Who is flying the plane? - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Who is flying the plane?

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For the second time in less than two months a plane has set down where it wasn't supposed to.

In this modern age of technology, just who or what is flying the plane? 

Nick Johnson, a retired pilot with 40 years experience says 'auto pilot' use is very common, both in-flight and on descent.

He believes the recent mishap in Branson could of happened to any pilot, including himself.

However, he says it's a matter of finding a balance between technology and pilot training.

"Sometimes if an auto pilot makes an error, and occasionally they do, that's what the pilots are there for to back it up," says Johnson.
 
He says it takes discipline to be a pilot.

"You just have to discipline yourself to be a little more strict on yourself and pay attention to the instruments."

Johnson spent the majority of his career, flying commercial planes and corporate jets. He knows how valuable technology can be.

However..

"You have to be alert to anything that might not feel right or look right, and you have to be ready to intervene and I've had to do that several times."

Johnson shared one of his own experiences.

"I myself have broken out of an overcast sky and seen a runway and thought that was it, because it was really close to the other (runway). And both me and co-pilot would have to agree on which one was really it because they're so close together."

By using  Fore-Flight, a flight planning and in flight support app for pilots, Johnson points out the similarities between the mistaken airport runways in Branson.

"I don't think it was a technology problem. I think it was getting a visual on the airport and that's what it was at the last minute."

Johnson says an incident like the one in Branson can be a teachable moment.

"These pilots are highly trained, they have to go to simulator training every six months, and they fly everyday all day long. It's something that doesn't happen all the time, but I can understand why it would happen on occasions when airports are real close together."

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