Human factors in Civil Flight deck design

Human Factors in Flight deck design.

Over the past several decades, safer and more reliable designs have been responsible for much of the progress made in reducing the accident rate and increasing efficiency. Improvements in engines, systems, and structures have all contributed to this achievement. Additionally, design has always been recognized as a factor in preventing and mitigating human error. When Boeing initiates a new design activity, past operational experience, operational objectives, and scientific knowledge define human factors design requirements. Analytical methods such as mockup or simulator evaluations are used to assess how well various design solutions meet these requirements.
Underlying this effort is a human centered design philosophy that has been validated by millions of flights and decades of experience. This approach produces a design that applies technology in the best way to satisfy validated requirements. The design includes

  • Customer input.
  • Appropriate degree of automation.
  • Crew interaction capability.
  • Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management improvements.

Customer input.

Boeing involves potential customers in defining top-level design requirements for new designs or major derivatives and in applying human factors principles. A good example is the high level of airline involvement in designing the 777. From the beginning, operators’ flight crews and mechanics worked side by side with Boeing design teams on all airplane systems. Eleven of the initial operators also participated in dedicated flight deck design reviews early in the design process. An independent external team of senior human factors scientists also participated in a parallel set of reviews. In the final review, flight crews and other representatives from each operator spent time in the 777 engineering flight simulator to evaluate the design in a variety of normal and nonnormal situations. These activities ensured that operator requirements were considered from the beginning, and validated that the implementation included a sound pilot–flight deck interface.

Appropriate degree of automation.

Boeing flight decks are designed to provide automation to assist, but not replace, the flight crew member responsible for safe operation of the airplane. Flight crew errors typically occur when the crew does not perceive a problem and fails to correct the error in time to prevent the situation from deteriorating.
Consequently, Boeing flight decks incorporate intuitive, easy-to-use systems. These systems support instrument displays with visual and tactile motion cues to minimize potential confusion about what functions are automated. In the fly-by-wire 777, visual and tactile motion cues are provided by back driven controls. These controls reinforce situational awareness and help keep the flight crew fully aware of changes occurring to the airplane’s status and flight path during all phases of automated and manual flight.

Crew interaction capability

Flight crew communication relies on the use of audio, visual, and tactile methods. All these methods must be used appropriately in the communication that takes place during flight. This includes crewmember-to-airplane, crewmember-to-crewmember, and airplane-to-crewmember communication. Consequently, the duplicated flight controls of all Boeing airplanes are also interconnected. Both control wheels turn together when either is moved so that the control inputs of each flight crew member are immediately obvious to the other. The same is true for column movements. The tactile and visual feedback provided by inter linkage is much more immediate than verbal coordination and better enables pilots to help each other in time-critical emergencies

Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management interface

In the future, flight crews will be expected to assume much larger roles in route planning and metering for approaches. Cognitive engineering has already assumed an important role as the industry considers the effects of new technology on the skills, workload, and coordination with other airplanes required of both flight crews and air traffic controllers. For example, cooperation among human factors specialists, data link communications engineers, and end users has resulted in significant changes in the design of the interfaces that flight crews and controllers have with the computers that support their tasks and in the operational use of data link messages. The changes enhance user comprehension, reduce error rates, and result in decreased training requirements. Perhaps the simplest example is the progression from an aircraft communication addressing and reporting system interface to a future air navigation system (FANS) interface for data link.

Boeing initially studied the effects of uplink message formats on pilot comprehension in 747-400 operational trials. Lessons learned were used when designing the data link interface in the Pegasus flight management system incorporated into current-production 757 and 767 airplanes. These same changes are being applied retroactively to the 747-400. Another example is the 777 communications management interface, which uses multifunction displays and cursor controls to simplify management of data-linked communications and can be customized by operators.

1. CAA. Human factors aspects in flight deck design. Retrieved from Civil Aviation Authority of UK on 27 October 2011.
2. FAA (1996). The Interfaces Between Flight crews and Modern Flight Deck Systems. Retrieved from Federal Aviation Administration on 27 October 2011.
3. FAA (1993). Human Factors for Flight Deck Certification Personnel. Retrieved from Volpe center on 27 October 2011.
4. NLR (2002). Human-Centred Flight Deck Design. Retrieved from NLR Flight division on 27 October 2011.

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