New technologies, automation and digitization in the air industry: what impact on employment and skills?
A cockpit that has been largely automated
The cockpit of an aircraft, more commonly known as the “cockpit”, is the space comprising the flight instruments which today allow the pilot and his co-pilot to accomplish their mission. Initially, the crew taking place on board the cockpit of a transport aircraft consisted of three people. The pilot, the co-pilot, and the mechanic whose role was to manage the systems of the plane, both hydraulic and pneumatic, and to solve any mechanical problems.
It was not until 1970, with advances in electronics, that the cockpit became digital, and the profession of flight engineer disappeared. Flight instruments now display more reliable digital information derived from the direct measurement of physical phenomena through analog-to-digital converters (ADCs).
Governed by computers
This transition was also accelerated by the appearance of the “glass cockpit” concept in the early 1980s, which consisted of a rearrangement of the cockpit with the installation of screens facing the pilots. The display on these screens is governed by computers which are integrated on the one hand, in the FMS systems (Flight Management System) which calculate in particular the trajectory, the time of passage to the various ” way points ” (points of passage), the estimate of the quantity of fuel to be carried and consumed, and on the other hand, in the EFIS systems (Electronic Flight Information Systems) linked to the autopilot and which allow in particular the display of the altitude and speed.
New tools that lighten the work of air traffic controllers.
Air traffic control is absolutely vital to the proper functioning of air traffic. It is essential that the service be permanently active to avoid any failure with serious consequences on air traffic.Air traffic controllers have many tools at their disposal to carry out their mission, including the “strips” which have particularly evolved over the last decades. The strips are cardboard strips on which appear in particular, for each flight, the callsign which is the identification number of the flight, the airfield of departure and destination, the route followed as well as the speed and the altitude . This is a mode of representation of air traffic making it possible in particular to aid in the detection of conflicts of the collision type between two aircraft and to determine the position of an aircraft. This is a mode of representation of air traffic making it possible in particular to aid in the detection of conflicts of the collision type between two aircraft and to determine the position of an aircraft.
Digitization allows the controller to anticipate
Initially, the strip was completely handwritten when it first appeared in the 1940s. It then evolved to make the controller’s task easier, with the use of ink pads making it possible to limit errors and save time, a part of the strip no longer being handwritten. Strips of different colours are also appearing to differentiate the departures and arrivals of aircraft from an airport.Automation appeared in the 1960s with the aim of helping controllers and not replacing them. In 2015, the first control screens in an electronic environment were deployed, enabling the implementation of the “electronic strip” . This digitization allows the controller to anticipate better traffic management and better flight regularity.