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The difference is real, and huge.

In stormy weather, on an instrument approach to De Gaulle in a vehicle operating independently of any track in three dimensional space- a vehicle with a speed in the transition zone well beyond the top end for the fastest TGV--
In the world's most heavily populated air traffic environment, the pilot will fly a complex approach involving, often, dozens of changes of heading and altitude, changes of speed, of aircraft configuration, all the while communicating with and responding to typically four different radio control facilities,
En route
Approach
Tower
Ground
--- while at the same time executing multiple check lists and maintaining a mental picture of the field, the terrain, the aircraft angle of attack vs. speed equation (a life-or-death matter), our chauffer will feel his way to the runway end and "grease it on", if he is really good (and lucky)- while creating in his head a mental map of the field's complex taxiways so he or she doesn't turn off at the wrong goddamn runway exit. I speak from experience there.
After a night approach in gusty, icy weather, every approach is a clean-shirt deal- to hide the sweat stains. Never, never to be admitted to others, of course.  

I suggest that the heavy-qualified airplane driver is performing an act of real-time skill and judgment that approaches the absolute limits of what humans can do.

Also, Every Cat III approach (could be fully automatic) is monitored and in reality hand flown- hands on or near the controls, even when the autopilot is on-

I have the greatest respect for the TGV driver- or the driver of the local freight. I have shared at least a bit of his or her world, I think.
Pay the hell out of them, and don't bitch.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 25th, 2007 at 08:29:51 AM EST
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