Job Satisfaction

The question of job satisfaction in a highly automated environment was first raised by Wiener and Curry (1980). Since then, both authors have stated that in their field studies they found no trace of automation-induced apathy or job dissatisfaction (Curry, 1985; Wiener, 1985, 1989). If anything, pilots seem to be proud to be flying a modern aircraft and highly satisfied with the job. However, it should be noted that satisfaction with the automation provided by the FMS can vary greatly, depending on the attitude fostered by airline management (McClumpha and James, 1994).

Danger of Catastrophic Failure

Catastrophic failure is a threat to crew and passengers in any aircraft. There was some concern in the early days of FMS aircraft of total electrical failure, due to the fact that the aircraft is so electrically dependent. So far the only accident we are aware of that might be termed catastrophic failure was the Lauda Air B-767 that crashed in Thailand in 1991. The accident was due to an uncommanded deployment of a thrust reverser, not related to the flight management system or any other automatic feature.

Incompatibility with Current Air Traffic Control Systems

There is little argument that the current air traffic control systems are inadequate to control and optimize the flight paths of the modern aircraft. In short, the outdated air traffic control systems of today do not allow the crews of FMS aircraft to fully exploit its remarkable capabilities. This is one of the major complaints of the flight management system by aircraft pilots. The situation was explored in detail in a field study by Wiener (1989). Although the data collection of that study is now about 10 years old, the situation has changed little and will probably not change until the air traffic control systems are improved. When this occurs, and assuming that data link will enable direct digital communication between air traffic control and FMS, it will be important to ensure that there is harmony between the logic of the maneuvers in both ground and air-based systems.


The modern flight management system, beginning with the Boeing 767 in the early 1980s, brought a new era to flight guidance and control. It gave the pilot sophisticated, highly reliable tools to manage flight path control and power plant control with great precision. But with these ingenious tools came problems at the human-computer interface, resulting in some degree of distrust on the part of the

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