Australian Flying

Automatic for the People

Should you loiter around a cockpit, aero club or hangar long enough, the issue of automation in modern aircraft is bound to surface. Like Holden vs Ford and taildragger vs tricycle, passion and beliefs will fall upon both sides of the fence. And like those opinions, the debate surrounding automation and technology in modern cockpits has more than a single answer.

In the beginning

In an overgrown paddock in Harden NSW, not far from the public school, cattle graze about a forgotten concrete circle embedded in the grass. It is a silent reminder of Australia’s first airmail flight in 2014, when Maurice Guillaux navigated his frail Bleriot monoplane from Melbourne to Sydney. To aid the French aviator in his task, the circular device was a navigation aid to confirm that the township below was the rural hamlet where he was to spend the night.

In a similar vein, the United States had 70-foot long concrete arrows assisting coast-to-coast navigation but with time aviation did what aviation does best – it evolved.

Pioneer pilots’ mud maps became aeronautical charts and arrows on the ground became radio beacons. Cockpits were enclosed and the commercial viability of flight grew with every step towards more accurate, efficient and safe flight. The Douglas DC-3 gave way to the jet age and pressurised cabins spanned oceans. Within 70 years, the Wright Brothers hop had grown to a lunar landing and underpinning these advancements was a rapid growth in automation and technology.

Today, general aviation

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