FLIGHTSAFETY INTERNATIONAL and Airbus Industrie have developed a "glass-cockpit CRM" [cockpit-resource management] course which is part of the A320 type-conversion training provided by Airbus for customers. In designing the specialist training, the two companies have identified factors, or training needs, which are unique to cockpits with sophisticated flight-management systems (FMS). As explained by FlightSafety director of flight standards, Doug Schwartz, at the Flight Safety Foundation's European Safety Seminar in Amsterdam during February, these include:

human-to-computer communication;

computer-to-human communication;

human-to-computer-to-human communication: this happens when one pilot enters data which appear on the second pilot's control/display unit (CDU), and the second pilot uses the data, perhaps without questioning it;

some FMS require proficiency in computer programming using a non-user-friendly CDU and without the "help" or "prompt" functions common in personal computers;

"as a by-product of the transition [type-conversion] training process, pilots can become distracted with the operation of automated systems at times when the equipment is interfering with the operation of the aircraft," says Schwartz, who explains: "A student will be taught how to use the FMS and to demonstrate proficiency in its use. He is not likely to be taught when to switch it off."

The ability needs to be taught to recognise when automation is not contributing to safe flight/navigation and crew situational-awareness; skill at effecting swift transfer between high and low levels of automation, or direct reversion to manual control has to be part of the teaching and test process;

direct pilot-to-pilot communication in read-back and challenge-and-response form needs to be adopted, to crosscheck information and confirm it against independent sources;

pilots need to be taught that the automation is there only to support the crew, and that the safe, efficient operation of the aircraft still remains their sole responsibility.

Source: Flight International