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Cockpit In Flight Emergency Simulation Drills

Counter the pilot proficiency and preparedness problems inherent in an automated cockpit
  [vote for,

Automated cockpits are great until your pitot tube freeze up, all your autopilot systems shut off and alarms wake you up at 2:30 AM as your airliner heads into a stall.

The cockpit comes to life and blasts you with noise and information from every angle about why it can't figure out how to fly the plane any more. The next thing you know, it's all yours. Good luck. You've got seconds to figure out what's going on and what to do. The less time you spend actually flying a plan in an automated cockpit the less ready you are for such emergency situations.

This could be changed by regular emergency drills in flight that would keep the pilots trained, awake and even make their job more enjoyable.

Everything is a modern cockpit is fly by wire so all the cockpit controls can be disengaged from actual control of the plane and used in simulations of emergency situations while the auto pilot or co-pilot flies the plane. These drills and simulations would happen while all the indicators turned orange or something to indicate it was only a drill and real information about the plane would still be visible at all times.

Only one pilot at a time would do these while the other pilot was in full control. They'd be initiated by the pilots who would need to do a certain number of them per hour, but the nature of the drill would be unknown until it started obviously.

Pilots could become crack experts at handling emergency situation with thousands of hours of practice instead of just being sleepy couch potatoes saying "What do these six alarms mean again?" while their plane slams into a mountain.

There could also be simpler versions of this idea like simulations on an iPad or even audio testing with the pilot giving verbal commands to a voice recognizing computer. The program would respond by updating the situation according to the pilot's input and proceed to the next step in the test program.

doctorremulac3, May 26 2012


       yeah, but we really don't pay them enough for that.
WcW, May 26 2012

       Do airline accidents occur with sufficient frequency to warrant this? I sort of doubt it. This seems like a very elegant solution to a basically nonexistent problem...
ytk, May 26 2012

       Live video feed to the passenger screens please!
pocmloc, May 26 2012

       Pilots are already *supposed to be able to respond to emergencies quickly. More drills probably won't change the fact that there are bad pilots out there. I do like the idea of doing simulated emergencies in flight though.
DIYMatt, May 26 2012

       I'm not sure I understand. You mean that, for one pilot, the cockpit instruments will simulate an emergency situation?   

       If so, then how effective will it be, given that the view out of the window and the feeling through the seat will be "real"?   

       And wouldn't such simulated emergencies be better on a simulator? (Point taken that pilots don't spend much time in simulators, but a simulator would simulate much more simularly, sharley?)
MaxwellBuchanan, May 26 2012

       Yes, one pilot's indicators and controls would be in a simulation only mode while a pre-programmed emergency simulation program ran and tested his reaction. Here's how it would work.   

       Captain Bob would get a reminder. "It's time for a drill." He'd switch on the drill button, a large, very obvious switch that would change the color of all his controls to something obvious like orange.   

       He'd then get, for instance, an indication that all the auto pilot systems have turned off. Any audio alarms in his headset would say "This is a drill only", and any indicator lights would say "SIMULATION MODE-AUTOPILOT DISENGAGE- SIMULATION MODE" He'd have to quickly check his airspeed, attitude and altitude. Is he going into a stall? Airspeed indicator reads zero. That's not good, so that's the first order of business. Push engines to 85% and tilt the plane five degrees up. Ok, we don't know exactly how fast we're going but we're not going too fast of too slow at this point. Problem is, an engine cut out. Now what? You've got about 10 seconds to figure out what to do. Good, you've corrected. The co-pilot owes you a beer when you land, that's a tough one. A perfect score and you're running a 99% simulation rating which will make for a nice bonus on your paycheck this month. On the other hand, if problems arose in the pilot's reaction, that would be immediately reviewed by the pilot who could then re-do the simulation. At the end, he'd get a full report of what happened and what he did. "Pitot tubes frozen over, gps malfunction. Correct action was taken."   

       The problem with high tech cockpits is you can get information overload, I think they call it "information saturation" or something that makes it hard to figure out how to use those very few seconds you have to make the right decision. This coupled with the fact that you're basically sitting in a lounge chair trying to keep awake like everybody else in the plane while all the flying is done for you is a recipe for problems.
doctorremulac3, May 26 2012

       // This coupled with the fact that you're basically sitting in a lounge chair trying to keep awake like everybody else in the plane while all the flying is done for you is a recipe for problems.// Involve the self-loading cargo in the exercise too - everyone wins!
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 26 2012

       I don't know about this. Any benefits would have to be weighed against not just the cost, but also the additional risks. Adding any complexity to an already complex system means that there are new ways it can fail.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 26 2012

       The last thing I want to hear as the flight attendant momentarily opens the cockpit door to bring the pilots their tea is "I dunno, Bob, that light's never come on before."
Alterother, May 26 2012

       //Adding any complexity to an already complex system means that there are new ways it can fail.//   

       Then there's the much simpler, much cheaper version of this. They just have an iPad in the cockpit with a virtual layout of the cabin and they have to go through a certain amount of simulations every hour while flying, just like playing a video game. It would sharpen their emergency response skills, monitor their readiness to deal with emergencies and keep them awake. iPad, heck, an iPhone app could handle it. You'd just zoom into the area of the control panel where the control you wanted to adjust or the readout you wanted to see is.
doctorremulac3, May 26 2012

       But then one day a pilot will be pulled out of the wreckage, his dead hands clutched around his iPad and his face wearing the expression of someone who has just remembered that they can't pull out of a real-world dive in software alone.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 26 2012

       //Involve the self-loading cargo in the exercise too - everyone wins!// you mean - actually shut off fuel to three of the engines and actually ditch in the Atlantic, evacuating the passengers into liferafts? "This is the captain speaking, we are about to ditch into the ocean but don't worry, remember this is only a drill."
pocmloc, May 26 2012

       Ok, I'll simplify it one step further.   

       Regular audio drills on the pilot's headset.   

       Computer: "Audio emergency test drill commencing. Situation as follows: Small storm has obscured larger storm behind it blocking onboard radar's ability to see it. Aircraft has flown into a massive thunderstorm. Mach meter reads .85, altitude 32,000 ft. After being hit by updraft, port engine reads total power loss. Procedure?" The pilot could ask questions like "What's our airspeed? " etc.   

       The tactile interaction would be removed but the procedures could be reviewed in real time. Voice recognition is good enough that the computer could enter the pilot's actions into the simulation and proceed to the next step. With this you could bombard the pilot with 3, 4 or more system failures or situations to respond to. They'd get a regular dose of situational information overload to juggle and would get pretty good at it.   

       In a dangerous situation I'm told that training is pretty much the only thing holding you together as the mind tends to panic when an engine blows up or an elevator falls off.
doctorremulac3, May 26 2012

       That's the Gospel according to Sully.   

       Query: do we know the ratio of retired military pilots to lifelong civilian pilots in the airline industry?
Alterother, May 26 2012

       Anecdotal, but 100% of the helicopter trips I've taken (all 2 of them) were with ex Vietnam vet Huey pilots. I'm guessing in the years after Vietnam it would have been pretty tough for a civilian heli pilot to match on the job experience stories with these guys in a job interview.   

       I was struck by the similarities of both guys. Very soft spoken and polite. Don't know why that's not what I expected but it wasn't.
doctorremulac3, May 26 2012

       So, one version of it -- a sophisticated iPad-based alarm clock for pilots? There is a concern, how much of the skill of dealing with iPad-simulated situations would directly translate into increased ability to deal with actual emergencies.
Inyuki, May 26 2012

       All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He's using her for cover; he's almost to a plane. You're a hundred feet away... Jack?
AusCan531, May 27 2012


       They seal up the plane. He can't get in from the outside without letting go of either his weapon or his hostage, and unless he has a working familiarty with large passenger airplanes it's going to take him a little while to work out how the door operates. So now his hostage is a useless appendage and his gun is getting in the way while he stands facing the airplane...   

       He's fucked. Even if no security personell are on the scene, chances are good that every crowd of 50+ will contain at least one all-fight-no-flight idiot like me who will rush the guy the second his back is turned.
Alterother, May 27 2012

       Well, [Alterother]. Jack's answer in the movie Speed was "Shoot the hostage". Of course that movie was filmed in 1994 and the world has changed and a lot more people, including me, would be of your "let's jump the bastard" mindset. (isn't the whole point of going to the airport to get a flight - hopefully without a fight?)
AusCan531, May 27 2012

       Jack's an idiot, then, 'cause in the movies you can shoot a guy in the forehead with 9mm Beretta from 60' away, especially if he stands nice and still for you. In real life only trained snipers shoot gunmen who have human shields, and even then only as a last resort, and only if they have a hard backstop, and there aren't many snipers hanging around at the airport anyway; if it's a huge hub terminal like O'Hare or Atlanta, there will two, maybe three DMs on shift at any given time, but they'll have to go all the way to the weapons locker to get their rifles and then come running back.   

       So the way I see it, if the guy's being such a prick before he even gets on the plane, imagine how obnoxious he'll be once its in the air. If we beat eight shades of shit out of him and leave him for the paramedics, that frees up an extra seat for somebody who'll be polite and civil, and hey, free gun!
Alterother, May 27 2012

       Ummm, it WAS in the movies.
AusCan531, May 27 2012

       That's what I mean--he didn't have to shoot the hostage. That's just bad writing. They could have had him take out the gunman with a compound bow while blindfolded and performing a backflip, because you can do that in movieworld, but instead they went for the whole hard- boiled-realist, sacrifice-one-to-save-many cheap antihero crap. I bet Jack had a 5 o'clock shadow, didn't he? And I'd wager my imaginary Ducati that he carried either a Glock 17 or a Beretta M9.   

       If it was a Glock, don't say anything. Just blink twice. Get me going on Glocks and I'll post all week.
Alterother, May 27 2012

       //he carried either a Glock 17//   

       And you can hear him cocking it as he rushes into the room where the bad guy is. Okay, I'm pretty sure that was actually on Law & Order, but it still amused me.
ytk, May 27 2012

       Why not include the passengers in the inflight emergency drill? If they behave anything like my coworkers during a fire drill then they'll roll their eyes and moan while looking to see if anyone else bothers moving, continue working in the crash position with their laptop on the floor between their legs, try to sneak a quick ciggy while the oxygen mask is on, and spill their coffee over everyone while taking it with them to the emergency exit
oscil8, Jun 01 2012

       Interesting... in many of my past workplaces (industrial environments) fire drills were taken very seriously, and executed as if the emergency were real (which came in handy during real emergencies). Perhaps if a 3,000 lb. liquid oxygen tank were installed in your office, people would have a more proactive attitude.
Alterother, Jun 01 2012


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