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No, today's airplanes don't just fly themselves

To the editor: In his opinion piece on the Germanwings crash, Peter Garrison writes, "From shortly after takeoff to shortly before touchdown, airplanes fly themselves while pilots talk with controllers and one another and punch data into flight management systems." ("Germanwings crash: No algorithm can stop a pilot bent on killing himself," op-ed, March 26)

That is one of the most insulting, embarrassing and misleading characterizations of how commercial airplanes are flown that I've ever read.

It is caricatures like Garrison's that are responsible for much of the flying public's vastly exaggerated sense of just how "automated" cockpits are, and for its misunderstanding of what airline pilots actually do and how, in fact, we interface with cockpit technology.

Garrison is an experienced pilot and should know better than to reinforce this pervasive mythology through such flip and misleading descriptions.

Patrick Smith, Boston

The writer, an airline pilot, is the author of "Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel."

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To the editor: In a world where pilotless drones can complete pinpoint bombing missions (or so we are told), it seems entirely possible that commercial airlines could be piloted remotely from facilities with multilayered security procedures and real-time monitoring to prevent what appears to have happened in the Alps.

I think people would accept that.

David Weber, West Hollywood

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To the editor: Privacy is all very well, but if medical privacy leads to 150 people dying at the hands of a pilot who had "suicidal tendencies," I surmise we need to rethink privacy.

Rory Johnston, Hollywood

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