Airbus vs Boeing Autopilot Update

Further to the post on the Korean 777 flown into the ground at SFO, here an A380 landing from the cockpit.

Also at SFO, an inaugural Lufthansa landing, this time with two experienced pilots clearly working as a team, as opposed to the “training” situation in the 777 case. (Hat-tip to Smiffy on FB, as Nick commented, that 777 CFIT really should not be possible.) I say “training” but really no different. Experienced pilots in both cases, and in fact in the Lufthansa case it was the first A380 landing at SFO for both pilots, not just one of them.

Noticeable in this A380 example that the pilot audibly / visibly / consciously / physically takes over manual control of the throttles (@5.05) a couple of minutes before the autopilot is actually disengaged (unlike the 777 case where the pilot appears to involuntarily / unconsciously / erroneously override the auto-throttle simply by resting his hand on the throttles).

Lots of other interesting points: Self-checking when hearing unexpected and potentially confusing messages – like the 28L ILS confusion over the instruction to approach 28R (some mention of that in the 777 event too?), like the two aircraft cleared for take-off, and seen taking-off together on 10L and R crossing their runway; the ATC planning courses for approaching aircraft to avoid turbulent wakes of larger aircraft; the “sporty performance” crack as they key in (and the aircraft follows) the ATC instructions to twist and turn onto the approach glide-path; the pilots talking to each other in German whilst communicating in ATC English; the SFO tower taking over from NorCal ATC, and welcoming them in German; the pilots responding in English, and cracking a joke about Monday being wash-day in Germany, as the airport lays on the fire-hose welcome for their inaugural landing; using the outboard engine to swing the beast into its parking bay. Lots of points for the plane-spotting geek.

Fills you with confidence as an air-traveller that the magic choreography generally does work, when the systems allow professionals to do their jobs – you feel they were in command and would know what to do, and be able to do it,  if the unexpected arose.

[Post Note – thanks to Smiffy again – here another 777 coming in too low at SFO, picked-up by ATC / Tower. Seems the ongoing ILS maintenance on 28L is indeed causing some confusion for those approaching 28L and 28R – also mentioned in both the A380 and the 777 CFIT cases – but as the commenters note, this is no excuse for the inability of the aircraft, pilots and systems to fly safely. Those in control simply need to be aware which systems are or are not in play.]

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