Avionics News October 2016 - 38
DID YOU NOTICE...?
Continued from page 36
aircraft. In all, the center has nine simulators including one Airbus, one Boeing, one
regional jet and one corporate jet. Almost
all of the research done at the center is for
NextGen. Having five general aviation
simulators makes it easier to conduct studies with large numbers of pilots.
One WTIC study using 60 instrumentrated general aviation pilots assessed each
pilot's ability to detect changes in METAR
symbology. The simulator was frozen at
three different points during a 35-minute flight to see if the pilots had noticed
weather information symbols had changed
on the cockpit display. This was the WTIC
Phase 2 study.
In this study, four types of weather
information were overlaid on a moving map display - METAR, significant
meteorological advisories, lightning strikes
and precipitation. Modern glass cockpits
can present so much information that it can
lead to pilot overload. Small, color-coded
symbols were used to summarize each
METAR as either IFR or VFR conditions.
The pilots were told to assume they were
IFR rated but had chosen to fly VFR.
METAR changes were introduced at the
19-, 20- and 30-minute points in each
flight. At these times, there were brief,
temporary freezes of the simulator. Once
the cockpit display was covered up, the
pilots were asked what they had observed.
During the study, only 25 percent of
the pilots spotted the METAR symbol
change during the quiz when the simulator
was frozen the first time, while 62 percent
spotted it by the third time when a different
symbology was used. Pilot perception
varied a great deal based on the symbol
presented. FAA researchers believe they
can use these findings to help develop
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which can be leveraged by display designers. They hope designers will modify their
approach to use the most effective symbols.
This study revealed that more pilots spotted the change when the METAR symbol
was a circle, and it changed from white to
red. Not every symbol is a good one, and
not every combination of symbols and
colors produce ideal or even equally good
Currently, there are no industry standards
for the display of weather information in the
cockpit. This lack of a standard has resulted
in a large variation in symbols used by
commercial vendors, raising the question as
to whether different symbols for the same
weather data have an effect on pilot perception and behavior.
The WTIC program will not establish
standards and only aims to provide guidance on the best ways to highlight changing
METARS to improve pilot recognition.
There will be a number of ways to reduce
any information gaps in the cockpit and to
achieve the desired level of performance so
pilots will be more likely to realize when
key weather information is changing. There
simply is no one-size-fits-all solution.
As a conclusion, the WTIC phase 2 report
says it is clear from this study that pilots'
perception of symbol changes while in flight
is "frail," leaving many changes undetected.
This "change blindness" is particularly
strong during multitasking such as during
single-pilot operation. Failure to detect a
METAR change means the pilots missed a
valuable cue that would prompt them to ask
ATC for a weather update. "The earlier a
pilot recognizes the situation, the more time
he or she will have to make a good decision
and the more time there will be to plan a different course of action," Johnson said.
At the direction of the WTIC program,
PEGASAS researchers also examined
whether computer apps might be able to
track weather information and notify pilots
of significant changes. This could assist pilots in making good decisions in the future,
as increasing bandwidth makes it easier for
pilots to get access to the weather information they need in the air and on the ground
before takeoff. q