The Tribune’s article about the loss of pilot skills with automated flight controls has brought attention to the lack of training in basic flying skills.
I have 37 years of military and commercial flying, and have gone through the transition from basic-instrument flying to full automation. My transition to the automated world was at Air Bus factory in Toulouse, France. I was introduced to the full-automated flight from start to landing. If properly administered, your hands would be on the controls only a few minutes in a five-hour flight. I questioned the reason behind this “hands-off approach,” and was told the vast majority of new aircraft sales were going to be in the emerging markets. Pilot skills were not at the level of Western countries, therefore the safety factors had to be built into the automated systems.
Most pilots in the U.S. and Europe have a strong background in either military or general aviation prior to becoming a pilot in a commercial airliner. In other parts of the world, this type of background training is not possible.