Distributed Cognition in an Airline Cockpit and Airbus Flight Control Design

Using computers to control these systems is a trade-off based on a bet as to which set-up is going to be more reliable (or cheaper) in scenarios that the aircraft would be likely to encounter.

I wonder if Airbus is making the same trade-off? Is the gain by using non-linked controls greater then the risks or did Airbus not understand how crews actually function?

Explanation here, apparently part of a larger trade-off with regards to different approach in general.

There are three different issues going on.
1 - Fly (or drive or sail or whatever) by wire. That is a done deal, wiring is lighter and cheaper than hydraulics for a transport sized aircraft.
2 - What the computer in the middle of it does. It can be transparent and just reproduce the appropriate control movements and provide simulated force feedback. Done well no one would even know it wasn’t hydraulics or cables. Or you can do it Airbus style and have a variety of what Airbus calls “flight control laws” that can do very different things depending on the situation. Boeing, recent problems excepted, tried to be closer to the former than the latter. A ship equivalent might be refusing to turn starboard if there was an obstacle or shallow water to starboard or engine automation refusing commands that might damage the engine.
3 - Pilot and copilot controls not linked mechanically. This is the absolutely dumbest idea in the history of aircraft design. I can’t imagine any pilot had any input on this idea.

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not read anything anywhere why the sticks are not linked, was it just an oversite?

But the interest in this case is the information layer, that is how does the crew use and share information to maintain situational awareness (Hutchins calls it “models of the situation of the aircraft”)?

From the point of view of situational awareness the only interest in the non-linked controls is how does that effect the crew’s understanding wrt the status of the aircraft?

Ultimately the real goal is to look at BRM with an approach similar to the one Hutchins is using here, something Hutchins does in his book “Cognition in the Wild”.

According to Aviation Week, it pretty much all has to do with costs.

  1. Active side sticks introduce more failure modes, such as jam and runaway, which would involve more software and mechanisms to detect and mitigate. These add complexity and introduce failure modes in their own rights, and they all add up to costs.
  2. There is very little certification mandate to make side sticks active. All the objectives, such as stick force/G, stick force/V, have been met by passive side sticks. Airbus introduced envelope protection, most likely not because it was a nice-to-have, but because certifying the combination of lack of aerodynamic feedback on the inceptors and the choice of a pure C* control laws without speed stability demands it.
  3. Certifying the first civilian active side stick is costly (but now it’s been done by Gulfstream). There needs to be clear market reasons to do so. For Gulfstream, it may be (personal hypothesis) that the aircraft is being catered to the ultra-rich clientele and a novelty factor. For commercial aviation, the only reason I can think of is safety, which brings us to…
  4. Would active side stick actually increase safety by leaps and bounds? This is a topic under research so the discussion has personal bias. On the A320 and A220, if both PF and CP side stick commands are detected, an aural “Dual Input” warning would sound. Obviously, AF447 crew ignored it. The final BEA accident report didn’t mention the lack of tactile feedback as a reason for the crash; rather, crew confusion on stall recovery and lack of airspeed disagreement warning were highlighted.
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Seems like the other characteristic of the yoke is that the other pilot can not only feel that what the other pilot is doing, they can also see what he is doing.

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A post was split to a new topic: Outer Banks

Interesting info but this:

an aural “Dual Input” warning would sound. Obviously, AF447 crew ignored it.

Sure, now we know that was the one signal in all the noise that the crew needed to heed. But it’s only obvious in hindsight.

Good article here:

Sensemaking following surprise in the cockpit—a re-framing problem

Nice breakdown.Fixation by any other name.

Another big issue is the “blob” between raw data and what the crew sees and feels. An old fashioned “steam gauge” airplane has all the gauges driven by well known inputs and part of training is what problem causes what gauges to misbehave and how. A sophisticated glass panel airplane has sensors, a bunch of computers, a few miles of wire, and a bunch of digital displays. When they look they are going nuts with contradictory information, it is very easy for the flight crew to decide “the computer has gone insane” and not be able to even begin to process what is true and what is false.
Even worse are odd “corner case” interactions even the designers might not recognize, i.e in the case of Air France the stall warning inhibit at very low airspeeds, which they presumed would only happen on the ground. Speeding up brought the airspeed up into the “plane must be flying” zone and set off stall alarm. Normally speeding up fixes that problem. so the crew has to process doing X to fix Y is causing Y, WTF???

they need to fly themselves these days as the skill set in the cockpit is getting so poor.

Short answer: They don’t.

Longer answer: From about the first lesson handing over command of the aircraft if formalized. This is about the first thing you want a student to learn - “My Airplane” “Your Airplane”. The risks are not only two people trying to fly at once but also no people flying because they think the other one is doing it.
The backup to this is the flight controls have no independent action, until Airbus came along with their stupid money saving idea you at least knew if the other guy was trying to turn left while you turned right. It is entirely possible for a panicky person to fight you on the controls, but at least you know they are doing it.
In stressful situations neither pilots nor anyone else has a mental or actual dialog about cognition or information transfer or anything else. You are in reptile mode - FIGHT OR FLIGHT. A big part of flight training is NOT giving in to blind panic but doing what you are trained to do. Airbus added a whole new way to die with their non-linked controls. Stress and confusion were enough to break down normal crew coordination in a way not possible in any other airplane that I know of and not possible in the planes anyone ever learned to fly in.
Old Man Rant Mode On - I just did some recurrent training and about 70% of it was all the latest on uploading flight plans to the plane from the iPad and vice versa and 30% was about actually flying :roll_eyes:
IMHO a little less how to program the plane and a little more basic 1920s style actual flying would help everyone. That airplane, like every other one flying, had a basic power and trim setting that would have it flying more or less level while they straightened out their malfunctions :wink:

Back to things that float - How many systems, if any, do you have on your boat/ship that two people can control without them being aware of each other? One obvious one is hydraulic steering with the usual check valves that prevent the steering ram from trying to turn the wheel, you won’t know it from the wheel itself if someone else is steering at the same time from another helm station.

Good point. There are also many mechanical throttle linkages that simply add two stations together, and some (but fewer) that do it for shifting as well. It’s not a real problem because you’re usually clear about who’s driving the boat, but I’ve heard stories about kids on the flybridge ruining daddy’s docking attempt.

Many years ago there was a ferry named ‘Lion’ running Dover - Boulogne - Dover. She had a bow rudder controlled by a wheel on the bridge top, plus two sets of combinator controls mechanically linked to the two in the wheelhouse. The usual routine, unless it was raining, was to turn round outside Dover harbour and the Old Man and Quartermaster would decamp to the bridge top and drive har stern first into the berth. (She did about 14 knots astern if you were in a hurry). One day, when it was raining the Old Man had turned her round outside and was coming astern while using the wheelhouse combinators. He pushed both to full astern whereupon one of them came back to half astern. He pushed it to full astern and it came back to half astern. The Second Mate was sent to the bridge top to investigate and found a small Boy Scout leaning against the combinator stand. Every time the handle came down and hit him on the head he pushed it back.

That was supposed to be a reply to Klaveness!

Please be careful with terms. If you meant PF to be the captain, and CP to be the copilot, be aware that the FO or first officer (formerly copilot) may also be the PF or pilot flying. The captain and FO alternate legs on multiple leg flights and the designation pilot flying and pilot not flying applies.

CP is a Canadian railroad.

The abbreviations were in the Aviation Week article. I wasn’t familiar with them but I assumed they were the currently politically acceptable terms invented after I quit flying commercial aircraft in pre-glass cockpit days. I would have referred to the crew as PIC and FO and which one had the conn but I’m just the messenger here. My interests these days lean heavily in favor of the venerable J-3 where life is simpler.

So is CN, a former employer of mine, why does it matter?

Same here past and present, my current ride is a new to me Starduster Too. Just finished a 35 hour trip to Lauderdale from Seattle.

It seems bizarre that Av Week would use those abbreviations. Makes one wonder about the author or the audience.

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Starduster Too? You dog! That’s decent time. I’m an hour’s flying time north of you. Get her up here and the beer’s on me. :grin: