Analysis of complexity evolution management and human performance issues in commercial aircraft automation systems
Author(s)Vakil, Sanjay S. (Sanjay Sridhar)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
R. John Hansman.
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Autoflight systems in the current generation of aircraft have been implicated in several recent incidents and accidents. A contributory aspect to these incidents may be the manner in which aircraft transition between differing behaviours or "modes." The current state of aircraft automation was investigated and the incremental development of the autoflight system was tracked through a set of aircraft to gain insight into how these systems developed. This process appears to have resulted in a system without a consistent global representation. In order to evaluate and examine autoflight systems, a "Hybrid Automation Representation" was developed. This representation was used to examine several specific problems known to exist in aircraft systems. Cyclomatic complexity is an analysis tool from computer science which counts the number of linearly independent paths through a program graph. This approach was extended to examine autoflight mode transitions modelled with the Hybrid Automation Representation. A survey was conducted of pilots to identify those autoflight mode transitions which airline pilots find difficult. The transitions identified in this survey were analyzed using cyclomatic complexity to gain insight into the apparent complexity of the autoflight system from the perspective of the pilot. Mode transitions which had been identified as complex by pilots were found to have a high cyclomatic complexity. Further examination was made into a set of specific problems identified in aircraft: the lack of a consistent representation of automation, concern regarding appropriate feedback from the automation, and the implications of physical limitations on the autoflight systems. Mode transitions involved in changing to and leveling at a new altitude were identified across multiple aircraft by numerous pilots. Where possible, evaluation and verification of the behaviour of these autoflight mode transitions was investigated via aircraft-specific high fidelity simulators. Three solution approaches to concerns regarding autoflight systems, and mode transitions in particular, are presented in this thesis. The first is to use training to modify pilot behaviours, or procedures to work around known problems. The second approach is to mitigate problems by enhancing feedback. The third approach is to modify the process by which automation is designed. The Operator Directed Process forces the consideration and creation of an automation model early in the design process for use as the basis of the software specification and training.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2000.Includes bibliographical references (p. 181-187).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Aeronautics and Astronautics.