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AOPA questions FAA's control-wheel autopilot controls policyAOPA questions FAA's control-wheel autopilot controls policy

AOPA is opposing a proposed new FAA policy on autopilot controls. Concerned about pilots inadvertently engaging or disengaging the autopilot during critical phases of flight, the FAA wants to remove or limit autopilot controls (sometimes called CWS—control wheel steering) on the control wheel.

But AOPA said that the FAA has not published any "supporting human factors research or accident/incident reports" to justify the change. AOPA asked FAA to supply the data and to allow more time for pilots to comment on the proposal.

"I'm concerned about single pilots operating in the IFR environment," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We are constantly expressing concern about too much 'heads down' time. Using control wheel buttons cuts back substantially on looking down to activate an autopilot mode."

Boyer pointed out that the military practice is to put multiple control buttons on the stick and throttle so that a pilot does not have to remove his hands from the primary flight controls to activate critical aircraft systems.

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