Comments:Airplane that crashed near Buffalo, New York 'was on autopilot'

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what is the use of autopilot when such a thing can happen —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs)

Autopilots are currently intended only for very normal situations - for anything else the pilot is suppose to take manual control (else we wouldn't need pilots ;-] ). It's basically like cruise control for a plane (except much more sophisticated). You wouldn't drive in rush hour with cruise control, and you certainly wouldn't drive through an icy school zone with it on. Same thing with autopilot. Note that they *are* working on autopilots for both air and land vehicles that will be able to do such things, but they aren't ready for prime time use yet. Gopher65talk 13:28, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Plane on Autopilot[edit]

Wouldn't seem plausible that the reason the plane was on autopilot is not because the flight team did not handle things correctly but because if the controls were not working properly they may have tried to engage the autopilot in hopes that the planes controls may be able to automatically compensate for the spiraling problem. It may have been a last ditch effort by the captain to eliminate tactical error from the equation and let the telemetry and on board computers use more rational and patterned responses to trouble signals. Thankyou —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:06, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

No. The autopilot was on for most of the trip. The autopilot then detected a problem that was beyond it's capability to handle, and it alerted the pilots. Based on what I've read so far, this airline employees "newbies" as pilots in order to save money. Also based on what I've read so far, once the autopilot detected that airspeed was too low, it sent the plane into a fairly steep dive in order to recover speed (this is the correct thing to do). Then the autopilot was disengaged, and the plane was put into a steep climb. This is EXACTLY the wrong thing to do, and it caused the plane to essentially come to a dead stop in the air. When a plane stops moving, it turns into a floating rock (ie, it falls straight down). The plane then spun toward the ground, crashing a few seconds later.
There are two questions to answer here
  • 1) Why did the plane's speed drop to below critical levels, causing the autopilot to attempt to correct,
  • 2) Why did the plane go into a steep climb immediately after the autopilot was shut off, causing the crash?
The answer to number 1 is unclear, and will take a long time to answer. It could be weather conditions, it could be maintenance related (airline problem), it could be a design issue (manufacturer problem), or it could be a software issue with the autopilot.
But the answer to question number 2, the thing that actually caused the crash, is obvious. A newbie pilot made a really, really stupid mistake (they shouldn't have brought the nose up), and crashed the plane. There is no other likely explanation. As for a the reason why the pilot made that mistake, well, that's harder to explain. Probably, probably what happened was that because they were coming in for a landing, and were already very low to the ground, the pilot saw the autopilot engage a dive an panicked. It's a mistake, but it's an understandable gut reaction that you can see an under-experienced pilot having. Gopher65talk 02:13, 17 February 2009 (UTC)