Moderators: richierich, ua900, PanAm_DC10, hOMSaR

 
IFlyVeryLittle
Topic Author
Posts: 220
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:31 pm

Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Tue Nov 16, 2021 6:45 pm

Modern jets are complicated beasts, probably the most complicated thing most of us will encounter. Their cockpits and internals are often stereotyped for their complexity. But, run with me here a little on a philosophical point, do they need to be? I get it, zooming six miles in the air at nearly the speed of sound while drinking coffee and eating pate de fois gras is an amazing thing. Still, we've deleted the FE position, so we've already simplified. Can a crewed cockpit ever really be essentially an iPhone in its elegance? Are we overbuilding for the sake of it, or is safety the driver behind all of those systems and all of those switches.
 
M564038
Posts: 916
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2016 11:16 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Tue Nov 16, 2021 7:44 pm

There is a difference in building an user interface for hundreds of millions of units, used by everything from cats and babies to okder people with dementia, and a couple of tens of thousands units with much higher safety standards used by people with vocational training.

It is both too expensive and needs to rewrite too many rules and regulations for it to happen for a long, long time.

It might even not be possible to create a better cockpit UX with mode-switching touch-screens than with discrete button based tactile one-button per function systems.

To do that, first every system would need to be centralized in a common CPU (like Tesla has done with cars), the you would need to object-orient every function and leave positioning (in both time and space plus orientation) and managing the flight envelope completely to automated systems.
 
Woodreau
Posts: 2215
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2001 6:44 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Tue Nov 16, 2021 7:49 pm

call me oldfashioned, but i want a physical switch or button to turn or push.

trying using a virtual keyboard when you're in turbulence and you cant get your hand to stay over the virtual button to push.
 
User avatar
Starlionblue
Posts: 20959
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Tue Nov 16, 2021 11:51 pm

Cockpits are marvels of simplicity compared to 50 years ago.

The big changes have been:
- Glass instrumentation. No longer does every reading need its own instrument.
- Routing warnings and procedures through systems like EICAS and ECAM.

For normal operation, things are very streamlined. Sure, the overhead panel is still full of buttons and switches, but that's for redundancy. Those buttons and switches are hard wired to the system, meaning they work even if the centralised EICAS/ECAM does not.

Layouts overall are pretty logical nowadays. Once you've worked with it for a while, it's very intuitive. It only looks super-complex in the beginning.
 
bigb
Posts: 1622
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2003 4:30 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:38 am

Most modern day jet flight decks have come a long way and aren’t really complex for the type of aircraft that they are found on. There are a lot of different system controllers that handle and monitor basic functions of the system per the system design logic.

Good week of systems course will then makes sense and simplify the systems. Also with the introduction of Glass flight decks, maintenance, dispatch reliability has greatly approved. If a LRU goes bad, I can be easily troubleshot or replaced.

Flights have come a long way since the days of 3 person flight deck with a FE onboard who is the system logic.
 
celestar345
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 5:35 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Wed Nov 17, 2021 10:38 am

Aircraft are designed with safety in mind - one thing is having redundancy system incase of hardware or software failure. This casuss the whole thing to be much more complicated. When comparing with a smartphone - you won't have three sd cards for data storage or three sim cards in case one give up.
 
Max Q
Posts: 9147
Joined: Wed May 09, 2001 12:40 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Wed Nov 17, 2021 12:03 pm

Starlionblue wrote:
Cockpits are marvels of simplicity compared to 50 years ago.

The big changes have been:
- Glass instrumentation. No longer does every reading need its own instrument.
- Routing warnings and procedures through systems like EICAS and ECAM.

For normal operation, things are very streamlined. Sure, the overhead panel is still full of buttons and switches, but that's for redundancy. Those buttons and switches are hard wired to the system, meaning they work even if the centralised EICAS/ECAM does not.

Layouts overall are pretty logical nowadays. Once you've worked with it for a while, it's very intuitive. It only looks super-complex in the beginning.




Agree


Go look at a DC8 cockpit, that was complicated !
 
IADFCO
Posts: 313
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:58 am

Yes, in principle an airliner could be flown using a very simple app on an iPhone, and the necessary technology is not out of reach.

On the other hand, this gets folded very quickly into one of the many interesting discussions on automation/single pilot operation/full autonomy on a.net, where the consensus is that we are not there yet, for a variety of reasons.
 
User avatar
Paars
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:21 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:03 pm

As a train driver/engineer sometimes working with modern electric locomotives in the Netherlands, I can think of one issue with working via touch screens: You have to work through multiple menus to alter settings.
I guess when altering settings/configuration on an aircraft, it is faster to have direct input buttons/switches, which I guess are grouped together logically.
 
Dalmd88
Posts: 3219
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2000 3:19 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:37 pm

Touch screens is a hard no for me. I hate them in my car. Nice part of an airplane flight deck is tactile feel. Once you know the placement of everything, you don't need to look at it to push the button or turn the selector. I think the auto manufacturers are just finally coming around to the idea that the touch screen isn't all that great. the next big thing I think will be audible command. So many of you now run your homes using Alexa, or Siri. that tech is now starting to migrate to autos and I suspect aviation. Of course aviation will be the hold out. airlines and manufactures are very reluctant to jump into new tech.

Most 'computers' in airplanes are actually pretty basic. Each is a self contained unit with very few tasks. It may give or take commands from another computer, but it can also take commands from human input. The phones most of us have are a more horsepower computer than those in flight decks.
 
Woodreau
Posts: 2215
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2001 6:44 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Nov 25, 2021 5:58 pm

Just try using those touchscreen cockpit trainers…. It absolutely sucks flying a simulated plane with the cockpit touch screens. We’re not even in the air, but firmly grounded in the training center.
 
User avatar
rjsampson
Posts: 517
Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:00 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Nov 26, 2021 7:47 am

Dalmd88 wrote:
Touch screens is a hard no for me. I hate them in my car. Nice part of an airplane flight deck is tactile feel.



Snippet from the "Living the Dream" videos. Tried to keep it relevant by timestamping it on the last 30 seconds.

https://youtu.be/5-knyUBbpgI?t=178

The last 2 seconds? "Why do they have to touch the screens?"
 
User avatar
rjsampson
Posts: 517
Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:00 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Nov 26, 2021 7:50 am

rjsampson wrote:
Dalmd88 wrote:
Touch screens is a hard no for me. I hate them in my car. Nice part of an airplane flight deck is tactile feel.



Snippet from the "Living the Dream" videos. Tried to keep it relevant by timestamping it on the last 40 seconds.

https://youtu.be/5-knyUBbpgI?t=178

The last 3 seconds? "Why, why do they always gotta touch the screens?"
 
xl0hr
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu May 13, 2021 11:27 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Dec 09, 2021 11:09 pm

I lately wondered about checklists and flows. I feel like if you're doing a standard start-up and take-off your aircraft could flick most of the switches for you. That would reduce the need for standard-case check lists, too. ECAM/EICAS go some way there... Otoh I'm not a pilot.

Plus i think most of ATC communication and implementation of commands could be automated. If you text your clearances/routings/etc the auto pilot could directly implement them. (Would that make pilot flying merely a pilot monitoring? And would that be single pilot cruise? :bouncy: )
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 8969
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Thu Dec 09, 2021 11:53 pm

xl0hr wrote:
I lately wondered about checklists and flows. I feel like if you're doing a standard start-up and take-off your aircraft could flick most of the switches for you. That would reduce the need for standard-case check lists, too. ECAM/EICAS go some way there... Otoh I'm not a pilot.

Plus i think most of ATC communication and implementation of commands could be automated. If you text your clearances/routings/etc the auto pilot could directly implement them. (Would that make pilot flying merely a pilot monitoring? And would that be single pilot cruise? :bouncy: )


No, it’s not that simple. Checklists are run, but when to accomplish tasks, timing of tasks, ensuring it was actually done are all human inputs. We don’t just, at 10 miles, push a button to configure the plane for landing. There’s a lot more judgement, educated “guesswork” and adapting to circumstances than non-pilots understand. ATC and situation makes spacing tight, pilots and controllers have to fix it.
 
User avatar
Starlionblue
Posts: 20959
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Dec 10, 2021 12:02 am

xl0hr wrote:
I lately wondered about checklists and flows. I feel like if you're doing a standard start-up and take-off your aircraft could flick most of the switches for you. That would reduce the need for standard-case check lists, too. ECAM/EICAS go some way there... Otoh I'm not a pilot.

Plus i think most of ATC communication and implementation of commands could be automated. If you text your clearances/routings/etc the auto pilot could directly implement them. (Would that make pilot flying merely a pilot monitoring? And would that be single pilot cruise? :bouncy: )


The first bit has already been gradually happening for decades. Most of this stuff is already rather automated. Compared to fifty years ago, most parameters are sensed, meaning the aircraft will check them for you.

For example, during the setup, the actual flows don't actually have that many steps. Mostly we're checking pushbutton and switch positions, not moving them. The portion that takes by far the most time is FM setup. This would be tricky to automate since it varies depending on location and conditions.

During the taxi and takeoff, we're not really touching that many controls. The lights come to mind, but light usage is rather dependent on local and current conditions. For example, if you're at a hold point and an aircraft is entering the runway from the opposite side, you might want to switch off your taxi lights to avoid blinding those pilots.




I'm not a fan of direct autoflight implementation of datalink clearances. It removes a rather significant safety net. An intermediate step, which is already happening, is automatic entry of received parameters. For example, if you get a new radio frequency via datalink on the A350, you can automatically populate that frequency into the standby position on the radio.
 
xl0hr
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu May 13, 2021 11:27 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Dec 10, 2021 12:16 am

Starlionblue wrote:
The first bit has already been gradually happening for decades.


Very interesting, thanks!

Starlionblue wrote:
I'm not a fan of direct autoflight implementation of datalink clearances. It removes a rather significant safety net. An intermediate step, which is already happening, is automatic entry of received parameters. For example, if you get a new radio frequency via datalink on the A350, you can automatically populate that frequency into the standby position on the radio.


Also very interesting! So a new FL or a direct could be pre-entered by the aircraft and the PF accepts the changes which is when the aircraft confirms to ATC? That seems pretty close to how I understand the LH procedure where the PM reads back to ATC what she sees on PFD as a second safety layer?

Automating this would also reduce the potential of mistakes as there are fewer machine-person interactions and fewer nodes in communication.
 
xl0hr
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu May 13, 2021 11:27 am

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Dec 10, 2021 12:20 am

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
No, it’s not that simple.

I know... But ignorance supports creativity.

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
ensuring it was actually done are all human inputs.

Out of your list isn't this what a computer could do reliably? And ECAM sort of does? ("No Blue")
 
User avatar
Starlionblue
Posts: 20959
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Fri Dec 10, 2021 12:38 am

xl0hr wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
The first bit has already been gradually happening for decades.


Very interesting, thanks!

Starlionblue wrote:
I'm not a fan of direct autoflight implementation of datalink clearances. It removes a rather significant safety net. An intermediate step, which is already happening, is automatic entry of received parameters. For example, if you get a new radio frequency via datalink on the A350, you can automatically populate that frequency into the standby position on the radio.


Also very interesting! So a new FL or a direct could be pre-entered by the aircraft and the PF accepts the changes which is when the aircraft confirms to ATC? That seems pretty close to how I understand the LH procedure where the PM reads back to ATC what she sees on PFD as a second safety layer?

Automating this would also reduce the potential of mistakes as there are fewer machine-person interactions and fewer nodes in communication.



Not sure about the LH procedure, but certainly reading off the PFD is always important. The PFD tells you what the plane is doing. The input device (MCP/ACP/FCU) only tells you what you've told the plane to do. "Fact" vs "rumour" as the saying goes.

I think we will gradually see more automation around the input received parameters, e.g. you receive a new FL via datalink, and this can automatically be fed to autoflight. But implementation will not be automatic for now.

IMHO any change in flight path from "outside" should be vetted. It doesn't take that long and more importantly, there are safety considerations. Any altitude/FL change requires extra care. Hence why we are required to confirm with the PM before actioning, and not just do it and get confirmation subsequently like with heading changes.
 
LH707330
Posts: 2561
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:27 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Sat Dec 11, 2021 4:04 pm

Starlionblue wrote:
xl0hr wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
The first bit has already been gradually happening for decades.


Very interesting, thanks!

Starlionblue wrote:
I'm not a fan of direct autoflight implementation of datalink clearances. It removes a rather significant safety net. An intermediate step, which is already happening, is automatic entry of received parameters. For example, if you get a new radio frequency via datalink on the A350, you can automatically populate that frequency into the standby position on the radio.


Also very interesting! So a new FL or a direct could be pre-entered by the aircraft and the PF accepts the changes which is when the aircraft confirms to ATC? That seems pretty close to how I understand the LH procedure where the PM reads back to ATC what she sees on PFD as a second safety layer?

Automating this would also reduce the potential of mistakes as there are fewer machine-person interactions and fewer nodes in communication.



Not sure about the LH procedure, but certainly reading off the PFD is always important. The PFD tells you what the plane is doing. The input device (MCP/ACP/FCU) only tells you what you've told the plane to do. "Fact" vs "rumour" as the saying goes.

I think we will gradually see more automation around the input received parameters, e.g. you receive a new FL via datalink, and this can automatically be fed to autoflight. But implementation will not be automatic for now.

IMHO any change in flight path from "outside" should be vetted. It doesn't take that long and more importantly, there are safety considerations. Any altitude/FL change requires extra care. Hence why we are required to confirm with the PM before actioning, and not just do it and get confirmation subsequently like with heading changes.

100% this. One additional thing to keep in mind is that texting allows you to make more gross errors when you fat-finger something. If a controller wants me to go left to heading 250, but hits 150 in a typo, and that input automatically goes into the box, then it'll take way more radio calls to sort out. The altitudes would be the most dangerous though: if an approach controller wants one plane at 3,000 and the other at 4,000, but typos 4,000 in both, then that assignment would pass the sniff test for the aircrews. If they can't hear the assignment to the other aircraft on the radio, there's no way to know that they may have a loss of separation. That's just introduced a new failure mode and removed a layer of Emmentaler (Swiss-cheese safety model).

On a more humorous note, it would be funny to have keyboard shortcuts in the flight deck with a big red "unable" button :D Again, how would the branching after that work? I always tell students, "you ever suggest a dinner option and you just hear 'no' from the other person? That's really annoying. ATC feels the same, so if you tell them 'unable,' give them some options, like 'unable A, but B or C would do.'"
 
frmrCapCadet
Posts: 5228
Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 8:24 pm

Re: Complicated, by design. But is it really?

Sat Dec 11, 2021 4:40 pm

Chart Plotters on small boats have useless 6 or 7 inch touch screens. Small boats bounce around too much for them to be accurate. Many people now use a larger iPad and the touch screen is easy to use. Teslas have a very large screen and a good voice command system. People find it easy to adapt and use it. Lesson, and per this thread, complication is in the eye of the beholder. It is good to hear that for a pilot that seemingly complicated array of buttons, screens, switches etc really can be beheld is simplifying compared to before.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Horstroad and 17 guests

Popular Searches On Airliners.net

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos