Not Black Hawk Down! Helicopter Crash

800px-Anakonda_NTW_9_93_3aDanger is an inherent component of military helicopter missions. Remember the daring mission launched to capture a Somalian warlord on 3rd October 1993 when an American Black Hawk (Super-Six One) was shot down in the city of Mogadishu. Another area of perilous operations is emergency medical missions and oil and gas operations. Two recent reviews highlight the accident statistics in those two types of helicopter operations [1, 2]. Interestingly the former research comes from Germany and the latter from the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

Old Facts, New Insights – Lessons from A-320 Part 4

This interesting study by Sarter and Woods revealed that the automation surprises “occur when the crew detects that automation or aircraft behaviour is deviating from their expectations” [2]. In turn, such ‘surprises’ provide the vital opportunity (and learning) to correct unexpected or undesirable aircraft behaviour. Continue reading

Old Facts, New Insights – Lessons from A-320 Part 3

A spate of incidents and accidents during 1990s suggested that pilots flying modern ‘glass cockpit’ aircraft “sometimes fail to detect unanticipated and undesirable automation behaviour in time to recover” [2, 8, 9]. Hence it is important to understand the likelihood of human error for the A-320 pilots monitoring the status and behaviour of the automated cockpit. Continue reading

Old Facts, New Insights – Lessons from A-320 Part 2

The details of the automation surprises faced by the pilots participating in the questionnaire survey is presented hereafter [2]. Continue reading

Old Facts, New Insights – Lessons from A-320

Automation surprises result from an imbalance between ‘autonomy’ and ‘authority’ of advanced automated systems and the gaps in the operator’s mental model of the system and its interactions. The vital factor at play in such cases could be low observability interfaces in novel (“nonroutine elements”) situations with operator caught in a bind while trying to track and anticipate the actions by the system in his hands! Simply put, when he (rather, they, being multi crew environment) is loosing the grip of the unfolding situation and finds himself inadequately prepared for the fast unwinding situation, which was chillingly evident in Air France Flight AF 447 as brought out in the final report [1]:-
Continue reading