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    • That is actually a very good question and something that Boeing has developed a system for. They call it EICAS (Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System), other manufacturers have a similar system but have a different name.

      It monitors a lot of parameters and sensors (A LOT). If it detects a 'major' problem like say an engine fire, it will alert us both aurally and visually. Just about everything non-normal is shown in text on the middle screen (the one with the two rows of white lines in the image) in either red or amber.

      It is smart enough to not overload us with information; If you have an engine failure you will also have low oil pressure for instance, but that warning will be inhibited.

      On the model pictured above (the 747-8) we have an electronic checklist; We can push the 'checklist' button and it will automatically show the 'engine fire' checklist on the screen in this example (below the one in the center with the white lines).

      Is it foolproof? No, we still have to keep thinking about what's going on and confirm the problem if we can.
      The system is designed for singe failures. Multiple failures at the same time and physical damage may throw it off. The same with the checklists; Even though two failures are correctly identified, it can depend on the situation which checklist you want to start with, it doesn't have to be the one the the airplane comes up with first. (It may tell you to shut off something that you need in the next checklist for instance).

    • For those not familiar with a specific airplane, a flightdeck will probably look really overwhelming. But that is why we get trained to fly a specific airplane.

      Everything on the overhead panel, are system settings that we set before the flight mainly; During the flight we hardly touch them. Usually only once per flight to select a different fueltank/engine configuration.

      The glareshield is mainly autopilot stuff. Below that the screens with all the information, and on the pedestal mostly engine controls and communication/navigation systems. That really is about it.

      The systems got a lot more complex (and we have more systems) so we have more buttons and information that the WWII era planes. But if you look at the screen with the artificial horizon, it also shows you things like speed, altitude, heading. The same things as the WWII planes, in a modern but not dissimilar presentation.

      I have an uncle who retired from flying last year. He was a pilot at United Airlines for 35+ years. He loved his job. My understanding is these 747s are much more automated and while it's much more convenient for the pilots and all, he seemed to miss the days when pilots had more manual control over their planes. It's a pretty interesting and exciting profession. Really an awesome shot! Thanks for sharing!

      A lot of things in this plane (especially this version) are automated, more so than the older versions. It has to be (since we lost the flight engineer and we are only with two now), but also because it is safer; We as humans are prone to several problems that a computer is not prone to. Our jobs, and your uncle will surely have noticed, have changed over the years from being a pilot/flightengineer/mechanic combination to a pilot/systemsmonitoring/systemsoperator type of job. (The automation in itself can create problems as wel, but that is a whole different story).

    • Hiller Aviation Museum have a 747 flightdeck you can tour. I was lucky enough to have a docent who was one of the plane’s original pilots. I would guess it’s a very early model. The buttons and knobs far outnumber what the newest version has. However, once the docent explained the layout, it became much less confusing (but no less daunting).

      If you’re out this way again and have an afternoon, Hiller is worth a visit.