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Be­ing an Ocean Yacht­mas­ter and air­line pilot for over 30 years, I am in full agree­ment with the com­ments made by Skip No­vak about au­to­ma­tion and AI.

Just to put things right in the minds of pub­lic opin­ion: air­lin­ers never, ever take off au­to­mat­i­cally since the vari­ables in the go/no-go de­ci­sion are too com­plex for a com­puter.

When it comes to land­ing, we are do­ing it man­u­ally most of the time, it’s just in dense fog that the au­topi­lot lands the air­craft, given that the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are within the ca­pa­bil­ity of the au­to­mated sys­tem.

There are even many ar­rivals at ma­jor air­ports, such as JFK, where planes have to be flown man­u­ally and vis­ually be­cause of close quar­ter ma­noeu­vring, for ex­am­ple, do­ing the last turn to­wards the run­way in just 400ft.

In or­der to keep up the skillset for all that, I go out fly­ing in my own lit­tle plane, which lacks any au­to­ma­tion.

I pre­fer do­ing the same on a yacht – us­ing prop walk in astern and ac­count­ing for the wind pres­sure and tide on the bows when moor­ing.

It is so nice to feel the move­ment of the yacht and have to an­tic­i­pate what it will do next!

Tom Kat­tinger

Dear Skip, keep ag­o­nis­ing over top­ics please, you have lots to say and we want to hear it!

Re­gard­ing your com­ments in the Septem­ber is­sue, hav­ing been a com­mer­cial air­line pilot for 28 years, I can as­sure you there is no auto take-off func­tion. There is in­deed an auto-land ca­pa­bil­ity and the vari­ables it faces on a run­way are enor­mous – you’re in a 3D mo­tion now, not 2D. How­ever, when cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal lim­i­ta­tions are reached, that auto-land be­comes pro­hib­ited to use and the land­ing is trusted to one of the pi­lots.

I do ap­pre­ci­ate your point re­gard­ing com­mer­cial sit­u­a­tions ver­sus leisure. From a com­mer­cial as­pect, take heart in a lovely para­dox: the more tech­nol­ogy you in­fuse into ves­sels and air­craft, iron­i­cally the greater the de­mand for skilled skip­pers/cap­tains who can still do it ‘old school’ when the tech­nol­ogy is hav­ing time out.

Martin Rol­la­son

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