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ikramerica
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Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:26 pm

Considering the recent crash and the constant refrain regarding why the pilots may not have signaled their distress until it was too late, I was wondering with the advance of technology if the above mantra is still applicable? Is communication more important than it's made out to be?

It makes sense in the world of 3 or 4 man cockpits where navigation and communication were full manual functions, and where the controls were a confusing and arcane maze of nobs and switches and cable actuated controls with almost no automation, and it makes sense in lower tech single pilot cockpits and many G/A situations, but in a modern jetliner, the time it would take to simply indicate distress and squawk out your location would be minimal. And if it is still too difficult, why can't a distress switch be installed that requires a rapid flip-flip-flip motion to activate (would take 1 second, but wouldn't happen accidentally), and would then automatically indicate distress on all channels to all parties: ATC, manufacturer, airline and push out location, engine vitals, etc. as well as open CVR to a channel where it can be recorded remotely? I mean, such a system would be relatively inexpensive, at least when compared to the costs of massive searches for aircraft. And if it means getting rescue scrambled sooner and heading the right direction, it could mean saving lives in a crash that wasn't 100% catastrophic.
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SPREE34
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:51 pm

No. Aviate, or all will be lost. Navigate, lest the ground smite thee. Communicate is right where it belongs.

Your flip of the switch device, were it implemented, would probably fall into an emergency checklist that falls under the "Aviate" column. Communicate addresses ATC, cabin crew, and eventually the company.

With the recent most crash, and we don't know the cause, I wonder why flight was continued into questionable weather conditions. If you need to deviate for weather, and ATC refuses, you deviate anyway and "advise" ATC what you are doing. The Captains decision as to the safety of flight overrides all others.
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rwessel
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:59 pm

No. The people at the other end of the radio are no help at all in resolving an immediate crisis involving the airplane.

I really don't want pilots in the midst of a flying emergency working on *anything* not pertaining to getting the situation back under control. Even if there was a quick "send distress signal" switch, it should not be expected that any pilot in the middle of an emergency would (or should) take time to it it. Not even if it takes only a second. And remember that in an emergency the crew is probably looking at massive information and analytical overload anyway. Do you really want to add to that?

Here's the scenario. Something bad has happened, and unless the pilots get the airplane under control, you're going to die. Do you want:

1) The pilots to have a chat with the local center about how badly their day is going? And remember that center will not be able to contribute anything to restoring control of the aircraft anyway.

2) The pilots take enough time to consider the scope of the emergency and activate the "send distress signal" switch, possibly when every second may count?

-or-

3) Fly the dang airplane?

I vote for #3.

When things calm down enough, then sure.

Which is not to say that there isn't room for improvements in tracking and possibly an automatic beacon that operates after a crash. IMO, some combination of detachable beacon and enhanced position reporting is likely (and there is a group working on standard for enhancements in that area). OTOH, no system will be perfect. If (say) MH370 was a deliberate action, and comms were lost because they were specifically disabled, you're never going to manage to defend against that 100%.
 
mmo
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:14 pm

Before I wrote a response, I did check your profile, so I could try to put an answer in perspective.

The problem with your assumptions is at the end of the day, even the latest aircraft off the production line is still nothing more than an airplane. It flies just like a J-3 cub and in spite of all the automation, remembering that will keep you out of trouble. ALL of the automation does not work ALL of the time. I have flown with new pilots who are extremely reliant on automation and you have to force time to turn the automation off and fly the aircraft like it was a Cessna. Keeping those skills honed is what will keep people out of trouble. Look at the Air France accident in the South Atlantic. Had those pilots aviated first, they would be here today.

One problem, as I see it with automation, is people tend to get tunnel vision when dealing with automation. If the aircraft isn't doing what is expected, people can get fixated on the issue rather than just flying the aircraft. As soon as that happens, all situational awareness is gone. Not talking on the radio will not get you killed. Not flying the aircraft will.

Just my opinion....
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AIRWALK
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Thu Jan 08, 2015 11:53 pm

No. The important thing to remember is that at every stage up until the actual crash, the flight crew are not preparing for a crash. (for accidents that have a sudden onset and thus leave no time for communication). They are attempting to control the aircraft with the outlook that an accident will be avoided. The radio won’t help, the only purpose of alerting them would be for post-accident SAR which isn't what the flight crew are planning for. It’s all about the situation itself. For example if you were involved in a car accident (in an isolated place), which rendered the car uncontrollable, you would have your hands on the wheel and be working the pedals/breaks. You would be doing everything you can to avert the situation. The last thing you will be thinking is let me alert someone of my position, even if it was as easy as toggling a button on the wheel, simply because you aren't thinking I am going to crash, if you were, you might as well close your eyes and hope for the best.

Quoting mmo (Reply 3):
One problem, as I see it with automation, is people tend to get tunnel vision when dealing with automation. If the aircraft isn't doing what is expected, people can get fixated on the issue rather than just flying the aircraft. As soon as that happens, all situational awareness is gone. Not talking on the radio will not get you killed. Not flying the aircraft will.

Exactly. Perfect example is EA 401 or other similar accidents. The more automation/technology there is, the more confusing it becomes. In extreme situations where the aircraft isn't performing the way you would expect it to, the simpler the better. Allows you to actually focus on the problem and rectify it.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:06 am

I'll chime in with the above posters and add this.

One of the central points that is hard to grasp if you haven't flown an airplane (or raced a motorcycle or some other "full immersion" task) is "task saturation" and how it affects your thinking.

Bear with me here.

The famous motorcycle instructor and writer Keith Code has a useful analogy that we can use. He says the amount of attention you can give in total is like a $10 bill. When you start riding motorcycles, a large part of your $10 is spent on things like shifting, steering, braking and throttling. You have little left over for looking out for traffic and planning. However as you progress the mechanical actions become muscle memory and thus you need to spend less of your $10 to perform then. You now have more of your $10 for other tasks.

Going from zero and on to commercial, IFR and multi, I found that I was repeatedly in the situation where I had no more of my $10 bill to spend. In the first few minutes of the first flight just holding altitude, direction and speed probably took up $9 of my attention span. Not much left for looking for traffic, navigation, navigation and planning. After getting my PPL, holding heading and altitude used more like $1 (with autopilot $0.10). I could do them instinctively, and thus had a bunch of my money left over to look out for traffic, navigate and communicate. However on a gusty final approach aviating would take up much more of my spending, which explains why during critical phases of flight one should not be distracted.

Then I went on to IFR or multi, but task saturation did not go away. On my last multi proficiency check, the instructor "disabled" the HSI and made me do an approach under the hood without it. I was probably spending $7 just aviating (hate that darned Whiskey compass), with $1 monitoring instruments, $1 keeping track of progress on the approach plate. $0.50 on checklists and $0.50 on communication. My instructor had to make some calls because I had a hard time keeping up with them. I was discarding communicating because my $10 bill was already spent but I still had more stuff to buy.

Here the kicker: What happens during task saturation? You have to discard stuff you don't have time for. More importantly, you start getting stressed and more easily miss items and make mistakes. Just deciding what do discard can be very stressful. Having a simple rule like aviate, navigate, communicate allows pilots do instinctively prioritize. There's a reason some people call the simulator, "The Panic Box". It's because the instructors try to saturate you in order to see if you can prioritize the important tasks and keep going.

My experience is with light aircraft. Airliners are an order of magnitude more complex, meaning managing emergencies becomes that much more complex. Airliners are also heavier, more powerful and slower to respond, all factors which make an already complex emergency more difficult. Task saturation is easily reached and only training can overcome the problem.

Going back to a hypothetical out of control airplane, if the pilots are already spending their total of $20 on aviating and going through emergency checklists, they have nothing left to spend on a distress call or even a button. More importantly, if you remove part of their spending from the critical tasks and into pressing an extraneous button, this increases the stress level and the potential for mistakes. There's no time, and more importantly no attention span, left over in a dire emergency for even the slightest extra task.
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CplKlinger
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:12 am

I'm no where near a pilot, and I vote no. If you are in the midst of a car crash (say you've lost control on an icy interstate), do you pick up the phone mid spin to call the police? No! You take care of the situation at hand (aviate), get the car to safe spot (navigate) then call the police (communicate). I wish the rest of the armchair pilots on this site would trust that in some situations, pilots aren't going to be able to call for help. Period, end of sentence.

If you want to see a good example of why aviate, navigate and communicate works, look up the CVR and ATC tapes for Sullenberger's dip in the Hudson. Very short, concise information when he had the chance, but you could tell his first focus in that situation was flying the plane.
 
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fr8mech
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:28 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):

Excellent. Wish I had this analogy when I was instructing with the fire service.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
Here the kicker: What happens during task saturation?

I'll add that if you begin to panic, you don't have $10 to spend anymore. The more you panic, the less money you have to go around.
When seconds count, the police are minutes away, or may not come at all.
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n92r03
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:41 am

Quoting ikramerica (Thread starter):

Great questions, excellent suggestions and I have wondered about this as well, however I was not able to put it in words as you did.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):

Excellent, thorough explanation that makes it much easier for us laymen to understand completely.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:57 am

Quoting fr8mech (Reply 7):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
Here the kicker: What happens during task saturation?

I'll add that if you begin to panic, you don't have $10 to spend anymore. The more you panic, the less money you have to go around.

Perfectly put. That's exactly how it feels when task saturation moves into stress, anxiety and finally panic. All of sudden simple things are no longer simple.

Quoting CplKlinger (Reply 6):
If you want to see a good example of why aviate, navigate and communicate works, look up the CVR and ATC tapes for Sullenberger's dip in the Hudson. Very short, concise information when he had the chance, but you could tell his first focus in that situation was flying the plane.

Another good, albeit sad, example of this is the Alaska Airlines MD-80 crash. The pilots only communicated with ATC when the plane was in a somewhat stable condition. From the "beginning of the end" to impact, there was no more communication.

[Edited 2015-01-08 21:04:48]

[Edited 2015-01-08 21:06:33]
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
Max Q
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:57 am

No, there's simply no substitute for that concept.



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ikramerica
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:26 am

I can see the points about communicating and hailing ATC and the time it would take and the drain on brain capital it would be, depending on the circumstance.

But the implementation of a "flick-flick-flick" on a special switch in the checklist of the pilot not on the stick still seems minimal. Obviously not something that would work in ALL situations, as if you are trying to fly out of a stall you won't have time but in other situations you will.

How does letting the world know your situation and location further risk the lives of passengers when it might lead to their safe rescue?

And I don't agree with the comparison of being in a car wreck for a few reasons. Car wrecks happen within 1 or 2 seconds, often from no warning to impact. Having been in a highspeed wreck, it's just not the same as an cockpit situation. You don't go through checklists and check systems etc. If something fails you pull over if possible, end of story. If something hits you, you are already in a wreck.

I guess I'm thinking outside the box, that training is based on the historical nature of aviation, but technology is such that if a new paradigm is thought of and implemented, far more information could be imparted to the outside world with minimal to no effort on the part of the flight crew. Heck, the "communication" could be automated so that once abnormal inputs are detected by the onboard systems, the squawk is transmitted automatically every minute until canceled.

One thing I've learned reading all these post crash threads is that it isn't just the safety of the aircraft in question we are talking about, but the future safety of other flights, and one would think, even with the doomed flight lost, the faster we can understand the cause, the safer everyone will be and the sooner any changes in equipment or procedures can be implemented.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:48 am

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
But the implementation of a "flick-flick-flick" on a special switch in the checklist of the pilot not on the stick still seems minimal. Obviously not something that would work in ALL situations, as if you are trying to fly out of a stall you won't have time but in other situations you will.

How does letting the world know your situation and location further risk the lives of passengers when it might lead to their safe rescue?

There's already a provision for a non-verbal distress signal; Setting the transponder to squawk 7700. Takes only moments. Once 7700 is set, alarms go off at ATC. Barring oceanic airspace and other areas without radar coverage, ATC will know the position already.

Centrally though: What's the point? If the situation is so bad that don't have enough bandwidth to make a distress call, ATC will not be able to help you either.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
One thing I've learned reading all these post crash threads is that it isn't just the safety of the aircraft in question we are talking about, but the future safety of other flights, and one would think, even with the doomed flight lost, the faster we can understand the cause, the safer everyone will be and the sooner any changes in equipment or procedures can be implemented.

Accident investigations typically take months to years anyway, and the recommendations take even longer to filter through the industry. An extra week or two finding the recorders doesn't make much of a difference.
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AIRWALK
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 9:07 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):

Spot on. Although no where near as far as you (still wrapping up my PPL), I can relate exactly to what you are saying. When you have a lot to focus on, you will start shedding responsibilities. I remember being so overwhelmed the first time I flew circuits that I completely forgot important things that now come as second nature. The more you progress the less of that $10 is used allowing improvement/learning in other areas. The more experienced you become, the less burden these responsibilities take. No matter how experienced however, when something happens that diverts your attention you will start shedding responsibilities, communicating being high on that list.

Quoting fr8mech (Reply 7):
I'll add that if you begin to panic, you don't have $10 to spend anymore. The more you panic, the less money you have to go around.

Exactly, or another way of looking at it is that the panic itself takes up a sizable chunk off that $10. Panic, although detrimental might start taking priority, pushing other responsibilities out of the way. Time or head space is wasted on the panic.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
But the implementation of a "flick-flick-flick" on a special switch in the checklist of the pilot not on the stick still seems minimal.

Remember there is no checklist for a crash. A crash cannot be modeled, too many varying factors. One crash is never the same as another. I am referring to crashes with a catastrophic onset of course. Ones that build up and give the pilots enough time to organize and pull out checklists would usually give them enough time to radio in.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
How does letting the world know your situation and location further risk the lives of passengers when it might lead to their safe rescue?

It might just do that. The time and effort it takes to organize your head space to convey your situation may take valuable time off other more important in the moment things you could be doing. It is easy enough now to form a sentence in our heads what we would say over the radio, but in the moment it is not so easy.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
And I don't agree with the comparison of being in a car wreck for a few reasons. Car wrecks happen within 1 or 2 seconds, often from no warning to impact.

What about an incident where you lose control on an icy road. You can see an obstacle in front of you, about 10 seconds away from impact. Your car however is out of control sliding towards it. Its not so much the time that matters, but in a situation like that no matter how short you realize what actions you would have taken.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
Heck, the "communication" could be automated so that once abnormal inputs are detected by the onboard systems, the squawk is transmitted automatically every minute until canceled.

I wonder if there is any merit to a system where if you leave the flight envelope protections or something similar, the communications line is automatically opened up, similar to the pilot actually pressing the communications button. Not so the pilots can talk, but so radar can hear and get a general idea of what is going on by what the pilots are saying. At least it might make SAR started sooner. Of course I can see the impracticality of such a system, but something similar might be useful.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:27 am

Quoting AIRWALK (Reply 13):
Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
Heck, the "communication" could be automated so that once abnormal inputs are detected by the onboard systems, the squawk is transmitted automatically every minute until canceled.

I wonder if there is any merit to a system where if you leave the flight envelope protections or something similar, the communications line is automatically opened up, similar to the pilot actually pressing the communications button. Not so the pilots can talk, but so radar can hear and get a general idea of what is going on by what the pilots are saying. At least it might make SAR started sooner. Of course I can see the impracticality of such a system, but something similar might be useful.

That sort of implementation makes some sense to me. However there are hurdles to overcome regarding false positives.

There is, however, one thing which is important to look into before all this money is spent: Is this sort of system worth investing in at the expense of other things that can make aviation safer? If an airliner or two crashes every year and is not found almost immediately, is it worth spending all this money to find them a little bit sooner*? Would not this money be better spent on things that can save many more lives, and prevention of incidents that happen so much more often. Runway incursion prevention and runway overruns with poor traction come to mind.

The industry only has so much money to spend on safety. Let's spend it where it can do the most good.


* MH370 is such an oddball that I won't account it.

[Edited 2015-01-09 02:27:35]
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mmo
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:27 pm

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
But the implementation of a "flick-flick-flick" on a special switch in the checklist of the pilot not on the stick still seems minimal. Obviously not something that would work in ALL situations, as if you are trying to fly out of a stall you won't have time but in other situations you will

As has been pointed out already, the PNF can always squawk 7700 and now you have everyone's attention. So, all you are suggesting is another way of doing what is already available. To be honest, one is enough. But, when things go south very quickly, you still need to aviate, navigate and communicate in that order.

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
I guess I'm thinking outside the box, that training is based on the historical nature of aviation, but technology is such that if a new paradigm is thought of and implemented, far more information could be imparted to the outside world with minimal to no effort on the part of the flight crew. Heck, the "communication" could be automated so that once abnormal inputs are detected by the onboard systems, the squawk is transmitted automatically every minute until canceled.

Again, in essence that type of data streaming is already available. The easiest thing to do is make ACARS and SATCOM mandatory and you have live data streaming from just about every system in the aircraft. The big problem would be to retrofit older aircraft that don't have the data bus to collect the data. If ACARS was mandatory, then you have all your data you need for accident prevention. Currently if there is an exceedence, that event triggers an alert and that would be what you want.
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Brick
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:54 pm

I don't think the car crash analogy works in this discussion. As others have mentioned, the entire life cycle of a car crash is just a few seconds. Plus, if I do have an accident it is likely going to be in a heavily populated area. If I get T-boned in an intersection or rear end someone on the interstate, there are going to be a lot of other people around that can provide post-crash assistance saving me from having to call 911 myself.

A better analogy using a car would be you are driving winding mountain roads that have a steep drop-off just on the other side of the guard rail. You go around a corner too fast, hit a patch of ice, and you start heading directly towards the guardrail. In the next 5 seconds are you going to do everything you can do to not go through the guardrail and over the cliff to your probable death? Or are you going to try and call 911 so you can advise them of where to start looking for your body?
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FlyHossD
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RE: Is Aviate/Navigate/Communicate Outmoded?

Sat Jan 10, 2015 6:22 am

Quoting SPREE34 (Reply 1):
No. Aviate, or all will be lost. Navigate, lest the ground smite thee. Communicate is right where it belongs.

  

Quoting rwessel (Reply 2):
No. The people at the other end of the radio are no help at all in resolving an immediate crisis involving the airplane.

  

Quoting AIRWALK (Reply 4):
No.

  

Quoting Max Q (Reply 10):
No, there's simply no substitute for that concept.

  

Quoting ikramerica (Reply 11):
How does letting the world know your situation and location further risk the lives of passengers when it might lead to their safe rescue?

   That is and not and should not be your (first) priority.

Why not use your intellectual power to prevent the rescue in the first place? Let me put it this way - let's say that someone was about to assault you - should you first defend yourself or call 9-1-1-?
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