The focus as of the last ten years, see figure 2 with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, has shown that simplification is the way forward due to many human factors issues that have been addressed in past accident reports. Cockpits of aircraft since the 1950s have grown over crowed with immense amount of gauges in the SR-71 (figure 2) being a great example. The only time a pilot would reference many of the gauges at their disposal would be during a flight emergency otherwise they would just perform a quick scan and go about their mission. The glass cockpit was the answer in the last forty years as seen in the Boeing 777, the F117 stealth fighter, and the Shuttle Atlantis (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2000).
Glass cockpits feature liquid crystal displays that can be used to display multiple gauges and avionics screens that enable the user to customize the layout to their liking. According to Lane Wallace, a NASA author, states that a glass cockpit is a series of “displays that could process the raw aircraft system and flight data into an integrated, easily understood picture of the aircraft situation, position and progress, not only in horizontal and vertical dimensions, but with regard to time and speed, as well” (NASA, 2000).
Large aircraft are not the only ones to utilize glass cockpits. Cessna, Piper, and Hawker Beechcraft among others began using glass cockpit designs between 2002 and 2003. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (as cited in NTSB, 2010b), “by 2006 more than 90 percent of new piston-powered, light airplanes were equipped with full glass cockpit displays”. Glass cockpits had never been studied for safety factors until the NTSB began asking questions in 2010.
In an NTSB (2010b) study on glass cockpits and light aircraft, a review of accidents found that pilots were not adequately prepared to safely use complex glass cockpit systems. The NTSB came to the conclusion that new training and tools need to be implemented to safely operate glass cockpit equipped aircraft (NTSB, 2010b). The NTSB found that glass cockpits, while effective, did not show a significant improvement in safety. Effective pilot instruction and evaluation must be tailored to specific equipment. The NTSB recommended that the FAA revise the airman knowledge test to include glass cockpit questions and implement various training elements both for pilots and maintenance personnel (NTSB, 2010b).
The Future of Human Factors in Aviation
Aviation has come a long way since the days of the Wright Brothers. While we have made leaps and bounds, we still have a long way to go to make flying safer. We are starting to see more automation that can control virtually all phases of flight as seen in the Airbus A380 where it can automatically takeoff and land with minimal to no pilot input. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are taking to the sky like never before.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects...