Flight deck automation and airspace management identified as main areas of concern

The Joint Aviation Authorities Future Aviation Safety Team (FAST) will start in October to develop strategies for coping with the two top future hazards facing aviation safety. The just-ended second phase of FAST's research has identified the top two risk-bearing "areas of change" (AOC) as "reliance on flight deck automation" and "the emergence of new concepts for airspac management".

Since 1998, FAST has identified more than 100 risk-bearing AOCs, and has developed methods for identifying future risk and creating strategies to manage the changes safely.

Because the forthcoming changes in flight deck automation and air traffic management (ATM) are near-term and also score relatively highly as future hazard risks, they have been chosen as the first AOCs for which specific action plans are to be developed over the next year. Cockpit automation studies will start in October and those for ATM in "early 2002".

FAST says that cockpit automation is going to have to change to help crews cope with the ever-increasing complexity of modern aircraft, but notes that additional automation can increase the number and difficulty of tasks that the pilots face. In addition to the positive and negative changes already recognised in existing automation, FAST notes that "increasingly aircraft systems are being designed to automatically reconfigure themselves in the event of systems failures, without notifying the crew of early trends indicating anomalies".

ATM is seen as an area of considerable change, with the approach of free routing, free flight and the redefinition of the respective roles of pilots and controllers in dealing with conflicts. The application of satellite navigation for precision approaches, and the option of angled or curved approach paths will create new challenges for those tasked with designing airspace structure as well as for pilots.

Source: Flight International