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Improving Flight Safety through Aircraft Simulation Instruction

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Abstract and Figures

Flight safety is a measure that is most preemptive in pilot training. There has been a forty-year history in the utilization of flight simulators for pilot training and certification. The utilization of flight simulation is predominantly that of training and checking pilots, recreating experiences for the pilots which are indistinguishable from actual flying. If pilots learn, in a flight simulator, the required tasks and maneuvers involved in flight safety when they encounter precarious flying conditions, then they are likely to perform similarly when actually flying. A survey study was done sampling perceptions of certifying examiners and flight instructors regarding whether flight safety is promoted through flight simulator utilization by pilots. The study methodology and results are presented. The results suggest that current flight safety is perceived favorably due in large part to existing guidelines and regulations regarding simulator flight training.
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Improving Flight Safety through
Aircraft Simulation Instruction
Ronald H. Freeman
Northcentral University
Prescott Valley, AZ, USA
ronhfreeman@yahoo.com
Abstract - Flight safety is a measure that is most
preemptive in pilot training. There has been a forty-year
history in the utilization of flight simulators for pilot
training and certification. The utilization of flight
simulation is predominantly that of training and checking
pilots, recreating experiences for the pilots which are
indistinguishable from actual flying. If pilots learn, in a
flight simulator, the required tasks and maneuvers involved
in flight safety when they encounter precarious flying
conditions, then they are likely to perform similarly when
actually flying. A survey study was done sampling
perceptions of certifying examiners and flight instructors
regarding whether flight safety is promoted through flight
simulator utilization by pilots. The study methodology and
results are presented. The results suggest that current
flight safety is perceived favorably due in large part to
existing guidelines and regulations regarding simulator
flight training.
Keywords: Aircraft simulation, flight safety, general
aviation, very light jets, flight simulator.
1 Introduction
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) divides general
aviation activities into the following categories: air taxi
(10.6%); business (12%); corporate (11%); instructional
(14%); personal (34%); and other uses (18% per
government-owned or municipal-leased). In 2005, there
were 234,352 active general aviation aircraft flying about
27 million hours. According to Alan Klapmeir, co-founder
and CEO of Cirrus Design, which produces four-seat piston
airplanes (price $189,000 to $379,000): “With greater
affluence, progress in personal aviation must be made in
performance with small-plane travel at least three times
faster than car travel; comfort; user-friendliness; and
safety.” Very light jets (VLJs) offer speed and safety of
airline travel at a cost far below that of today’s private jets.
Personal aviation has become a viable alternative to
commercial airline travel.
Two years later in 2007, the U.S. Government
Accountability Office (GAO) forecasted 3,016 VLJ
deliveries in 2016 and 7,649 VLJ deliveries in 2025 [1].
The new aircraft models include Diamond D-Jet, Adam A
700, Cessna Citation Mustang, Eclipse 500 Embraer
Phenom 100, and Honda Jet. By definition, a VLJ is an
aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight below 19,000
pounds and certified for single-pilot operations. VLJs cost
between $1 million and about $3 million. Most VLJs
provide cruise speed (357 mph) and twice the cruise
altitude (41,000 ft) of lightweight piston aircrafts.
The Mustang was the first entry-level jet to be certified
and enter service without restrictions and has attracted a
large number of owner-pilots for whom the old types of
rating courses were not likely to produce the kind of
proficiency necessary. Many pilots will be transitioning to
jet aircraft, as the sole pilot-owner, from older and slower
turboprops or single-piston powered aircraft. There are two
main challenges: instruction in the ways of a modern
digital cockpit and instruction in flying a high-performance
aircraft. For every aircraft manufactured, a matching flight
simulator is produced to train and certify pilot-owners. A
flight simulator creates a virtual flight environment wherein
pilot behavior is observed. As an example, consider the
Diamond D-Jet VLJ, which is primarily designed for the
owner-flown market, with simplicity of operation, safety
and affordability being the main objectives. The D-Jet is
Diamond's vision of the ultimate private aircraft. Figure 1
shows the Diamond D-Jet VLJ and Figure 2 shows its
matching simulator.
Figure 1. Picture of Diamond D-Jet VLJ.
The continuous improvements in general aviation
safety, over nearly 25 years, have finally reached a plateau.
Commercial airlines neither dominate American civil air
fleet nor manage more than a fifth of the certificated pilots
in the national airspace [2]. General aviation pilots, in
comparison, are minimally certificated with a private pilot
license after a minimal amount of instruction at a flight
training school, and are not required to undergo recurrent
training or license renewal.
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 2. D-Jet Simulator: (a) prototype “flying;” (b)
interior much like the aircraft’s planned interior for more
realism; and (c) flight simulator training class.
FAA regulates minimum initial qualifications and
recurrent training for airline pilots. They are licensed for
each type of aircraft flown. Training needs as well as
renewal requirements for pilots in commercial aviation
differ from those in general aviation. Yet, they both share
the same national airspace and are vulnerable to the same
precarious flying conditions.
2 Aircraft Simulation Instruction
About 3% of flying mishaps are reported compared to
an estimated 10% which go unreported [3]. This has caused
concern that pilots perform differently when flying alone,
unsupervised or unmonitored in an actual aircraft. In 2005,
there were 224,352 active general aviation aircraft flying
about 27 million hours. According to the 2007 GAO study,
the forecast of a large presence of very light jets in the near
future will only exacerbate the safety concerns of general
aviation. VLJ owners are not covered under the current
FAA standards and regulations. The advantages of
simulator training and checking include lower costs and
increased safety [4]. With an increase of private VLJ pilots,
recurrent training in Level D simulators will be important.
Utilization of flight simulation is predominantly that of
training and checking pilots, re-creating experiences for the
pilots that are indistinguishable from actual flying.
Generally, pilots behave the same in both a flight simulator
and an actual aircraft. Pilots learn in a flight simulator,
specifically the required tasks and maneuvers involved in
flight safety when they encounter precarious flying
conditions (e.g., aircraft malfunction, dangerous airspace
congestion or hazardous weather conditions). Current
aviation practice is a stimulus/response learning approach.
The stimulus is the situation, system malfunction or failure,
being scripted. The response is the execution of the
established procedure. Scenario-based training, as it is
known, focuses on conditioning responses in contrast to
developing higher-order thinking skills. In a recent study
[5], the FAA investigated the problem of pilot error due to
continuing bad judgments, which lies in the pilot’s inability
to use judgment to resolve problems not specifically trained
for. In all instances, the pilot’s actions will relate to the
complete situation.
The problem is the perception, that is, whether flight
simulator training is widely acceptable as a viable means of
training pilots with an increase in flight safety. Many of the
pilots’ tasks in actual flight operations are difficult to test
and demonstrate. To mitigate the exposure to harm, the
alternative is to test the pilot in a safe, controlled
environment. The environmental hazards confronting the
pilot cannot be predicted under normal conditions. When
such hazards are mimicked in the simulator, proper
maneuvering response techniques can be taught. Apart
from the commercial airlines, pilots are not trained in flight
simulators. Hence, the perception is that flight simulator
training is inferior to training in an actual aircraft. The null
hypothesis and research hypothesis are stated as follows:
H10: Perception of flight safety is not
significantly associated with utilization of
flight simulators in pilot training and
certification.
H1a: Perception of flight safety is
significantly associated with utilization of
flight simulators in pilot training and
certification.
FITS, or Federal Aviation Administration/Industry
Training Standards, has evolved into one of the most
important safety initiatives undertaken in the general
aviation community. The FITS program is designed to
address the changes introduced by the global positioning
system (GPS) and the data inputting functions. Recent
evaluations of accidents in technical advanced aircraft
(TAA) and training accidents identified (1) a lack of
situational awareness, (2) decision-making, and (3)
inadequate risk management, as major causal factors.
Hence, general aviation training and testing will change to
address these leading accident causes and further reduce
the number of general aviation fatal accidents. The new
changes will include teaching high-order decision making
and critical thinking skills to enhance pilot judgment [6].
Those most knowledgeable of the pilots’ real
proficiency in flying include FAA certifying examiners and
flight instructors. This paper investigates their perception
on whether flight safety is promoted through aircraft
simulation instruction.
3 Methodology
A researcher-designed survey was constructed for the
sole purpose of gathering information for this study. It
consisted of an introduction, a demographics section, a
hypothesis testing section and a couple of open-ended
questions. Questions in the hypothesis testing section
covered perceived changes in flight simulators, whether
simulator certification/training prepares pilots for safe
piloting, effects of cockpit automation and FITS, fidelity of
simulator performance tasks relative to actual flying, pilot
response to simulator versus actual aircraft conditions, pilot
judgment, and influences to improvements in flight safety.
The survey was developed to collect data for
summarization and analysis. Null and research hypotheses
were formulated in terms that could be measured using the
Likert Scale [7, 8]. The Likert Scale is a common interval-
based multiple-choice type of scale from which
respondents choose one option that best aligns with their
view, and it is often used in questionnaires. Data were
entered into and were summarized using several Microsoft
Excel spreadsheets, where descriptive statistics were
applied. The t-test was the data analysis tool used to accept
or reject the null hypothesis.
The survey population consisted of personnel operating
over 500 FAA-qualified simulators throughout the United
States. The sample represented a wide range of sectors in
aviation, including air cargo, commercial airlines, aviation
centers, federal agencies, simulation centers, flight training
centers and universities. The non-federal respondents
worked mostly at flight training centers. Their students
prepare to fly commercially or, more commonly, in general
aviation with privately owned aircraft. In contrast, the
FAA respondents worked at FAA’s Federal Standards
District Offices (FSDOs) logistically located at or near
commercial airline facilities. They certified pilots to
operate designated aircraft.
The respondents at each simulator work location
typically had lots of work as well as simulator experience.
Many had long tenure, hence representing an aging
workforce. Their aggregate experience represents a
knowledge base that is not easily transferred to their
replacements. Yet, their aggregate experience is a way of
validating the study results. In addition, many of the
respondents had extensive pilot training and piloting
experience, which allows for a better assessment of the
flight safety.
4 Results
FAA respondents had almost five times the total
piloting experience than the non-federal respondents at
airline facilities but slightly less at flight training centers.
The mean piloting experience for FAA group was 11,160
hours compared to about 1,800 for the non-federal
respondents working at airline facilities. FAA respondents
had a mean of 31 years simulator work experience at airline
facilities compared to 17 years for non-federal. In contrast,
non-federal respondents at flight training centers had
almost five times the total simulator work experience, with
a mean of 36 years, than FAA respondents with a mean of
20 years.
Both groups agreed that flight simulators have changed
very much during their careers, as described by their Likert
means, 3.7 and 2.8 (on a Likert Scale ranging from 0-4).
Clearly, there was reason to reject the null hypothesis.
However the difference between the two means was
significant. With a pre-selected probability level of 0.05,
the researcher showed a difference between the two groups
responding. The mean of FAA respondents indicated a
stronger perception that simulators have changed.
Regarding the main focus of this paper on improving
flight safety through simulation instruction, survey
questions that directly addressed whether simulator
certification/training improved flight safety in the past
decade, prepares pilots for safe piloting, or would provide
scientific data sufficient to improve flight safety yielded the
following results. Both groups agreed that utilization of
flight simulators would improve flight safety, as shown by
the sample means in Table 1. There is no difference in the
perception of the respondents as the theoretical t-value
(2.131) exceeded the statistical t-value of 1.3309.
Table 1. t-Test: Paired Two Sample Means – Flight
Simulation/Certification Improvement to Flight Safety.
Statistic
All
FAA
non-Federal
Mean
3.001
3.1529
2.8529
Variance
0.3664
0.3064
0.4014
Median
3
Mode
3
Observations
16
16
Hypothesized
Mean Difference
0
Degs. of freedom
15
t Stat
1.3309
P(T=t) one-tail
0.1009
P(T=t) two-tail
0.7459
Both groups agreed that simulator training/certification
prepares the pilot for safe piloting, and by inference flight
safety. There was less similarity among the FAA and non-
federal respondents regarding correlation between the
recent decade of improved flight safety (per National
Transportation Safety Board accident statistics) and flight
simulation/training. Both groups shared the perception that
more scientific investigation on flight simulator
training/certification would improve flight safety.
The perception of the respondents was that there is a
transfer of knowledge in pilot training from simulator to
actual aircraft. There was no difference between the
respondent groups as they both perceived FITS’ utilization
of simulators would improve flight safety. The perception
of FAA was much stronger than the non-federal
respondents that FITS would improve flight safety. No
respondents perceived a FITS program not utilizing
simulators.
5 Conclusion
As mentioned before, flight simulators have changed
much over the years. The high degree of cockpit
automation may be the cause. After all, when a new aircraft
model is designed and manufactured, the identical
prototype is used to construct a simulator, as well. Cockpit
automation has created computer programmers out of
today’s pilots. Autopilot with all of its sophistication has
taken the pilot out of the inner loop of control. As a result,
pilot training has had to keep pace with the highly
automated TAAs, which include general aviation aircraft
that combine design features such as advanced cockpit
automation systems, automated engine and systems
management, and integrated auto flight/autopilot systems.
Incorrect programming or other computer problems as they
rarely occur in TAAs, still require a pilot who can quickly
transition to a manual mode of piloting.
Cockpit automation of TAAs was perceived to improve
flight safety. However skilled the pilot may be, his/her
judgment is sometimes called into question. The high
automation of TAAs requires greater pilot judgment, not
less, during flight operations. Traditional pilot training
emphasizes learning pilot skills. With the popularity of
TAAs, training is addressing the issue of heads down
piloting and teaching scripted scenarios for various flying
conditions, instead. Response procedures taught to pilots
entail judgment during most events. Hence, judgment is a
process of recalling training and experience under present
circumstances and conditions. FITS attempts to integrate
the interaction of cockpit, air traffic control, and crew
management to yield good decision-making strategies.
The implication of this study is that current flight safety
is perceived favorably and that much of this is due to the
guidelines and regulations of FAA, regarding simulator
flight training. The study revealed the disparity of
expertise and piloting experience among the aviation
sectors sampled, reflective of the variation in flight safety
perception. This was significant in that the non-federal
respondents were more aligned with general aviation and
FAA respondents were more aligned with commercial
airlines. When scientific investigation describes the real
issues and needs to be addressed regarding flight safety, it
becomes a public service. More scientific investigation is
suggested on flight simulator training as it improves flight
safety.
References
[1] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Very light
jets: Several factors could influence their effect on the
national airspace system,” Report to Congressional
Requesters, GAO-07-1001, Washington, DC, Aug. 2007,
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071001.pdf.
[2] E. Cook, “Flight simulation,” National Simulator
Program, Federal Aviation Administration, Atlanta GA,
2000.
[3] B. Landsburg, “General aviation accidents 10-year
trend,” AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Frederick, MD,
2005, http:// www.aopa.org/asf/publications/topics/
gatrend.pdf.
[4] R. Stone and G. Babcock, “Airline pilots’
perspective,” Human Factors in Aviation, Academic Press,
San Diego, CA, 1988.
[5] C.L. Robertson, T.V. Petros, P.M. Schumacher, C.A.
McHorse and J.M. Ulrich, “Evaluating the effectiveness of
FITS training,” University of North Dakota, May 2006,
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[6] C. Robertson and T. Petros, “Scenario based training,
training module-inspectors: A guide for inspectors,
designated examiners, and flight instructors on the
implementation and philosophy of FITS,” Version 1.0,
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[7] R.H. Freeman, “Utilization of flight simulation,”
Unpublished master’s thesis, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University, Daytona Beach FL, 2007.
[8] R. Likert, “A technique for the measurement of
attitudes,” Archives of Psychology, Vol. 140, pp. 1-55,
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Chapter
This chapter discusses several important issues from the perspectives of airline pilots. From the perspective of the airline pilots who began their careers after the Second World War and ended them in the mid-1980s, many changes have taken place. Instead of manual flying tasks, automatic systems under the control of the pilot assist in routine tasks such as climbing, descending, setting engine power and controlling subsystems. Problems other than poorly heated or ventilated aircraft or the lack of navigational aids now face the airline pilot. Terrorism, deregulation, hijacking, bankruptcy, career stagnation, fuel prices, and training and air traffic control changes have significant impact on the perception, satisfaction, and security of the airline pilot's position. During the early 1970s, many experts were pointing to the lack of accidents caused by mechanical malfunctions. The focus changed to the human operator as the weakest part of the system. Government, unions, and managements have attempted to deal with the apparent inconsistencies of the human pilot. The character of the piloting role will never be the same as it was in the manual control days. Airline pilots must learn to be managers of automatic systems, while retaining their individual qualities as overall supervisors of flight path control and finding satisfaction in that role. Airline pilots must also learn to separate their role as pilots from their company's day-to-day operation. It remains to be seen whether matters of corporate mergers and takeovers have a serious effect on the safety of the airline industry.
Article
The project conceived in 1929 by Gardner Murphy and the writer aimed first to present a wide array of problems having to do with five major "attitude areas"--international relations, race relations, economic conflict, political conflict, and religion. The kind of questionnaire material falls into four classes: yes-no, multiple choice, propositions to be responded to by degrees of approval, and a series of brief newspaper narratives to be approved or disapproved in various degrees. The monograph aims to describe a technique rather than to give results. The appendix, covering ten pages, shows the method of constructing an attitude scale. A bibliography is also given.
General aviation accidents 10-year trend
  • B Landsburg
B. Landsburg, "General aviation accidents 10-year trend," AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Frederick, MD, 2005, http:// www.aopa.org/asf/publications/topics/ gatrend.pdf.
Evaluating the effectiveness of FITS training University of North Dakota
  • J M Mchorse
  • Ulrich
McHorse and J.M. Ulrich, " Evaluating the effectiveness of FITS training, " University of North Dakota, May 2006, http://www.faa.gov/training_testing/training/fits/research/m edia/und.pdf.
Very light jets: Several factors could influence their effect on the national airspace system
  • U S Government Accountability
  • Office
U.S. Government Accountability Office, " Very light jets: Several factors could influence their effect on the national airspace system, " Report to Congressional Requesters, GAO-07-1001, Washington, DC, Aug. 2007, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071001.pdf.
Scenario based training, training module-inspectors: A guide for inspectors, designated examiners, and flight instructors on the implementation and philosophy of FITS
  • C Robertson
  • T Petros
C. Robertson and T. Petros, "Scenario based training, training module-inspectors: A guide for inspectors, designated examiners, and flight instructors on the implementation and philosophy of FITS," Version 1.0, University of North Dakota, 2005.
Flight simulation National Simulator Program, Federal Aviation Administration
  • E Cook
E. Cook, " Flight simulation, " National Simulator Program, Federal Aviation Administration, Atlanta GA, 2000.
Utilization of flight simulation
  • R H Freeman
R.H. Freeman, "Utilization of flight simulation," Unpublished master's thesis, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach FL, 2007.
National Simulator Program, Federal Aviation Administration
  • E Cook
E. Cook, "Flight simulation," National Simulator Program, Federal Aviation Administration, Atlanta GA, 2000.
Airline pilots' perspective
  • R Stone
  • G Babcock
R. Stone and G. Babcock, "Airline pilots' perspective," Human Factors in Aviation, Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1988.