Nightly News | August 31, 2011
>>> this is something pilots sometime talk about and there are new questions tonight from some aviation safety experts who are concerned that the act of piloting a modern commercial aircraft has become too automated which could cause pilots to lose basically piloting skills they would need in an energy. there are close to 40,000 commercial flights every day in this country, the vast majority of the time in the air the computer is flying the plane. our report from nbc's tom costello.
>> reporter: for all the attention given to captain sully's expert airmanship has he landed his plan on the hudson river in 2009 , there are also pilot who is seem to have forgotten basically piloting skills. the pilot of an airfrance a-330, pulled up when they should have maintained altitude or lowered the nose. 228 people died. the pilot of a continental flight near buffalo made the same mistake in 2009 , 55 people skied. nbc aviation consultant former captain john cox.
>> the challenge is to find the balance between the appropriate use of automation and maintaining the manual flying skills necessary.
>> reporter: the concern, pilot who is suddenly lose autopilot and then don't know how to react. a draft report by the faa and industry professionals found that 60% of the accidents and 30% of major incidents studied involved pilot who is struggled to manually fly the plane or made mistakes with the automated systems. but the union captain says pilots don't specifically rely on automation.
>> our pilots put their skills to the test every day, so don't think for a minute they can't fly, they do a great job and the safety records shows that.
>> reporter: indeed, flying has never been safer. and automation is a big part of that safety record. but pilots say maintaining basic flying skills means disengaging the auto pilot and regularly flying the plane by hand.