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Combining our interests in aviation operations, safety, skilled performance and cognitive psychology, we will from time to time post a “hot topic” of cross-disciplinary interest. This will be a short (1 to 4 pages) discussion of research ideas or operational issues.

Our goal in posting a “hot topic” is to gather perspectives from our broad readership and to foster an ongoing discussion about issues and questions involving cognitive processes in real-world settings such as aviation operations. Hot topics may range from a theory of prospective memory, to practical countermeasures that may help individuals remember to perform deferred tasks, to the ways that concurrent task demands affect crew performance. We hope that the aviation community will find these discussions useful in understanding how cognitive processes affect aviation operations, and we hope that these discussions will help cognitive scientists understand operational issues to which their work might contribute.

We invite your thoughtful feedback and comments on each hot topic when it appears, and we encourage you to submit opinions, anecdotes, personal experiences, and ideas that relate to each topic. The author of each article will compile a summary of the responses received and post it under that article before the next hot topic is presented. At the bottom of each article will be a link that will allow you to email your response.

If you wish to be notified when a new article is posted, please enter your email address here. Your address will be kept strictly confidential.

   Performance Data Errors in Air Carrier Operations: Causes and Countermeasures - 7/31/2012

Several airline accidents have occurred in recent years as the result of erroneous weight or performance data used to calculate V-speeds, flap/trim settings, required runway lengths, and/or required climb gradients. Only one of these accidents incurred fatalities, but the potential for future accidents with large numbers of fatalities prompted the French and the Australian aviation authorities to conduct reviews of the risks. We have recently completed an FAA-sponsored study in which we examine and extend studies by accident investigation organizations, report our own study of ASRS-reported incidents, and provide a broad set of countermeasures that can reduce vulnerability to accidents caused by performance data errors.

Performance data are generated through a lengthy process involving several employee groups and computer and/or paper-based systems. Although much of the airline industry’s concern has focused on errors that pilots make in entering flight management system (FMS) data, we determined that errors occur at every stage of the process and that errors by ground personnel are probably at least as frequent and certainly as consequential as errors by pilots. Although relatively few major accidents have yet been caused by performance data errors, our study suggests that more accidents are likely to occur unless existing measures to prevent and catch these errors are improved and new measures developed. more>>

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  Previous Hot Topics -

Change is in the Air (11/1/2011)

Download PDF (36 KB)

Remembrance of things future: Prospective memory in laboratory, workplace, and everyday settings (12/7/2010)

Arrow Dismukes, R. K. (2010). Remembrance of things future: Prospective memory in laboratory, workplace, and everyday settings. In D. H. Harris (Ed), Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics, 6, 79-122. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (PDF - 73.2 KB)

Checklists and Monitoring in the Cockpit: Why Crucial Defenses Sometimes Fail (11/9/2010)

Arrow Dismukes, R.K. & Berman, B. (2010). Checklists and monitoring in the cockpit: Why crucial defenses sometimes fail. NASA Technical Memorandum (NASA TM-2010-216396). Moffett Field, CA: NASA Ames Research Center (PDF - 348 KB)

Human Factors Analysis of the Navigational Reference System (7/7/2010)

Arrow Burian, B. K., Pruchnicki, S., Christopher, B. (2010). Human factors evaluation of the implementation of the navigation reference system (NRS), Phase 1 Final Report. Technical Report (PDF - 1.1 MB)

Air Traffic Controllers do it too! (3/17/2010)

Arrow Loukopoulos, L. (2010). Air traffic controllers do it too! Hindsight, a journal of Eurocontrol, 48-51 (PDF - 2.2 MB)

The Effects of Life-Stress on Pilot Performance (7/6/09)

Arrow Young, J. A. (2008). The effects of life-stress on pilot performance. (NASA Technical Memorandum 215375). Moffett Field, CA: NASA Ames Research Center (PDF - 352 KB)

Deconstructing the Myth of Multi-tasking (5/19/09)

Arrow Loukopoulos, L. D., Dismukes, R. K., & Barshi, I. (2009). The multitasking myth: Handling complexity in real-world operations. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. (Ashgate Link- Paperback, Ashgate Link- Hard Cover, Book Reviews)

Human error or system error: Are we committed to managing it?

Arrow Dismukes, R. K. (March, 2009). Human error or system error: Are we committed to managing it? Presented at the 2009 Aviation Human Factors Conference, Dallas, TX (PDF - 8.9 MB)

Challenges for the Very Light Jet Industry

Arrow Burian, B. K. & Dismukes, R. K. (2007). Training the VLJ pilot. Unpublished Manuscript.

The Challenge of Aviation Emergency and Abnormal Situations

Arrow The Challenge of Aviation Emergency & Abnormal sits should link to Burian, B. K., Barshi, I., & Dismukes, R. K. (2005). The challenges of aviation emergency and abnormal situations (NASA Technical Memorandum 2005-213462). Moffett Field, CA: NASA Ames Research Center (PDF - 128 KB)

It's Human Nature (PDF version) - by Loukia Loukopoulos, posted on 4/22/04

The Limits of Expertise: The Misunderstood Role of Pilot Error in Airline Accidents (Powerpoint - 108KB)

Arrow Dismukes, R. K., Berman, B. A., & Loukopoulos, L. D. (2007). The Limits of expertise: Rethinking pilot error and the causes of airline accidents. Burlington, VT: Ashgate (Book Reviews)

Hot Topic: Prospective Memory, Concurrent Task Management, and Pilot Error

Arrow Dismukes, R. K. & Nowinski, J. L. (2006). Prospective memory, concurrent task management, and pilot error. In A. Kramer, D. Wiegmann, & A. Kirlik (Eds.) Attention: From Theory to Practice. New York: Oxford University Press (PDF- 148 KB)
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