Airbus announces a Response to the Pilot-Automation Interface Problems; it is a reactive solution; maybe there’s a proactive one

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Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have opined that the pilot-cockpit interface has its problems due to the crewmembers’ inordinate reliance on automation. Academic research has added clinical evidence that the interface needs to draw the captain and the second-in-command more into the thinking aspect of controlling the airplane.

Airbus’s director of international regulatory affairs, William Tauzin, announced a response of the manufacturer to this critical issue at a recent symposium. They have revised the order pf the curriculum for training of the aircraft’s pilots. The first class will be given to Qatar Airways’ A-350 crews in that they will be the first to fly this new plane.

As explained by Mr. Tauzin, the plan is to start the teaching of the pilots on their manual flying in the simulator after only a brief introduction to the A350; specifically he said, “just have them feel the plane, and how it behaves without” turning on automation or presenting any complicated system failures or emergencies. The educational theory is that this is “a way to make pilots feel more comfortable and confident about their ability to revert to manual flying in an emergency.” The presentation indicated that Airbus has found 2/3 of the accidents/incidents studied) that the pilots’ flying skills are deteriorating due to reliance on the automation and when they have to take full control of the plane they are not ready.

That would appear to be a great initial response to equip the pilot with the skills to react to a crisis. It would seem axiomatic that the most important thing to do is develop ergonomic systems in the aircraft automation which elevate and maintain the pilots’ attention. By creating a system which requires the constant vigilance and keeping the pilots’ head in the cockpit, the likelihood of the precipitant for a problem will be reduced.

A simple Google search creates a long list of scholarly articles on the subject of enhancing the crew attention; one of those studied how to redesign the equipment of an anesthetist to increase the professional’s focus on that critical machine. Other articles suggest that there are techniques which help a professional increase the time during which focus can be maintained. Review of this literature and original ergonomics research might find useful techniques to defeat the pilots’ automation-caused boredom.

Good first step, Airbus, but there may be more that can be done to prevent the break in the pilot-automation interface.

ARTICLE: Airbus Shifts Pilot-Training Focus to Emphasize Manual Flying

Change Is a Marked Shift From Traditional Principles That Relied on Automated Systems

By ANDY PASZTOR

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