Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2016-2017 - 35
WTIC Phases 1 to 4
experiments . Ahlstrom, who served as principal
investigator, works at the WJHTC cockpit simulator
center, which has five simulators modeling general
aviation, piston-powered 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 instrument-rated 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 concepts for more optimal
presentations, 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 presentations .
Three phases of research have been conducted with a fourth in the works, in the FAA's
NextGen Weather Technology in the Cockpit
program as part of the FAA's NextGen modernization of the air traffic control system . A key
part of this modernization is what happens in
the cockpit . Phase 4 is just beginning this year .
Each phase has a different focus:
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WTIC Phase I: 2014. This simulator study at WJHTC involved 24 volunteer, instrument-rated, private pilots, and
focused on weather display symbols and
their effects on pilot decision making . This
research showed that different symbols
and colors caused differences in pilot
behavior and decisions . As a result of
these findings, the WTIC team postulated
that cockpit apps could be developed to
track hazardous weather conditions and
alert pilots to them .
WTIC Phase 2: 2015. This simulator
study involved 60 volunteer instrumentrated pilots and assessed general
aviation pilots' perception of changes
in aviation routine weather report
(METAR) symbols . The research
showed that different symbols used
to present weather information affects
pilots' perception of any changes and in
turn affects pilots' reactions .
WTIC Phase 3: 2015. This simulator
study involved 70 volunteer private pilots
and examined how pilot behavior is affected by using portable weather applications .
The research showed that portable weather displays can be used by pilots without
degrading decisions and actions related
to the safety of flight . It also showed
that improved situational awareness of
weather doesn't always improve pilot performance relative to weather challenges .
WTIC Phase 4: 2016. This simulator
study will be designed to build on what is
reported in Phase 3 . This phase started in
July 2016 . q