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NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight
6

NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

(OP)
I just read today in the news that NASA is advising the airline industry to go with single pilot flight. Now all technical details aside, I thought NASA's purview was over spaceflight? Since when do they work with civil aviation? Can anyone explain the role here? I know NASA does research work on aerodynamics that is used by the civil aviation industry, but this is a very routine operational thing.

Reference: http://www.wsj.com/articles/single-pilot-cockpits-...

Technically speaking now, why aren't we doing this already? I thought 90% of the flight time was on autopilot anyway?

Thanks,
K

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

what was NASA before it was NASA ? ... NACA

what does the A in NASA stand for ? Aeronautics

NASA continues the work of NACA and does very important work in the field of aeronautics.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

From the NASA website (in their own words), click on "about NASA" to find the following and more:

"NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:

Aeronautics: manages research focused on meeting global demand for air mobility in ways that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, while also embracing revolutionary technology from outside aviation.

Human Exploration and Operations: focuses on International Space Station operations, development of commercial spaceflight capabilities and human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.

Space Technology: rapidly develops, innovates, demonstrates, and infuses revolutionary, high-payoff technologies that enable NASA's future missions while providing economic benefit to the nation."

and:

"NASA's aeronautics team is working with other government organizations, universities, and industry to fundamentally improve the air transportation experience and retain our nation's leadership in global aviation."

This type of advisory definitely seems within their scope. I think the space flight aspects usually just get more attention.

Why aren't we using single pilots already? My impression is that it's simply for redundancy. But I haven't read anything behind the NASA recommendation to switch.

Keep em' Flying
//Fight Corrosion!

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" - Groucho Marx

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

"Why aren't we using single pilots already? My impression is that it's simply for redundancy."

Redundancy has always been trotted out as a reason for that. Another reason is cross-checking, but that often fails.

There have been issues with personality dynamics that sabotage the crosschecking, as well as inattention blindness, wherein the pilots have "tunnel-vision" on a specific task, and fail to consider all the available cockpit information that might contraindicate what the pilot is thinking or doing. The Air France accident from 2010 is an example of that, where the pilots failed to read ALL the instruments and failed to recognize that they were in a severe stall condition, and continued to try and pitch the plane up, even though the data was already available that the plane was essentially in free fail, if not for the fact that they had the engines running at full throttle. Note that this was a cockpit with THREE pilots.

There is no such thing as "simply for redundancy" The pilot is a single point of failure, i.e., if he goes, the plane goes. Almost everything in a modern airliner has redundancy applied to even relatively low failure rate items; why not have redundancy on a relatively high failure rate item, the pilot?

TTFN
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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

Nastran was developed at NASA, it is widely used in many many industries, they are inseparable in my opinion.

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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

May be the single pilots job will be to make sure no one hacks the auto pilot.smile

As for the scope of NASA's work, I can only suggest have look around the NASA Tech server http://www.sti.nasa.gov/

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

Single pilot IFR flight is a lot of work. Pilots can get disoriented when it's rough and there are no outside references. It just jams your brain up with your instruments tell you opposite things and you are busy. Rapid changes can really mess you up fast.

It's really not even feasible in an airplane that doesn't have a decent autopilot to pick up the workload when you get tired. Realize that the 3D geometry of everything you are doing has to live in your head as you fly it. Confuse the R turn to heading 130 with a L turn to heading 230 and bam, you die on the granite cloud.

IFR flight in solid IMC conditions with low minimums near challenging terrain is a very bad idea if you don't have a very reliable airplane, great avionics, good automation and at least two pilots. Even then sometimes the situation demands you de-automate, go missed to set up and fly again.

I've seen case reports where ATC requests runway and approach changes faster than you can enter the data and set up any FMS, much less brief the approach, brief the missed and be ready to fly a stable approach.

Equipment failures on the aircraft, engines and avionics can totally turn a busy under control situation into chaos.

This video is worth watching. http://vimeo.com/29642656

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice however, experience suggests that in practice, there is!

My posts reflect my personal views and are not in any way endorsed or approved by any organization I'm affiliated with.

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

Just another thing to check before you get on a flight. A single pilot on a light aircraft is one thing, but not on a big plane.

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

To add another couple of facets to this picture...

The obvious intent is to have the single pilot augmented with the vast array of UAV technology, which is here to stay. I presume that there is an assumption that one or more back-up UAV pilots would always be available to assist. The problem with UAV technology is that it can, and has been, interfered with intentionally or unintentionally; and/or can be negated by any number of unique crisis on board a large commercial aircraft that often requires the perceptions and attention of the second crewman while the first continues to fly the aircraft. I also suspect that there is a wild-card "hedge" in-this-mix: there is likely to be another airline/freighter pilot dead heading who could be called forward to assist the solo pilot. Problem with emergencies in an airliner is that this second pilot many not be able to gain entrance to a secured cockpit in a timely manner... and should have been "up-there 5-minutes ago" to be of any value.

NOTE.
Airmanship is a vital element of flying. As a pilot you experience the reality of the of the aircraft and the flying experience; the sights in/out side of the cockpit, vibrations, sounds, smells, forces, etc that arise moment-to moment during different phases of flight. Currently two or more crewmen are on duty in the cockpit, side-by-side, living the same visceral experience. Anything out of the ordinary usually attracts one or both of the crew’s attention; and is quite often experienced before any instrumentation changes or warnings... at least to an alert crew. Also there is another critical factor: any threat to safety is a real threat to the crew, which revs-up creative/command thinking to solve the problem or overcome sudden circumstance changes… that may never be apparent to a UAV driver that has never actually been bathed in real-cockpit-sweat of an equivalent aircraft. Some might believe this remoteness would help the UAV copilot to retain professional detachment that could lead to a more positive outcome in a critical situation; however, I ‘m not one of those believers: there is always some critical factor missing when going remote. Also, when needed, then who-is-in-charge... and/or what are their roles? The in-cockpit pilot or the UAV pilot? Will crews rotate duties; one-day in cockpit one-day in the UAV cockpit [monitoring multiple flights]??

Oh yes… and crashes never hurt UAV pilots very bad. Those of us in the accident investigation world never forget that "the cockpit crew always arrives at the scene of the accident first; and they sure-as-h*ll don’t want to be there, so they will fight hard/heroically to stay out of a crash site."

NOTE
A good friend of my wife is also a long-time Flight Attendant [FA] [+35-yrs]. When I asked her what FAs were thinking about ‘RE single pilot airliner operations’ she gave me a very odd look: there is no such concept being floated to/among the FA community. I actually had to explain the concept of single pilot operations to her. Disbelief turned to incredulity… especially since the FA community appears to be uninformed about this potential, and monumental, change to the cockpit crew. When I mentioned that 747 freighters are routinely flown with just a pilot/copilot, and no one else, she 'got-that'. However the concept of flying any large aircraft ‘solo crewman’ was unconscionable with her… especially considering variables that occur on even routine flights… not to mention the sense of loneliness/isolation that would accompany such as position.

Regards, Wil Taylor

o Trust - But Verify!
o We believe to be true what we prefer to be true.
o For those who believe, no proof is required; for those who cannot believe, no proof is possible.
o Unfortunately, in science what You 'believe' is irrelevant. ["Orion"]
o Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. [Picasso]

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

To expand just a bit on one of wktaylor's excellent comments, Wil said:

"Airmanship is a vital element of flying. As a pilot you experience the reality of the of the aircraft and the flying experience; the sights in/out side of the cockpit, vibrations, sounds, smells, forces, etc that arise moment-to moment during different phases of flight. Currently two or more crewmen are on duty in the cockpit, side-by-side, living the same visceral experience. Anything out of the ordinary usually attracts one or both of the crew’s attention; and is quite often experienced before any instrumentation changes or warnings... at least to an alert crew."

No data bus can communicate the visceral experience Wil mentions to a remotely located back-up pilot. And even if it could, what if that data bus or some of the sensors that feed it failed at the exact instant a problem started (collateral damage), and the remotely located pilot missed that signal that the visceral experience would have presented? Even if the remotely located pilot was located in a full motion simulator, no simulator motion software could recreate the G-forces with 100% accuracy, so the remotely located pilot would not even have the true feeling of the movement of the aircraft as a clue to the aberrant behavior.

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

" Even if the remotely located pilot was located in a full motion simulator, no simulator motion software could recreate the G-forces with 100% accuracy"

Doesn't need to. The simulator needs to provide the cues that the human body recognises as being motion related, not the actual g forces.

Anyway, millions of man hours have been spent proving that using humans to debug dynamics by the seat of their pants is a fools errand.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

If the airliner was to be controlled from the ground, the data link security problem would be likely to kill the concept. The value of the control of the data link (being cable to crash all airframes of the model flying on command) verse the the manufactures latest round of cost cutting will always be the fatal, particularly in light of what some groups have apparently spent trying to get a nuke or dirty bomb and this could kill substantially more people. Plus there is the certification point how do you demonstrate the required reliability for certification when it changes each month with the release of bigger, better computers, etc.

This is possibly why NASA is pushing single pilot operation as apposed to no pilot operation.

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

What is the benefit vs cost of using a single pilot on commercial flights? The added cost of having a co-pilot on a 6 hour commercial flight is probably less than $1500, which amounts to around an extra $8-10 per passenger. I'd be happy to pay an extra $10 on a $600 ticket to have a qualified co-pilot in the right seat during my commercial flight from LA to NY.

In fact, I also think there should be more emphasis placed on making sure the technicians performing maintenance work on commercial aircraft are held to higher standards. Even if it means paying them more money. A mistake made by an A&P tech can be as serious as any mistake made by a pilot or air traffic controller.

RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

They don't even want to spend $8 on food for you, though, and make you pay for it. I suppose they could ask the passengers at the beginning of the flight whether they wan't to pay for a co-pilot for their flight; that should be amusing.

TTFN
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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

The real story is why are autopilot programmes still far being piloting software- no more than auto-fly, autoland and autotake off. 1980`s software if it doesn't fit within rather narrow parameters- can't handle any sort of problem then the software just drops control. Its still unable to adequately communicate like a human pilot.

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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

"The real story is why are autopilot programmes still far being piloting software- no more than auto-fly, autoland and autotake off."

Such software obviously exists, e.g., UAVs. The issue is the FAA certification that would be required, and until such software is 99.9999% bulletproof, no one is going to be the first one to fly with such a system. The human pilots are primarily supposed to be the final fail-safe.

When the fail-safe fails spectacularly, then there are news stories.

TTFN
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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

Single pilot or double pilot, the system should be such that there should be a secure and secret link that the pilots are not allowed to touch or control in any possible way, to the control towers, that will take over when anything fishy is detected and disable the pilot/s ability to fly if they go nuts like what happened recently.

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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

That cuts both ways. Someone in the tower, which is much easier to get to, could command the plane into a death spiral, and the pilots would be helpless, again. There basically is no fool-proof solution, short of watchers watching the watchers that watch the watchers that watch the pilots.

Anything that is transmitted over the airways, in particular, is vulnerable to a number of things, like bad connections, jamming, hacking, etc. Even assuming nothing else untoward, simple RF jamming would prevent the link from functioning correctly. And, an RF link simply exposes the control system to interminable hacking from the outside. Certainly, were such a link to exist, a would-be terrorist would do what was originally suspected in the Air Malaysia flight, disabling of the antennas and radios.

We are just going to have to get used to attrition from terrorists in the future. Any door you build, figurative or actual, is subject to innumerable attempts to enter; it's just the nature of doors. Any countermeasure imposed is subject to counter-countermeasures. MAD magazine prophesied such doings 50 yrs ago in their Spy vs. Spy.

TTFN
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RE: NASA and airline industry and single pilot flight

Back in the 60's there was a joke: " This is a fully automated system, nothing can possibly go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. !!! "
Its still out there. Murphy is invincible.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

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