The Pickering Post
Saturday, 17th November 2018

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... but can a computer be trusted to fly an aeroplane?

Larry Pickering

Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.


Many airline operators prefer the Airbus fly-by-wire system in preference to risking pilot error. Aeroplane manufacturers deliver only what the buyer wants, the problem is that most buyers have never flown an aeroplane, certainly not under IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions, and pilots aren’t to be trusted to fly such expensive machines.

The misinformation coming from commentators is close to irresponsible. Let’s get one thing clear, only the pilot is in complete command of the aircraft and no one else. 

Flight controllers will designate a standard instrument departure (SID) or the pilot will comply with any other departure instructions. He will be given a flight level on his heading that will allow for safe separation and will receive approach and landing instructions at his destination, and that’s it. Decisions of safety are the pilot’s alone.

Under stress of weather the pilot may ask for a different flight level, if it is refused and the pilot believes his aircraft is at risk, he has every right to tell the controller he is taking whatever heading and flight level he believes is safe, it’s then up to the controller to sort out the relevant separations.

Over a period of forty years contending with the severest of storms and with 7,300 hours' flight-time in just about everything that flies, except for a hot air balloon, I have learnt to trust instruments rather than trust myself. 

The two most important instruments to have serviceable in a convective storm system are the airspeed indicator and the attitude indicator, you can afford to lose just about every other instrument and still remain alive.

Okay, the attitude indicator (most IFR rated aircraft will have two) is a simple gyro and rarely malfunctions, it tells you the attitude of the aircraft. 

But the airspeed indicator, of which there will also be two, both rely on Pitot tubes which measure dynamic ram airflow pressure and are housed outside the aircraft and are subject to everything from icing to ant nest and spider infestation.

Some catastrophic accidents have occurred when Pitot tube protective covers have been left on.

The Pitot tube will give the pilot an “indicated” airspeed relative to the conditions and not a speed over the ground as is the case with a GPS. For instance, if you are flying into an 80kn headwind, your GPS SOG will show you are going 80kn slower than your airspeed indicator.

The fly-by-wire Airbus A320-200 is designed to rely on a computer corrected, four-axis auto pilot that will anticipate and correct aircraft movements faster and smoother that any human can. 

A serious problem arises when Pitot tubes feed the computers an incorrect air speed. All hell breaks loose because computers are not rational and can only respond to what they are told. The pilot can turn the autopilot off and switch to manual control but he will be no better off. No other instrument will make sense to him.

If the pilot of QZ8501 decided to climb to a higher altitude to avoid a storm (and it is reported he did) he would lose speed and airflow over the control surfaces. If the Pitot tubes, due to icing or for any other reason, were already falsely indicating a low indicated airspeed, the pilot would be told in no uncertain terms over a loud speaker that his airplane was about to stall. 

It was reported the airplane was climbing at 190kn, well and truly below stall speed for this aircraft. 

Now every pilot is trained to react to a stall warning by automatically lowering the nose to increase speed, let’s say the pilot does so. The aircraft is now close to VNE (never exceed speed of around 0.85 mach at 35,000 ft) yet the computers and the pilot are still being told it is close to stall speed and they’d better correct it. 

So now the pilot has a nose down attitude and is increasing speed past VNE. Add extreme turbulence and the next severe up-draught to that equation and the wings and vertical stabiliser get ripped straight off. 

The pilot now realises he and everyone else on board are about to die while the computers are still happily responding to exactly what they have been told.

No doubt pilot error will again be the finding. He had asked if he could climb to a higher altitude due to stress of weather, he did not advise the air traffic controller that he was going to climb, in which case it would have been the controller’s separation problem. He instead waited some minutes for a clearance to flight level 38. 

Okay, the tops of these monsoonal storms can reach up to 60,000 feet, a height at which this airplane cannot be flown, the air’s thinness means margins for safe flight are too narrow, and he has no way to know the height of the convectional storm anyway. 

Now some pilots will disagree, but I’ve been tossed around and thrown upside down like a rag doll in too many monsoonal storms and my rules are now simple; go left, go right or go back. 

Never try to go to under or you’ll likely finish up in someone’s lounge room and never try to go over because you may never reach the top and by then the black/green mass will have closed in below and behind you.

Airline operators want their pilots to merely monitor computers but when it becomes necessary to switch the autopilot off in an emergency it’s a terrifying experience, suddenly you feel the unusual pressures on the control surfaces and if a Pitot tube full of ice crystals is giving you incorrect readings it’s goodnight Irene.

If you’re about to die from a great height you really need a pilot and not a computer managing your rapid descent... at least a pilot can turn to you with a grimace and say, “Shit, sorry mate”.


Hi TF, just wanted to say bye to you as I have left Facebook and am now going to close down Pickering (and other websites). A recent discovery that "the human race is completely stupid" has lead me to this. Educating the average person on Islam is harder than I thought. They just don't get it and it all about "throwing bacon at mosques" and "fuck Islam this and fuck islam that". No one wants to listen to any of my ideas on how to actually stop Islam or make people aware, they seem comfortable with the dumb message they are setting for Australians so I give up! Lol it was nice meeting you though (someone with a brain) who I could actually talk to about this stuff but one is kot enough. Good luck with your missions:) and say bye to sandod for me haha x bye

if it aint Boeing I aint going

(con't) Norway’s anti-Israel embargo never materialized. The project was pre-empted when the entire leadership of the AUF was slaughtered, allegedly by lone Zionist nut Anders Breivik.

Zionist-controlled Wikipedia opens its “2011 Norway attacks” entry as follows:

“The 2011 Norway attacks were two sequential lone wolf terrorist attacks against the government, the civilian population, and a Workers’ Youth League (AUF)-run summer camp in the Oslo region on 22 July 2011, claiming a total of 77 lives.”

All those elevens, like those in 9/11, 11/22, and so on, are probably just a coincidence.

That Norway massacre of 11/22/11 that claimed 77 lives has been definitively pinned on Israel. In late 2013, the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, located in the capital of Malaysia, found Israel guilty of genocide. A few months later, one Malaysian airliner mysteriously fell out of the sky. A few months after that, a second one followed. And a few more months later, a third.

Israel has a track record of not getting mad, but getting even. In summer 2011, the Norwegian AUF (the Labor Party’s youth movement) was poised to have Norway’s government impose a complete unilateral economic embargo on Israel. This would have been an even bigger anti-Zionist breakthrough than the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal’s genocide prosecution of Israel in November 2013.

Sorry but Abbott lost me completely when he came out with that lone wolf bullshit. He was a great Opposition leader but has been a clueless PM........which bring up the even more worrying fact that Abbott's lack of balls, fire, guts will mean that Shortass WILL become PM by default. OMG we are well and truly stuffed.

Television news. Here are some comments to camera from people about the advice given by a doctor that Tony Abbott should give up riding a bike because it is too dangerous for a man in his position.(man) - "Continuing his cycling? I think he should, it's the only thing about him that makes him look human,". Then this, (man)"I think that the Prime Minister should keep it up and the more he cycles the better, the less he has to do with us even better." Finally (woman) "I mean if he falls, he's just like the rest of us you know? He's not that special." These remarks were all made after the intro by the reporter with the predictable jokes about lycra and budgie smugglers. What is the PM supposed to wear for his fitness activities? A tuxedo? Probably no need to tell you it was channel 10.

You can say a lot of things about operational matters in QANTAS. But the one thing they still do is insist that their international flight captains undergo continuous and frequent simulator training for just such emergencies. The cost-cutting BYO airlines apparently do not.

this was a an attack by a jihadist pilot...It worked... But why didn't God save the Christians....

One very positive move made by the Abbott government wa sits decision to side with the U.S. in the UN Security Council and vote against a resolution to end Israel's so-called occupation of Pallestinian territories. Go Tony! Go Julie!

I realize what little education you imbeciles had was spent looking out of the window..but for Gods sake at least try to check or research something before you sprout some B.S. story with your limited knowledge as fact .Anyhow... Happy days.... try not to dribble too much on yourselves.

DJT, for every 10 migrants who arrive the LNP get 2 or 3 voters & piss off half there current support base

OT  I visited this morning. Very well presented, very professional, very informative ... and very worrying.

the social workers read you, if you are poor and come to there attention by going to a soup kitchen or food van, etc. they have officers all over the place state and local BTW. if you are struggling because of your addictions they can put you into public housing with a higher subside, organize free furniture, anything you need. adjust the extra welfare up and down depending on how needy they think you are.

I appreciate the links that people put up here. Some are very interesting. I'd just like to ask that people be kind enough to take the trouble to write a sentence or two to explain what the linked article is about.

TF no wonder we are in trouble.

Just read this in the SMH: "AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said earlier this week he had "full confidence in my fleet and crew". Without giving details, he steered blame towards the weather, saying his airline would continue business as usual, but suggesting that climate change was making weather worse and flying riskier, particularly in the tropics.". Climate change? Now I've heard it all.

quasi autonomous government organization, look up your yes minister re-runs. there are an army of social workers out there doing things that used to be done by churches with charity money they raised themselves. the social workers are all on the tax payers teat. the social workers can slip you some extra cash, if you are short, which is to support your habit.

TF I don't know what a QANGO is but if someone is living high on the hog on welfare, that comes back to what you said earlier - either extra money from crime or rorting the system.