Understanding aerospace: how to fly an aircraft

1. The complicated task of piloting an aircraft can be broken into two broad categories. The first is keeping the aircraft flying. The second is arriving at a given destination. The second is always being effected by the first. Unlike a car, small deviation in course can over great distances cause the aircraft to arrive hundreds of miles from the target destination. To successfully accomplish the task, safe arrival, the larger tasks can be sub-divided into three categories.

The first is the Procedural Tasks. These are the maintenance task that must be accomplished every time in a certain way at a certain time, i. e. take off and landing checklists. The next is Decision and Judgement Tasks. Problem solving is another way to look at it. The crew will react based on past experience to a given situation. The last is Communications and Resource Management. This is how the crew communicates with each other while problem solving, either poorly or well.

2. The pilot uses visual cues such as rate of flow of texture outward from or convergence of parallel linear features to visually fly the aircraft. Estimates of speed are derived from global optic flow (GOL). This is the rate that texture flows over the optical area. This can be effected by elevation, at higher elevations underestimation of true speed will occur. Approach path distortions occur when there is a slope before the landing strip or other visual features such as dwarfed trees.

The human eye is not designed for conditions found in flight. Planes that are a collision course have no apparent movement to them. This takes the natural attraction to movement out of play. Because of the lack of visual stimulation the eye will focus only a few meters in front, so distant objects are unfocused. The scanning of instruments provides a source of input that allows the pilot to visualize the position of aircraft in flight.

The novice pilot will scan all the instruments in a given pattern. While the experienced pilot will look at all the instrument that will give them feedback on the action that occurred. Of the main instrument the most useful is the attitude direction indicator (ADI). This is the instrument most referred and the one that most novice pilot will get fixated with. It is also the only one that resembles an aircraft and provides information in a format other than an analog circular dial.

3. Situational awareness is the ability to keep track of your surroundings and what they mean. Then predict how any change in them will effect your actions. This is measured the best, according to the author, by adding a task that can be performed well only when surrounding events are well know. The types of displays that best support awareness of position is best conveyed via 3-D. Speed of the aircraft is interpreted with a higher degree of accuracy in 2-D displays.

Heads up displays (HUD) have been used for some time to give pilots information in away that allowed them to keep their attention outside of the cockpit. The thought is naturally to add more information to this already useful instrument. This would most likely result in the loss of information due to cluttering. Some information is lost in the HUD because of overlap with dominant terrain features. This might be avoided using a heads down display (HDD) type.

They both have advantages and disadvantages. These may both be used to some extent with types of automation. The pilot may end up monitoring the flight only being called on when there is a problem. This results in the pilot being dissociated from the situation that they are to solve. Thus loosing time needed to solve the crisis trying to reorient themselves. A better way may be to use automation to provide information pertaining to the situation, i. e. filtering information.