The NTSB doesn’t just investigate accidents; it also routinely examines incidents to determine whether they expose an underlying safety problem, which, if not addressed, could set the stage for future accidents. Recently, it examined an incident involving an Airbus A320 operated by United Airlines. This led to the discovery that there had been at least 49 similar incidents in the United States and the United Kingdom. In response to its own investigation, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation, hoping to encourage FAA action.
Regardless of the FAA’s reaction, the recommendation should raise awareness of a broader issue for pilots flying technologically advanced aircraft (TAA): How to best deal with electrical failure and the subsequent loss of vital information from display screens while maintaining aircraft control and situational awareness. Pilots must be thoroughly trained in equipment operations, particularly with respect to emergency procedures. They must also learn not to become overly reliant on modern equipment, allowing it to replace basic flying, navigation and judgment capabilities. [Visit our Proficiency section for expert advice on maintaining your flying skills.]