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Flight Directors

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New member
Jun 11, 2002
Hi everybody, I am a CFI and a friend and I are having a disagreement. She feels that the Flight Director should be used to the maximum extent possible even when the autopilot is off. I personally like exercise my aviation skills and not rely on the autopilot to tell me how to fly. The point has been raised that the airlines expect you to fly with the flight director and is on the verge of an "emergency" when it fails. Just wondering if anyone out there had any opinions especially people familiar with airlines. If that is what is expected/demanded I suppose I will need to adjust. If not I will continue to aviate as oppose to being the servos for the autopilot. Thanks Mike
I fly a transport size cargo aircraft and I use the flight director (if it is a good one :) every chance I can, I figure you have proven your skills by this point, it is a job where things must get there, if you have it use it. Anyway, I get plenty of chances not to use it cause the particular plane I might be flying that day may not have one in it worth a darn and in that case I won;t use it. DO what you feel comfortable doing. Me, I feel comfortable lowering my stress factor as much as possible so I say if ya got it use it.

Flight directors are a luxury item. True, the airlines will expect you to know how to fly with it on, but the airline I was employed by for a short time actually encouraged you to fly without the FD/Autopilot from time to time to reduce your automation dependancy. Prior to working for the airlines, I definitely would leave it off most of the time. I doubt that you'll be able to use it in any sim evaluation that you do at an interview, and if you can fly without it, you can certainly fly with it. An FD failure is not a "near emergency" That's ridiculous.
Depends on the plane. In a seminole I would not use the FD the whole time because it is often going to provide bad information. But in any Boeing or Airbus, it should always be on. I've rarely seen airline pilots shut it off. The only time it can get you in trouble is if you do not have the modes set correctly for what you want to do.

Don't not use it for hope and glory, man. Use everything to your advantage. It is expected/demanded to use it in an airline environment. If you shut it off in your training, your instructor will no doubt question why.
I equate it to using electronic glideslope information when I am doing a visual with a PAPI adjacent. I don't need it necessarily, but it provides one more bit of information. If I want to turn right and the F/D is turning left, I ask myself, "What's wrong with this picture?".
Any way you want to fly your airplane should be fine. If you want to fly it raw data go ahead but if you're gonna have the FD fired up, use it. One of my pet peeves is watching someone have the FD up but not following the V bars. The V bars could be up at 2 o'clock or so and they're flying opposite to them. Again, that drives me nuts, if you're gonna do that, go ahead and stow the FD. My opinion and not necessarily the opinion of the management. *LOL*
What's a FD?

Flight directors are a neat thing with a good auto pilot, and a pain in the back side with an old auto pilot.

I think you will find that 99% of the airline pilots in the world - who are flying modern equipment (partial or full glass) will use the FD most of the time. Sure they might turn it off from time to time to knock off the rust, but most of the time it is on. I've even had grumpy captains tell me that I HAD to have it on all the time. I don't think you will find many "glass" pilots who are very comfortable without it. It gives you awesome guidance, so why not use it?

Now a FD in an old autopilot (like the SP-77 in the 737-200) is not worth using. To much work...

Generally speaking, I always use the FD for a CAT II approach (since it is required), and I occasionally use it for a CAT I. I never use it for Take off. I turn it on sometimes in cruise, just so I have something pretty to look at. I never use it in descent. I never use it for non-precision approaches.

I fly a 727 with EFIS displays. I only turn the FD on if I'm doing an ILS to weather less than 500 and 1, or so. I'll occasionally turn it on when on vectors for an approach if I'm tired. Normally, I feel my scan is better if I don't use the FD all the time....many times I log less than 15 hours a month and only half of that is my leg. Basically, I guess I just enjoy the challenge of doing a good job of hand flying without the FD. The autopilot is on above 10K though. In the sim...I keep the FD on all the time. Partly cause some of the instructors like to see it on and partly cause the sim tends to diverge from straight and level much easier than the real aircraft.
Is the glass half full or half empty???

Use the FD bars at your leisure--I think you will find that many airline operation manuals will tell you to leave the bars on all the time. Even so, I periodically turn the bars off to make sure I am not getting rusty. If you have a good scan, it really does not matter. If your scan is on the weak side, leave the bars off until your scan improves. You have plenty of years ahead of you to fly with them on.

On a side note, I find myself using the bars as a guidence and will sometimes use slightly less bank, pitch, or both. However, it is highly recommended to leave the bars off if you are going to totally disregard them (as was stated above).

Just remember, if the bars do something you do not like, switch them off and fly the plane.
how about us freight guys...does it count if the FD is used to *ahem* "alert the senses" upon arrival to intended destination :D

other than that, as a workload reliever in solid, single-pilot IFR, its a great tool...
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