Automated cockpits may negatively impact pilots' thinking skills

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dcstrng

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Researchers from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in US studied how the prolonged use of cockpit automation negatively impacts pilots' ability to remember how to perform these key tasks.

"There is widespread concern among pilots and air carriers that as the presence of automation increases in the airline cockpit, pilots are losing the skills they still need to fly the airplane the 'old-fashioned way' when the computers crash..."

We probably knew this:
http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/automated-cockpits-affect-pilots-emergency-skills-114120200665_1.html
 

Jay Kempf

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That is no surprise and makes perfect sense, as the old saying goes, "Use it or lose it".
If what you are talking about is airline cockpit automation there is enough corollary benefit of automation reducing information overload. Airbus, Boeing, Embreare, etc... are building planes that pilots don't fly anyway so the whole subject is moot. Same with modern fighters. The human is already obsolete but we won't let it be. Therefore drones are seen as evil but pilots flying airplanes that deliver weapons are not. We have the technology to fly end to end without human intervention now for basically most missions. The majority of this whole discussion points towards how can the computer crash and how can it be avoided. That is the realm of the modern systems engineer. Many drones are flown/steered with a crappy game controller. The "pilot" only gives a general steering input and is not responsible for coordinating or uncoordinating a turn or worrying about banking too much or stalling. Just like an automatic transmission solves the which gear to be in and how to use a clutch problem.
 

Blue Chips

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"that pilots don't fly anyway so the whole subject is moot"

Apparently the obsolete humans that fly them disagree with that, still, they may have further interest in why they say that.
Some day though! I think "in the year 2525 if man is still alive" :)
 

timberwolf8199

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Researchers from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in US studied how the prolonged use of cockpit automation negatively impacts pilots' ability to remember how to perform these key tasks.

"...as the presence of automation increases in the airline cockpit, pilots are losing the skills they still need to fly the airplane..."

Driven on a highway lately, especially in any kind of adverse weather? For that matter, ask the next cashier you see to do the math without using the register. The phenomenon isn't new or exclusive, it's human nature. If you didn't realize it before you just weren't paying attention. And if you knew about it and didn't expect it, you're a fool. So what's the point of the research? Studies like this, that 'discover' obvious things, always irritate me. Makes me wonder how long it'll take someone to do a study that comes to the earth shaking conclusions that there is nothing new under the sun, water is the number one source of wetness, and being alive is the most common shared trait of illnesses.
 

Hot Wings

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Driven on a highway lately, especially in any kind of adverse weather? For that matter, ask the next cashier you see to do the math without using the register. The phenomenon isn't new or exclusive, it's human nature.
How many people do you come across that don't know their friends phone numbers without looking at their smart phone, or even their own phone number? If we ever get fully autonomous "Google cars" some people won't even know where they live! :gig:
 

Jay Kempf

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Driven on a highway lately, especially in any kind of adverse weather? For that matter, ask the next cashier you see to do the math without using the register. The phenomenon isn't new or exclusive, it's human nature. If you didn't realize it before you just weren't paying attention. And if you knew about it and didn't expect it, you're a fool. So what's the point of the research? Studies like this, that 'discover' obvious things, always irritate me. Makes me wonder how long it'll take someone to do a study that comes to the earth shaking conclusions that there is nothing new under the sun, water is the number one source of wetness, and being alive is the most common shared trait of illnesses.
I live 2000' up a mountain in ski country in central Vermont. I drive nothing but traction control AWD with ABS and good tires. If I didn't I wouldn't be able to get home 6 months a year. If I didn't I would have a $1000 a year towing bill for pulling my butt out of the ditch and out of the side of the driveway all the time. The computer thinks faster and better than I do. I am good with that. It's a tool. It intervenes when my paltry human senses let me down. I use computers for almost everything. My house heating runs on microprocessors. My water well runs on microprocessors. I have computers on all four floors of my house that was built around a 19" rack server cabinet in my office. With my failing genetic squishy grey hard drive becoming suspect computers are helping me remember things.

I think pilots need to stop thinking they are going to be obsoleted by computers and fighting against it and start looking at them as an opportunity to process more data during times of need. Can they fail and let you down? Yes. But mostly they have evolved to the point of helping more than getting in the way if you wish to participate.

I like the idea that there is some consortium working on an earth shaking conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun. This is why I don't have a TV and don't listen to much in the way of the tripe coming out of the US news industry.
 

SVSUSteve

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Jay Kempf said:
Can they fail and let you down? Yes.
Then again so can you're Version 1.0 VFR pilot. Anyone who has pulled a mangled body out of a Cessna or homebuilt from a spin/stall crash or CFIT can attest to that. The trick is finding a balance between using automation when it is best and letting pilots fly when it is safe. My opinion is that pilots should be, at a minimum, flying (except when exceptional precision must be assured like on a GPS approach or an ILS approach to minima in hard IMC in less than forgiving terrain) with the computer(s) providing some warning of hazardous situations or poor choices ("Hey, let's scud run into the mountains around Jay's house....what's the worst that could happen?" as an example).

Let the computer do the things most people suck at like monitoring and noticing subtle patterns or maintaining straight and level flight for long boring periods of time especially in conditions conducive to spatial disorientation such as night or foul weather flying.

Neither side ("Computers are bad and going to kill us all in one way or another" vs "Pilots are uniformly unreliable") is absolutely correct or absolutely incorrect. Both have valuable and useful input to continue the never ending goal of improving operational safety. Like most political or emotional topics, the best approach and the one so hard to get people to adopt is the one that is between the two extremes.
 

akwrencher

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SVSU steve really nailed it. Balance is really where it's at. After all, airliners exist to get us to and from our destinations safely and on time. Good to have a system where the pilots would get enough time "hands on" so as to stay proficient though. Hence the balance......I'm sure there are ways that is or can be insured.

We really see this in all aspects of our modern life with machines, not just electronics. Think about it, how long have gym's been around? We lead such comfortable lives that we have to waste energy just to keep our body's in shape. It's the world we live in. I used to dig holes with a shovel, now I borrow an excavator from my buddy. It's great. My map reading skills ARE getting a little rusty though, since I got a smart phone with google maps.....;)
 

AdrianS

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Driven on a highway lately, especially in any kind of adverse weather? For that matter, ask the next cashier you see to do the math without using the register. The phenomenon isn't new or exclusive, it's human nature. If you didn't realize it before you just weren't paying attention. And if you knew about it and didn't expect it, you're a fool. So what's the point of the research? Studies like this, that 'discover' obvious things, always irritate me. Makes me wonder how long it'll take someone to do a study that comes to the earth shaking conclusions that there is nothing new under the sun, water is the number one source of wetness, and being alive is the most common shared trait of illnesses.
The point of research like this is putting numbers to things.

"Everyone knows this" and "this is obvious" are fairly meaningless phrases, because not eveyone knows, and it's not obvious to everyone. Forums are a great example of this :).

If you can say that after x years of automated flight pilots are y% more likely to make mistakes, and especially if the research shows what kind of mistakes are made, then you have a chance to improve the situation.
 

gtae07

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Then again so can you're Version 1.0 VFR pilot. Anyone who has pulled a mangled body out of a Cessna or homebuilt from a spin/stall crash or CFIT can attest to that. The trick is finding a balance between using automation when it is best and letting pilots fly when it is safe. My opinion is that pilots should be, at a minimum, flying (except when exceptional precision must be assured like on a GPS approach or an ILS approach to minima in hard IMC in less than forgiving terrain) with the computer(s) providing some warning of hazardous situations or poor choices ("Hey, let's scud run into the mountains around Jay's house....what's the worst that could happen?" as an example).

Let the computer do the things most people suck at like monitoring and noticing subtle patterns or maintaining straight and level flight for long boring periods of time especially in conditions conducive to spatial disorientation such as night or foul weather flying.

Neither side ("Computers are bad and going to kill us all in one way or another" vs "Pilots are uniformly unreliable") is absolutely correct or absolutely incorrect. Both have valuable and useful input to continue the never ending goal of improving operational safety. Like most political or emotional topics, the best approach and the one so hard to get people to adopt is the one that is between the two extremes.
IMHO the role of computers, automation, and datalinks is to relieve the pilot of low-level tasks--computing ground speed/winds, matching mixture to operating condition, flying straight and level for an hour straight, etc.--so the pilot can concentrate on higher-level tasks like navigation, decision-making, flight path control, and so on. The computers and automation also watch over things and warn the pilot when things exceed limits; the pilot monitors the automation to make sure it's doing what he wants and steps in manually when it's not. Each backstops the other.

It's why I'm such a big fan of modern EFIS and fuel injection. I want to be a pilot, not a flight engineer ;)
 

Turd Ferguson

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"Use it or lose it"
A person can't lose something they never had. I suppose in the perfect world, a pilot would be trained only with the skills he needs and those skills would be exercised regularly so as to never be lost. Unfortunately, too many variables in every flight to make that realistic. Someone figures out a foolproof way to integrate man - machine - environment, they will be a bazillionaire.
 

SVSUSteve

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IMHO the role of computers, automation, and datalinks is to relieve the pilot of low-level tasks--computing ground speed/winds, matching mixture to operating condition, flying straight and level for an hour straight, etc.--so the pilot can concentrate on higher-level tasks like navigation, decision-making, flight path control, and so on. The computers and automation also watch over things and warn the pilot when things exceed limits; the pilot monitors the automation to make sure it's doing what he wants and steps in manually when it's not. Each backstops the other.

It's why I'm such a big fan of modern EFIS and fuel injection. I want to be a pilot, not a flight engineer ;)
Add in cruise flight to the list of boring things that the computer should handle and you took the words out of my mouth. That way, your eyes can stay outside of the cockpit as a last line of defense against pilots who aren't paying attention. Even when back when putzing around in ultralights, I always thought cruise flight was exceptionally boring so I had to break up any "trip" (such as one can take in such a minimalistic piece of equipment) by doing a couple of circuits around the pattern at any airport that I came across.
 

DangerZone

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If what you are talking about is airline cockpit automation there is enough corollary benefit of automation reducing information overload. Airbus, Boeing, Embreare, etc... are building planes that pilots don't fly anyway so the whole subject is moot. Same with modern fighters. The human is already obsolete but we won't let it be. Therefore drones are seen as evil but pilots flying airplanes that deliver weapons are not. We have the technology to fly end to end without human intervention now for basically most missions. The majority of this whole discussion points towards how can the computer crash and how can it be avoided. That is the realm of the modern systems engineer. Many drones are flown/steered with a crappy game controller. The "pilot" only gives a general steering input and is not responsible for coordinating or uncoordinating a turn or worrying about banking too much or stalling. Just like an automatic transmission solves the which gear to be in and how to use a clutch problem.
Such an approach could make us ask three important questions about IF a human could ever be obsolete.

Humans have legal responsibility, that's why pilots avoid crashes at all costs. A computer crashes and nobody takes the blame, not even MicroSoft when the blue screen appears. So who would be held resposible if a glitch occurs in the system and the aircraft collides with terrain or loses control?

Second, even the best computers may be overtaken by human witts. Just take a look at the most sophisticated Sentinel drone the US built which was easily hacked into by Russian programmers above Iran. I bet this drone costed the taxpayers a lot so just imagine how many aircraft theft would happen if control would be given to computers instead of humans. Would you trust your life to a computer knowing it's control can be overtaken by some anonimous, faceless and masked criminal mind?

Lastly, humans can improvise when unordinary events happen, it comes from the power of imagination, creativity and anticipation. So how would a computer be able to handle if something outside of prescribed routines happens? Besides getting the blue screen or 404 Error and freezing on it's way into a CB it misinterpreted as fog...

Whoever thinks humans are obsolete should ask themselves if the best future computer AI could ever replace a human. Cause there are some thing computers can never have, a 'sense' of situation and intuition what to do.
 

Jay Kempf

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Such an approach could make us ask three important questions about IF a human could ever be obsolete.

Humans have legal responsibility, that's why pilots avoid crashes at all costs. A computer crashes and nobody takes the blame, not even MicroSoft when the blue screen appears. So who would be held resposible if a glitch occurs in the system and the aircraft collides with terrain or loses control?

Second, even the best computers may be overtaken by human witts. Just take a look at the most sophisticated Sentinel drone the US built which was easily hacked into by Russian programmers above Iran. I bet this drone costed the taxpayers a lot so just imagine how many aircraft theft would happen if control would be given to computers instead of humans. Would you trust your life to a computer knowing it's control can be overtaken by some anonimous, faceless and masked criminal mind?

Lastly, humans can improvise when unordinary events happen, it comes from the power of imagination, creativity and anticipation. So how would a computer be able to handle if something outside of prescribed routines happens? Besides getting the blue screen or 404 Error and freezing on it's way into a CB it misinterpreted as fog...

Whoever thinks humans are obsolete should ask themselves if the best future computer AI could ever replace a human. Cause there are some thing computers can never have, a 'sense' of situation and intuition what to do.

Good one. Let's take the case of Airbus. There is no connection between control and the human. The computer intercedes between input and output. Fact. The computer won't let the human make certain decisions and there is no override, no large red mushroom shaped button. That is today's reality. Fighters are the same way. Who flies the plane when the pilot exceeded his G limit? The plane is more capable than the human. So should the plane let the human make all the decisions?

Is the human in the loop or not? The answer is sort of, kind of, not really, but sort of.

Humans can intervene when "unordinary" events happen either to the good or to the bad. There was a large airplane lost in the ocean between the coast of Brazil and Africa recently. The humans didn't perform well in that event and they managed to fake the computer into a corner of the control algorithm that was unheard of before it happened. Took a bunch of sensors failed, a bunch of bad weather, and the humans involved made it worse and killed a bunch of people. Fact. It wasn't the computer that killed those people. It was the humans. Before computers there are many examples of people concentrating on one single light that wasn't lighted and losing control of the aircraft so that the forensics people could figure out that the lamp was just burned out. Before that there were simpler examples. Having an onset of more complicated human aids is not a general paranoia of scenarios where machines are just not to be trusted. Technology progresses. Machines get more complicated. People use machines. And life goes on.
 

Topaz

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Use the machines to augment the abilities of the people - allow them to see through clouds and rain, monitor long-term trends in systems looking for failures, ceaselessly watch for traffic on converging courses, etc. That's the proper role of automation, IMHO.

The moment you start trying to replace human functions with machines, you start down the slippery slope where the human pilot loses the ability he doesn't use often, and ultimately you have no choice but to replace the human with the machine entirely - and then accept the failings of the machine instead of the failings of the humans. Machines have little ability to deal with conflicting or vague data, no ability to go beyond the data to arrive at an intuitive solution, and are vulnerable to being compromised at a distance through a network, etc.

If you use a machine to enhance the abilities of a human pilot, you build a system that benefits from the best of both worlds. If you use a machine to replace the abilities of a human pilot, you simply swap one set of vulnerabilities for another. That's not a net gain, as far as I can tell.
 

Topaz

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...There was a large airplane lost in the ocean between the coast of Brazil and Africa recently. The humans didn't perform well in that event and they managed to fake the computer into a corner of the control algorithm that was unheard of before it happened. Took a bunch of sensors failed, a bunch of bad weather, and the humans involved made it worse and killed a bunch of people. Fact. It wasn't the computer that killed those people. It was the humans. ...
You're grossly oversimplifying the event. The pilots performed so badly because they were unaccustomed to hand-flying the aircraft - because the automation did it 98-99% of the time. They'd lost the ability to recognize a simple stall event and to respond accordingly. That's something we teach solo students to proficiency before they are allowed to take an airplane up alone. These multi-thousand-hour airline pilots had lost that basic skill because they had become too dependent upon automation flying the airplane for them. You can just as easily blame the automation for that scenario, in that if they'd had to hand-fly the airplane regularly and for significant periods of each flight, they would likely not have lost the skills to the degree that they did.

Air France 447 is at the very heart of the debate. It's disingenuous to try and use it as an example of "machines being better than humans".
 
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