Automation Philosophy

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been an effective tool used by aircraft operators for many years to present the operator’s philosophy of safe and efficient flight operations. Scientifically based automation philosophies are useful in the formulation of operational guidance and training for flight crews. Operationally oriented automation philosophies can assist flight crews in wisely and effectively applying automated systems to the safe conduct of each flight.

Integrated design could incorporate a selection of information and automation “services” that are selected by the flight crew as the situation dictates. Crews would select “levels-of-service” based on workload and the situation. Services can be selected or changed to respond to ATC or other situational requirements. This allocation of resources is essentially a management decision and is dictated by dynamic operational conditions. These decisions should be controlled by the flight crew in real time. “Hard wired” solutions within an automated system may not be able to meet the demands of the highly volatile flight environment.

This service-based orientation of the use of automation would keep the flight crew at the center of the operational loop by allowing them to select from a spectrum of services that are provided by the aircraft, crew, and outside agencies. Requests for service would always originate with the crew. As they perform tasks, services would be “purchased” from the aircraft systems, enabling them to manage the accomplishment each task. The medium of exchange for these transactions would usually be workload. The crew would “invest” a certain amount of workload in system setup and operation. If properly selected, they would show a “profit” in the form of reduced overall workload, access to required information, or improved operational efficiency. This selection of levels-of-service is different from the selection of modes. Mode selection is accomplished at a given level-of-service, whereas a change in level-of-service may completely alter the modes available for use.

Under this concept, manual operation by the crew is the most basic level-of-service. As such, the crew must be prepared to provide services at any time. This means they must not only be prepared psychologically, but also from the standpoint of proficiency.

Service-Based Design

Avionics system design would benefit from implementation of the service-based concept in a number of ways. It would provide a structure for designs that would be inherently human-centered because they are configured from the start to provide assistance to the crew on-command, rather than acting to replace crew functions. Part of the design process would be definition of the levels-of-service which individual and integrated systems provide to the crew. This approach would provide a context for the resolution of issues relating to when automation serves the crew and when the crew serves the automation. An additional level-of-service would be a natural extension of this philosophy, that of individual preference of input and output. While some pilots might be most comfortable with displays consisting of graphic and pictorial data, others may find alphanumeric data most understandable. Similarly, keyboard input may be most efficient for some individuals while others would prefer menu-based or other systems.

Service-Based Training

A service-based training approach would provide a sophisticated and positive extension to the “Turn-It-Off” training approaches currently being discussed. Rather than training a crew to simply disconnect a system, they would learn to “purchase” alternative services that are more appropriate to the existing situation, either “cutting their losses” or earning a greater workload “profit”.

The service-based approach to automation would require a thorough understanding of automation system design, function, and failure modes, as well as operating procedures. This means teaching the structure of both hardware and software, giving the crew the background needed to support decisions relating to effective level-of-service selection and utilization. Training would also include coverage of avionics updates and software revisions in the recurrent training environment.

To be effective, training must provide a common vocabulary for crews to use when discussing the selection, use and monitoring of automated systems. Using this vocabulary and the underlying concepts of automation usage, services-based training would provide a formal structure for development of training objectives related to automated systems. This in turn would enhance the ability of scenario designers to include automation related objectives in Line Oriented Flight Training and other lesson structures. It would also provide a context for instructors and check airmen when making decisions on the availability or denial of automated systems during training and checking.