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Computer-Related Incidents with Commercial Aircraft

The Benefits of Automation in Aircraft

We should not forget that the reason that automation is used in aircraft control and navigation is to make flying safer and easier for all concerned. While this survey concentrates on the risks, there are examples of clear safety benefits. Nancy Leveson in her Risks 17.21 contribution Good News For a Change notes some incidents in which the TCAS, the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, helped avoid potential accidents. TCAS is required by the FAA for commercial flightflights in the USA. Leveson was a consultant for the FAA on TCAS. Peter Ladkin in Digital Flight Control Systems help the U.S. Navy (Risks 17.89) notes an article in Flight International on how the U.S. Navy is speeding up acquisition of digital flight control systems for the F-14 in an effort to reduce loss-of-control accidents. A very visible example of the potential benefits of increased automation is the loss of a US Air Force T-43A (a military version of the B737-200) carrying US Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown near Dubrovnik in Croatia on April 3, 1996.