18 Feb 2017

Yes, Automation is Great. But Never Forget How to Do It Yourself

As a pilot trainee I would sit in my apartment on my days off and make crude drawings of a cockpit, tape it up against a wall, and sit on the floor and try to imagine myself flying a jumbo jet.  My hand would move down to an invisible throttle, and I would announce my next action to an invisible co-pilot.

I thought of this memory (and how ridiculous I must have looked) as I got to try out a new hologram technology we are testing to train our mechanics.  It was absolutely fascinating how it is possible to see in a reasonably sized room inside of an office building, something that could previously only be seen on an actual multi-million dollar engine in an aircraft hangar.

In flight, while we are not operating automated aircraft (yet), computers and complex calculations utilizing multiple parameters help our pilots land more smoothly and with less fuel than before.  While previously it was up to pilots’ sense to make the best landing approach, these calculations are basically perfect.

The problem with perfect calculations is that the world is not perfect.  Machines break. Systems fail. Humans managing these systems fail. 

If, to make an extreme example, those above mentioned perfect calculations fail to be fed into the system, the plane would just keep flying past the airport.  If a pilot knows how to fly an aircraft, he will sense instantly that something is wrong. But as technology advances move us closer to more and more automation, we must never lose our ability as humans to do things on our own.

Do not mistake my statement with some anti-technology sentiment.  To the contrary, the hologram and landing technology I mentioned above, is in my mind fantastic.  Technology is here to make our lives easier, safer, and more efficient.  What it is not for, is to live our lives for us.  If you don’t know how to do anything yourself, that’s what you’re letting it do. 

Source : Yoshiharu Ueki | Representative Director, President - Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. | LinkedIn

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