- Dec 6, 2004
theaustralian.news.com.au said:Qantas pilots split on Boeing or 'bus
Steve Creedy - December 12, 2005
QANTAS officials worked through the weekend to get a recommendation on its massive $15-$20 billion fleet upgrade to the board on Wednesday. But the airline's pilots remain divided on whether Qantas should spend its money with Boeing or arch rival Airbus.
Many are staunch supporters of the flying kangaroo's traditional supplier, Boeing, and believe the airline should pin its future on the US manufacturer's widebody 777s and 787s.
But Airbus, which has made significant Qantas inroads since an order in 2000, also has fans who would like to see Qantas pick up four-engine A340s and the European plane-maker's competitor to the 787, the A350.
"A lot of the guys who fly the 'bus like it and identify with the technology," said Australian International Pilots Association technical and safety director Richard Woodward. "Quite a few people say you've got to drop preconceived ideas and embrace the airbus technology.
"But there are a lot of guys who are anti-Airbus completely and that would be a cultural thing -- they've been flying Boeings for a million years."
The board deferred a decision on the aircraft last week to give officials more time to consider last-minute revised proposals in the closely fought battle. Pilot supporters of both aircraft types have long lists of often technical reasons why they prefer one over the other.
But Captain Woodward, who flies Airbus A330s but says he is a Boeing fan, said pilots opposed to the European aircraft believed they had more control in Boeing planes and perceived them as being stronger and more robust.
The newer planes from both manufacturers use so-called "fly-by-wire" technology that routes pilots' control inputs through computers and other remote mechanisms.
However, Airbus adopted the technology earlier than Boeing and made a radical decision to replace the traditional pilot's yoke, the main control "wheel" seen in most movies, with a joystick device.
Airbus also incorporated a number of computerised safety features into the system, such an anti-stall function that automatically boosts engine thrust as the pitch of the aircraft increases.
Some pilots believe the Europeans have given computers and automatic systems too much authority over how the planes fly.
Captain Woodward said another Airbus captain had described flying the aircraft as a vote, with the computer getting more votes than the pilot.
"The purists days of aviation are gone, the days when the pilot is relying on his so-called stick-and-rudder skills to fly the aeroplane are gone," he said. "The aeroplane is intervening much more than it did in the old days and it's modifying your inputs to try and achieve what it wants.
"The technique of flying an Airbus is to make an input and wait and see what happens, then make another input and wait and see what happens."
However, another Qantas captain who preferred flying Airbus aircraft said the sidestick "was the obvious way to go".