A few things that might enlighten your dinner-table discussions:
- FAA sets a limit on pilots of 100 flight hours in any 28-day period. If your route is trans-Pacific, that means you do no more than four round trips a month. If there are four pilots on each flight, and the plane often is auto-landed, how proficient do you think pilots are at hand-landing the plane?
- News reports indicate police had to throw knives up to the flight crew to free passengers from their seats. Thanks to TSA policy, no one on the plane had, or could have had, a knife to help himself or other passengers. Imagine slightly different circumstances--open field, slower response, faster fire--and this policy could have fried people alive.
- There's a decades-old joke that in the future, planes will each have a man and a dog in the cockpit. The man will be there to watch the computer, the dog to bite him if he touches anything. Too long in the making?
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Speaking as someone with years of international experience, the captain usually takes every other landing, so the proficiency of the the other pilots is usually significantly less than calculated. Also, jet lag is brutal, significantly decreasing "sharpness." OTOH, many carriers encourage hand flown landing unless an autoland is required by WX. Depends on the airline. According to the NOTAMs, the GP for 28L was out of service at the time of the landing, which added to the problem.
I'm a qualified 747 pilot at an airline. I've worked as an expat at several asian airlines, although not Asiana.
As the previous commenter points out, the CAPT and FO typically trade off doing landings. In addition on flights of the 12 hours in length there is typically a relief crew. They also get full credit for the full flight hours.
What this means is that if the company is scheduling pilots for 70 hours per month long haul (not uncommon) and the flight is 12 hours long, this means that a pilot would typically fly 6 legs.
Since there is a full crew of 4 (CAPT, FO, relief CAPT, relief FO) you would only expect to land the plane on 1/4 of your trips.
As a result, you could assume that this pilot was averaging about 1.5 long haul landings per month.
As to the second part of the above comment, I have found from my personal experience that asian airlines are quite a bit different when it comes to autoland than western airlines. In my experience (again, not with Asiana and I don't know their specific policy) many asian airlines have a SOP to use autoland at all times.
Increasing automation has undoubtedly made aviation safer overall as compared to 20, 30 years ago. Unfortunately it does have a downside and one downside is a decrease in basic stick-and-rudder competency of pilots.
Nice info. Thanks, guys.
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