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Surely you can’t be serious.

January 14, 2016

If recent airline safety ratings and in-air mishaps have you nervous, you may want to skip to a more comforting article.

The Department of Transportation recently concluded that U.S. pilots rely too heavily on automatic systems, “which may hinder a pilot’s ability to manually fly the aircraft during unexpected events.”

The report indicated that increased and improved automation on airplanes has led to a decline in manual flying skills; pilots are dependent on auto-pilot and similar functions, and not regularly trained or tested on their manual skills.

What’s more, the DOT revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration does not have a process in place to guarantee that pilots are properly monitoring the automatic systems on which they so heavily rely.

“Automation is used [an estimated] 90 percent of the time in-flight,” the report stated. Yet the FAA cannot determine whether or not pilots are effectively reviewing these systems—or whether or not they have forgotten basic, manual flying skills should something go wrong.

Weak manual capabilities have been identified by the FAA as early as 2013, though the National Transportation Safety Board noted this problem almost a decade earlier.

In response to the DOT’s report, the FAA has agreed to introduce new guidelines for pilot monitoring duties and responsibilities. They have yet to concur that additional requirements will be necessary for pilots to maintain and demonstrate their flying capabilities when auto-pilot shuts off.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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