent plea to develop and maintain manual piloting skills (and not just IFR). If you want to be safer as an instrument pilot – and have more fun – please get some actual IMC flying and work on your hand-flying skills (I am guilty too). We already know that the autopilot can fly in IMC just fine, we need to focus on keeping the hand flying skills sharp too.
The pilot’s role has moved from “physically manipulating flight controls and interpreting cues into a role where they ‘interact and control complex systems and play a central role in system safety. ERAU white paper
In a good instrument training course, the first 1/3 of the training should be learning to control the aircraft entirely by instrument reference and without automation. This involves discovering and utilizing standard power and attitude references for performance targets. This is naturally disappointing for many pilots because there is an urge to play with all the fun computers in the panel they paid so much for. But only when an IFR trainee can hand fly as confidently by instrument reference as by visual outside cues are they ready to move on to tracking, holding and approaches. (BTW, there is a completely analogous situation in VFR training where every new learner wants to start off with landings, before the basic skills are mastered).
So if your CFII starts your IFR training off with approaches (as is the case in most quickie “crash courses”) have a discussion, or just fire them. And saving money by hiring the cheapest CFII you can find is also a dumb idea; it takes years to learn to teach instruments well with a perspective of actual experience; hire a pro. You are developing skills that will save your life in an emergency (or not). Fly safely out there (and often)!
Apologies to my MQ-9 buddies (instructors and pilots) nearby! Apparently the MQ-9 is entirely "hand-flown?" (Bad assumption on my part). And I have never been invited to try one out...for some reason?!
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