FDAI logo   ::  Site Map  ::   
Home  |  About this Website  |  Contact Us
About this Website » Phase 1 Survey Analysis

Phase 1 Survey Analysis
Overview

Introduction

In Phase 1 we prepared a questionnaire for a survey pilots and other individuals with first hand knowledge of flight deck automation. Along with basic demographic and flight experience questions, the questionnaire probed the respondent for flight deck automation problems he/she knew about or concerns he/she had about flight deck automation. We sent participation invitations to aviation and automation related newsgroups on the Internet, to selected individuals with demonstrated expertise in automation and flight safety, and to pilots. We distributed 1096 questionnaires and received back 128 completed questionnaires as follows: 83 from commercial transport pilots, 11 from air traffic controllers, 10 from aviation safety professionals (analysts and instructors), 12 from scientists (human factors scientists, aviation psychologists, and computer scientists), five from avionics engineers, and seven from other individuals claiming familiarity with flightdeck automation. We analyzed the responses and found 371 citations in 121 questionnaires. We classified the citations of problems and concerns as described above.

In Phase 2 we reviewed questionnaires returned by pilots for evidence related to flight deck automation issues.

Top of Page  


Evidence Results

Pilots participating in the study responded to the Phase 1 questionnaire statement: "Describe a problem you know of or a concern you have about flightdeck automation." In 21 of these questionnaires the respondents gave responses that can be considered as evidence. These responses are listed below, organized according to the issue that they support. Following each response, the pilot's current seat and aircraft are indicated in the parentheses. Note that a single pilot response may related to one or more issues.



issue012:   pilots have responsibility but may lack authority
Automation design may limit the authority of a pilot to exercise full control over the aircraft to perform a function even though he/she still has responsibility for it.
  • "At times the electronics take away the ability of the pilot to make corrections of to be flexible in order to accommodate changing situations." (B747 First Officer)
  • "We spend too much time with our heads and eyes in the cockpit. ... The tiller is regulated how fast it turns the nosewheel. I can't turn or straighten immediately if need be. I am not in control of this aircraft." (A320 Captain)
  • "In some situations, the amount of programming and/or button pushing can be a serious distraction in the cockpit. Also voltage surges, humidity, temperature can all cause glitches or anomalies that can't be reproduced or explained in a lab. At times the electronics take away the ability of the pilot to make corrections or to be flexible in order to accommodate changing situations." (B747 First Officer)


issue013:   job satisfaction may be reduced
Automation may reduce challenges that are the source of job satisfaction, which may adversely affect pilot performance.
  • "Feeling like a system monitor vs. a pilot." (A320 Captain)


issue044:   mode transitions may be uncommanded
Automation may change modes without pilot commands to do so, possibly producing surprising behavior.
  • "As identified in recent research, unanticipated mode changes are a concern, particularly when transitioning from climbing/descending to level flight. Complicating this picture is that - in the ... fleet - we have 3 different glass cockpits (757, 737-300, A320) each with a particular philosophy and design . There are vexing differences even between the 757and 737, both Boeings. ... The situation described above for the 757 results in missed crossing restrictions on virtually every descent ! Error can range from 50 to 200 feet and 10 to 30 knots. Many pilots compensate by building a 2 or more mile "pad" into the LNAV course, i.e. creating a waypoint ahead of the crossing restriction to reach the altitude early." (B757 Captain)


issue063:   deficiencies in basic aircraft training may exist
Training for automated aircraft may not adequately prepare pilots with basic (i.e., non-automation) knowledge and skills in that aircraft, and pilots may lack the knowledge and skills necessary to operate the aircraft manually.
  • "Training pilots I find a lack of basic navigation skills/techniques that cause a 'introspective' perception of where the aircraft is." (747 First Officer)


issue079:   automation may adversely affect pilot workload
Automation may increase overall pilot workload, or increase pilot workload at high workload times and reduce pilot workload at low workload times, possibly resulting in excess workload and/or boredom.
  • "Instead of changing one or two radio receivers only [emphasized] and making a slight turn, now one must change radio frequency on one receiver, re-program the FMC for the new runway, cycle both flight director switches (preferable simultaneously), then fly aircraft or program autopilot to new course." (ASRS analyst, retired pilot)
  • "Crew coordination on flight decks which are automated is a problem because one pilot must fly while the other programs the automated systems. Often, in busy periods, there is insufficient time to check programming for accuracy. This is true of aircraft control and navigation." (B747 Captain)


issue092:   displays (visual and aural) may be poorly designed
Displays (including aural warnings and other auditory displays), display formats, and display elements may not be designed for detectability, discriminability, and interpretability. This may cause important information to be missed or misinterpreted.
  • "FMAs (Flight Mode Annunciations) are cryptic and not well presented." (B737 Captain)
  • "It takes at least 6 months for a transitioning pilot to get used to where the information regarding flight is displayed." (B747 Captain)
  • "Standard FMC/CDU Display ..." (B737 Captain)
  • "A number of audible information inputs we get while operating the A320, while designed with the intent of providing us useful info, have two problems: 1) we cannot 'cancel' the aural input after we are aware of it (much like pushing a master caution lite 'out' after understanding the cause) and 2) the volume level is not adjustable and its too loud. I believe that the whole point of an audio callout is to give me information, but that once I receive this info, I should be able to cancel such input, and I should be able to control/modify/stop the transmission of this info at will." (A320 Captain)
  • "The Altitude Alert Warning horns and [emphasized] the TCAS Warning horns that send the tone through our headsets (as opposed to the overhead speaker) are way too loud. Not only is it painful to the ear, it makes it impossible to hear ATC's directions, etc. this is true for about 70-80% of 737-300[s] using this configuration. Solution: Simply turn down the volume or [emphasized] reroute the tone to the overhead speakers." (B737 Captain)
  • "TCAS aural commands being sounded over headset while ATC could be trying to relay information or trying to communicate with other crew member." (B737 Captain)


issue099:   insufficient information may be displayed
Important information that could be displayed by automation is not displayed, thereby limiting the ability of pilots to make safe decisions and actions.
  • "Not enough information is presented to the crew for them to make timely, informed decisions or corrective actions." (B737 Captain)


issue102:   automation may demand attention
The attentional demands of pilot-automation interaction may significantly interfere with performance of safety-critical tasks. (e.g., "head-down time", distractions, etc.)
  • "At times the electronics take away the ability of the pilot to make corrections of to be flexible in order to accommodate changing situations." (B747 First Officer)
  • "We spend too much time with our heads and eyes in the cockpit. ... The tiller is regulated how fast it turns the nosewheel. I can't turn or straighten immediately if need be. I am not in control of this aircraft." (A320 Captain)
  • "In some situations, the amount of programming and/or button pushing can be a serious distraction in the cockpit. Also voltage surges, humidity, temperature can all cause glitches or anomalies that can't be reproduced or explained in a lab. At times the electronics take away the ability of the pilot to make corrections or to be flexible in order to accommodate changing situations." (B747 First Officer)
  • "Increased heads-down time which causes loss or degradation of situational awareness. ... Many new technical applications become so compelling that the pilots inadvertently focus on the problem which creates an insidious safety concern. This problem is particularly noticeable in terminal areas." (B757/767 Captain)


issue107:   workarounds may be necessary
Pilots may use automation in a manner not intended by designers to get desired results or to avoid undesirable consequences, possibly increasing pilot workload and opportunity for error. This may have unanticipated and undesirable side effects.
  • "As identified in recent research, unanticipated mode changes are a concern, particularly when transitioning from climbing/descending to level flight. Complicating this picture is that - in the ... fleet - we have 3 different glass cockpits (757, 737-300, A320) each with a particular philosophy and design . There are vexing differences even between the 757and 737, both Boeings. ... The situation described above for the 757 results in missed crossing restrictions on virtually every descent ! Error can range from 50 to 200 feet and 10 to 30 knots. Many pilots compensate by building a 2 or more mile "pad" into the LNAV course, i.e. creating a waypoint ahead of the crossing restriction to reach the altitude early." (B757 Captain)


issue132:   older pilots may be less accepting of automation
Older pilots may have trouble accepting and learning to use automation, possibly making them more prone to misusing it.
  • "Training 'old' pilots to use technology." (A320 First Officer)


issue158:   planning requirements may be increased
Flying an automated aircraft may take more planning than flying a manual aircraft. Pilots may not plan far enough ahead to use automated systems, so safety may be compromised.
  • "To fly an automated aircraft takes more planning. Few pilots plan far enough ahead to use automated systems." (B747 Captain)

Top of Page  

  Last update: 12 July 2007 Flight Deck Automation Issues Website  
© 1997-2013 Research Integrations, Inc.