Autopilot for landing planes may prevent future crashes

System is designed to land small planes if a pilot is incapacitated

Lesson #
December 26, 2019
Filed:

Garmin, the company that once dominated GPS navigation in cars, has developed an automated landing system for small planes. The system is designed to land a small plane automatically in an emergency, such as when the pilot has a heart attack. The plane will find the nearest airport, locate an airstrip, alert air traffic control, land the plane and bring it to a stop. Plus, learn the English phrase "prone to."


Also in Today's Lesson


Transcript

Simple TranscriptEspañol中文FrançaisPortuguês日本語ItalianoDeutschTürkçePolski

You’ve heard of autopilot: now meet, “autoland.”

Hi there, welcome to Plain English for this December 26, 2019. I hope you had a nice Christmas. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 219 of Plain English, the best podcast for practicing English. That’s because we have a speed that’s just right for you—the slower speed version or the new fast version. And if you ever get confused about a word, don’t worry. Just check out the transcript of the program at PlainEnglish.com/219.

Coming up today: You might know Garmin as the company that used to make GPS navigational devices for cars. But they’re also big into navigation and safety systems for planes—and their newest system can land a plane without a pilot at all. Later on, we’ll talk about what it means to be “prone to” something. And JR has a Christmas song.

Pretty soon here the calendar is going to flip to 2020; can you believe that? And if practicing English is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, then you’ll want to be getting our episode emails, which have extra words and phrases from our episodes and links to English articles for you to read more about each topic. Thousands of your fellow listeners were on that list for all of 2019. And that means that in just this year alone, they learned 104 new words and phrases in English. That’s two for every week of the year. And you guys know, there’s no such thing as a holiday at Plain English. We have new material every Monday and every Thursday, 52 weeks a year. So come join us on that list and next year you can be among the listeners who have learned 104 new phrases by this time in 2020. Just visit PlainEnglish.com/mail to sign up for free.


New landing system aims to make small planes safer

Of all the modes of transportation available, flying is by far the safest. A crash of a commercial plane, resulting in passenger deaths, is vanishingly rare. Still, many people are afraid of flying and all the safety statistics in the world can’t suppress that fear. One of the reasons, I think, is that a plane crash is so dramatic. Rare, yes, but dramatic.

The planes that do crash tend to be smaller, private planes, not big commercial airliners. Now, a new technology developed by Garmin may make those small-plane crashes a little less likely.

Do you remember the brand, Garmin? They were best-known among consumers for the GPS navigation systems that cars used to have, back in the days before we used cell phones for navigation. Garmin is still around and today the company develops wearable electronics, aviation safety systems, and more sophisticated navigation systems for trucks, boats, and aircraft.

Now, the company has developed a system called “Autoland” that allows airplanes to land themselves in emergency situations. Call it the next frontier of “autopilot,” the system that allows a plane’s onboard computer to set the trajectory of the aircraft. The purpose of the system is to allow any person, passenger or pilot, to hit a button in the event of an emergency and watch as the plane lands itself.

How does it work?

The main objective of the system is to act as a backup if a pilot becomes incapacitated. Incapacitated means, unable to do their normal duties, unable to function. Although commercial airlines have a copilot, smaller planes usually just have one single pilot. If that pilot becomes incapacitated, for example, if he or she suffers a heart attack during the flight, then the chances that anyone survives are pretty low. It’s very difficult to remotely teach a passenger to stabilize a plane in the air, much less land it safely.

That’s why Garmin has developed this new safety system that would allow any passenger to push a button and engage an “autoland” system. Just as an autopilot guides the plane without manual controls, autoland will fly the plane to the nearest airport and land it safely, without human intervention.

Here’s how it works. The first thing it does is contact air traffic control via automated voice messages and a mayday, or emergency, signal. Next, it uses the Garmin navigation system to analyze the terrain, weather, and nearby airports, taking into account how much fuel is available. Based on that information, it decides, first of all, which airport to go to, and then what route and approach to take.

The system sets the aircraft on course to the best airport, while doing all the things that autopilot normally does, like monitor and control speed, pressurization, altitude, et cetera.

One thing the system can’t do is clear other aircraft out of its path. However, it can tell the local air traffic controllers about the situation, and they will presumably clear the airspace of other planes. Once the plane is near the runway, the autoland software releases the landing gear, lands the plane on the runway, applies automatic braking, brings the plane to a halt, and shuts off the engine. Even if no one pushes the button, if Autoland notices inactivity with the pilot after a period of time, it will self-start.

The autoland is still a long way from widespread adoption. It still hasn’t gotten approval from the FAA, our aviation regulator. And it will only be available in two small aircraft to start—and it’s pretty expensive. The march of transportation continues: the necessity to take off and land a plane is often the justification for having two pilots in the cockpit of planes anyway.

Think back to our aviation fears. If people are afraid of flying today, I don’t think they’ll ever buy a ticket on an unmanned flight. But this might allow commercial airliners to fly without a copilot someday. At the least, it would make the smaller aircraft that are prone to crashes a little safer in case of an emergency.


I know we have some pilots in the audience—at least a few in Brazil, one in Chile I think. I’d love to know what you think about it as a pilot or a passenger. Leave a comment below the episode text at PlainEnglish.com/219.

Time to say hello to a few listeners. Miguel from Chihuahua, Mexico, loves the episode topics, is interested in every one, no exceptions, he says, and he requested more episodes per week. Not even I think all the episode topics are interesting! I used to pick topics that I thought were “important” and that I “should” talk about, but then I realized, if I’m not interested in a topic, there’s not way I can make it interesting to all of you.

Also I want to say hi Ali from Istanbul, who is studying English independently with podcasts, movies, and YouTube channels. I’m happy to be a part of Ali’s independent study curriculum.

¿Hablas español?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into Spanish. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

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Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

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Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

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你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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