The Dangers of Automation in Airliners

Accidents Waiting to Happen

Jack J Hersch

Date Published :
November 2020
Publisher :
Air World
Illustration :
16 black and white illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526773142
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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A highly contemporary and relevant examination of the subject in light of recent events surrounding the Boeing 737 MAX.

Automation in aviation can be a lifesaver, expertly guiding a plane and its passengers through stormy weather to a safe landing. Or it can be a murderer, crashing an aircraft and killing all on board in the mistaken belief that it is doing the right thing.

Lawrence Sperry invented the autopilot just ten years after the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903. But progress was slow for the next three decades. Then came the end of the Second World War and the jet age. That’s when the real trouble began.

Aviation automation has been pushed to its limits, with pilots increasingly relying on it. Autopilot, autothrottle, autoland, flight management systems, air data systems, inertial guidance systems. All these systems are only as good as their inputs which, incredibly, can go rogue. Even the automation itself is subject to unpredictable failure. Can automation account for every possible eventuality?

And what of the pilots? They began flight training with their hands on the throttle and yoke, and feet on the rudder pedals. Then they reached the pinnacle of their careers – airline pilot – and suddenly they were going hours without touching the controls other than for a few minutes on takeoff and landing. Are their skills eroding? Is their training sufficient to meet the demands of today’s planes?

The Dangers of Automation in Airliners delves deeply into these questions. You’ll be in the cockpits of the two doomed Boeing 737 MAXs, the Airbus A330 lost over the South Atlantic, and the Bombardier Q400 that stalled over Buffalo. You’ll discover exactly why a Boeing 777 smacked into a seawall, missing the runway on a beautiful summer morning. And you’ll watch pilots battling – sometimes winning and sometimes not – against automation run amok. This book also investigates the human factors at work. You’ll learn why pilots might overlook warnings or ignore cockpit alarms. You’ll observe automation failing to alert aircrews of what they crucially need to know while fighting to save their planes and their passengers.

The future of safe air travel depends on automation. This book tells its story.

About The Author

Jack Hersch is a journalist and expert in the field of distressed and bankrupt companies. He has served as a public company board member, and has guest-lectured in the business schools of M.I.T., U.S.C., and U.C. Berkeley, among others. "The Dangers of Automation in Airliners" is his second book, following “Death March Escape” winner of the 2019 Spirit of Anne Frank Human Writes Award. He and his wife live in New York City.


"In each section, Hersch peels back a layer of the onion revealing something new, something deeper. He has researched the subject extensively...Almost any pilot will find something new, an unexplored trail that takes the reader deeper into the subject than ever before."

- Flight Test Fact

"... it isn’t just a series of crash reports, telling of the mistakes made by crews and how it could have been avoided. It goes into detail about how automation arrived, the intricacies of how aircraft work (explained in layman’s terms) and how it all fits together."

- Airport Spotting

"Mr. Hersch details the wonders of aviation automation and how it has made the pilot’s life much easier and flying much safer. Safer, that is, when it works and when dependence on it it hasn’t made the pilot’s perishable flying skills rust from lack of use."

- DearAuthor