More Safety In The Skies

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Capstone Gets A Positive Report In Alaska...

The University of Alaska this month released an interim report on the progress of Alaska's Capstone experiment, in which onboard avionics upgrades and new ground equipment have been deployed in an effort to cut the state's fatal aircraft accident rate in half. The report is inconclusive regarding the safety record, but recommends that the program should be continued. The report did conclude that pilots in the program need to get more training, the ground-based weather coverage should be expanded, and operators should be required to give more feedback to the FAA. Aircraft equipped with Capstone avionics had seven accidents in 2001, while non-Capstone-equipped planes had 12 accidents. "However, it's still too early to assess whether this is a systematic change that will continue, or just the result of chance variation," the report said. The report covers the phase-in period of Capstone from 2000 through mid-2002.

NOTE: Click here to download the executive summary of the University of Alaska report, in PDF format.

...New Ideas Growing In Florida

While Capstone relies on well-developed technologies such as GPS and datalinks, edgy new ideas for safer flying are growing under the Florida sun. At the University of West Florida in Pensacola, researchers at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition are testing new ways to display information to pilots. David Still and Leonard Temme believe the single-screen display they've designed, called OZ, could replace a panel full of gauges. "The display has all the information you need in one quick blink of the eye," airline pilot Hank Colburn told the Associated Press, in a story published Monday. Colburn has trained people to fly OZ, which so far exists only as a computer simulation. Streams of dots or stars create an artificial sky through which the pilot "flies" a representative airplane, with symbols that reflect speed, direction, attitude, engine power and other data. The researchers say that OZ greatly reduces the occurrence of pilot disorientation, and greatly reduces mental workload and processing time. NASA and the Navy have been funding the research, but flight tests for OZ have not taken place. "The system is designed to preserve the status quo as opposed to bringing forward innovations," Temme told the AP. "We're fighting inertia." Seems we've heard that one many times before.