In Asia, many people’s first experience of a telephone is a smartphone. Many will never know a landline. Asia’s booming airlines, likewise, have mostly got their start since flying stopped being about aerodynamics and became about monitoring computer systems. Asia’s pilots come up in classrooms and simulators, not hand-flying Piper Cubs or rudimentary military trainers.
Nobody yet knows what caused the Dec. 28 AirAsia crash off the coast of Borneo, but the airplane appears to have gotten badly out of shape while the crew was maneuvering in or around a thunderstorm. And recall the South Korean airliner that, in perfect weather, crashed short of a San Francisco runway in 2013 because the crew had to land the plane by hand. A former Delta Air Lines expert told the Associated Press this week: “In Asia, it’s very normal to rely, in my view, excessively on automation.”