Interview with an airline pilot: Let that bird fly! Let’s do it, but let’s do it safely!

When an aircraft takes to the air everyone hopes for it to land again safely, the passengers, the cabin attendants and the pilots – but also the aircraft’s owners. “For us, everything that happens in the cockpit is about safety, and everything in it is there to prevent errors and to detect them fast,” Michael Langer tells us. As an airline pilot he has been flying aircraft all around the world for the last 20 years.

Mr Langer, there is no mode of transport safer than the airliner.
That’s true, but we are constantly working on ways that allow us to operate with more precision and control and to make as few errors as possible, because every plane crash, no matter how few of them there may be, is one crash too many. It should be said that 75 percent of crashes include pilot error as a factor, though usually in combination with technical problems, weather or operational events that were also in the mix.

Is fully automated flight the answer?
The technology hasn’t reached that point yet. We pilots, despite very extensive automation, remain the “last line of defence.” Nothing has changed in that regard since Otto Lillienthal made the first attempt at flight in his hang-glider. When problems arise, we’re the ones who have to resolve them, and we often have to do it very fast. However, since the rate of error is far higher in complex tasks and in stressful situations, we have done a great deal over many decades to perfect our safety systems in the cockpit, and in crew resource management (or “CRM” for short).

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