Automation – Realities of Automation

Advanced avionics offer multiple levels of automation from strictly manual flight to highly automated flight. No one level of automation is appropriate for all flight situations, but in order to avoid potentially dangerous distractions when flying with advanced avionics, the pilot must know how to manage the course deviation indicator (CDI), navigation source, and the autopilot. It is important for a pilot to know the peculiarities of the particular automated system being used. This ensures the pilot knows what to expect, how to monitor for proper operation, and promptly take appropriate action if the system does not perform as expected.

For example, at the most basic level, managing the autopilot means knowing at all times which modes are engaged and which modes are armed to engage. The pilot needs to verify that armed functions (e.g., navigation tracking or altitude capture) engage at the appropriate time. Automation management is another good place to practice the callout technique, especially after arming the system to make a change in course or altitude.

In advanced avionics aircraft, proper automation management also requires a thorough understanding of how the autopilot interacts with the other systems. For example, with some autopilots, changing the navigation source on the Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator (e-HSI) from GPS to localizer (LOC) or VOR while the autopilot is engaged in NAV (course tracking mode) causes the autopilot’s NAV mode to disengage. The autopilot’s lateral control defaults to wings level until the pilot takes action to reengage the NAV mode to track the desired navigation source.