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The layout and function of cockpit displays controls are designed to increase pilot situation awareness without causing information overload. The cockpit environment is changing. Traditionally the major demands placed on a pilot were associated with the task of flying the aircraft; however as levels of cockpit complexity increase, the focus has changed away from skill to knowledge–based tasks, and the role of the pilot is centered on the processing of information. This information may be presented in a number of different formats, in the auditory or visual modality for example, containing either verbal or spatial information, and pilots may interact with cockpit systems from numerous interfaces. Flight Crews will be required to interact with an increased amount of information like CPDLC data, traffic information on CDTIs for ASAS applications, electronic route manuals/flight bags and even the World Wide Web. Pilots will have to be trained to efficiently use the new data and interfaces. The RAeS/GAPAN paper suggests more terrain information on the map displays.

The Rockwell Collins Heads Up Guidance System (HGS) and similar HUD designs include a compact, optical design contained within a single pilot display unit precisely installed in the area of the windshield sill beam. This unit provides pilots of light and midsize jets with the same Heads Up Display (HUD) capabilities of larger modern jets. The HUD symbology accurately overlays the outside world and is focused at optical infinity, eliminating the need for the pilot to refocus between that HUD symbology and real world features viewed through the HUD, and offers a strong option compared to an ordinary flight director or raw data pursuit. The HUD can also be used in any approach down to 200-100 ft above ground level (AGL). However, precision approach and automatic landing below these values under low visibility conditions requires redundant automatic systems using guidance from ILS, MLS, and possibly GLS in the future, to keep the risks of such operations sufficiently remote.

Potential hazard

  1. Crew distraction resulting from information being presented on supplementary displays, requiring the crew to divide their attention
  2. Flight crew confusion resulting from multiple modes being annunciated at one time
  3. Poor retrofit integration with existing systems
  4. Cluttering if information is presented on a single screen
  5. Potential for information overload and excessive workload
  6. Failure to display information in easily understood form, making monitoring difficult and complicating execution of emergency operating procedures
  7. Failure to provide controls feedback and tactile cues to the pilot at critical stages of flight
  8. The sheer volume of information available, and the confusion it causes may become major contributors to fatal accidents and/or trigger unconscious human reflexive responses that may be detrimental to the continued safe flight and landing of the aircraft.
  9. NextGen/SESAR hazard condition: Pilot sees the required runway visual references prior to reaching the decision height and continues the approach safely below published minimums. Associated human performance hazard: Pilot does not see visual references at decision height, proceeds below minimums using enhanced/synthetic vision system.
  10. For HUD-equipped aircraft, pilots may be distracted by the compelling view through the HUD on approach, takeoff, or landing roll out and may fail to notice incursion by other vehicles entering the runway from the sides. HUD system failures may also affect proper operation and prevent pilots from taking proper action.

Corroborating sources and comments

8.4 Cockpit Automation Issues FAA: Human factors issues of cockpit automation, Automation incidents and accidents, Human centered automation

Vincenzi, Dennis A., Mouloua, Mustapha, Hancock, Peter A. eds.,, Human Performance, Situation Awareness and Automation: Current Research and Trends, March 2004

THE FUTURE FLIGHT DECK; the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators

Information Communication and Display Any new electronic display introduced into an operator’s environment could have negative consequences if it is not implemented appropriately. On the flight deck, the consequences are particularly serious. An increasing number of electronic displays, ranging from small handheld displays for general aviation to installed displays for commercial air transport, show navigation information such as symbols representing navigational aids.

Sawyer, Michael, Ph.D., Berry, Katie, Ph.D., Blanding, Ryan, NextGen Human Hazard Assessment Report, TASC, Inc., Washington, DC, November 2010.

Rockwell Collins Head-up Guidance System (HGS)

The EU-funded FLYSAFE project brought together the research and simulations of the coming new ATM technology. The project was set up to improve the safety of air travel by providing crews with better information on the three most common external threats for aircraft  weather conditions, traffic collision and terrain collision. FLYSAFE looked at the design, development, implementation, testing and validation of a “Next Generation Integrated Surveillance System” (NG ISS).

A key FLYSAFE development is a Weather Information Management Systems (WIMS) to gather much more detailed and accurate information on upcoming weather conditions than current systems. This means pilots will be better warned about potentially dangerous situations such as Clear Air Turbulence (CAT), thunderstorms and icing conditions which current aircraft weather radar. FLYSAFE utilized a multidisciplinary team to produce useful results.

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