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Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/06/2017 11:13 AM

Having just enjoyed the film Sully I wonder why aircraft onboard computers do not continually calculate options in case of an emergency. Knowing aircraft flight characterisitcs, position, height, velocity, fuel, surrounding weather conditions and status of nearby airports this could show pilots instantly the probability of any particular course of action being successful.

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#1

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/06/2017 11:26 AM

Doesn't seem practical to me.....probably doesn't exist....probably wouldn't work...

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#6
In reply to #1

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 1:51 AM

WHY don't you think this will work? It might take a bit of programming, and possibly some degree of R&D to accomplish two way connectivity of all the radios, and GPS to the computer, which will present the emergency options to the pilot; but, this seems VERY 'doable'!

I can easily see a computer keeping track of the exact location of the progress of the filed flight plan, the rest is really 'child's play', 'IF' you just think about it a bit! 'IF' something like an arduino, can keep track of the RPM of 8 electric motors, administer speed & direction corrections, and coordinate GPS information with speed, from a fixed starting point/distance from it's controller, AND coordinate all the camera controls, AND interpret & execute radio instructions for a toy drone, then why couldn't the stated goals for this task be easily accomplished with top of the line, redundant computers, dedicated to crunching the numbers at light speed? (Literally, if the motherboard uses optical communications; which, really isn't necessay.)

I can envision this being initiated when the pilot squawks an emergency code, then all the preprogrammed parameters, such as the length of runway needed for the given plane, then the touch screen presents (let's say) the 5 best options at your current ground speed. Then, one touch of the screen automatically makes the changes to the proper avionics like the direction finder radio, to the frequency of the chosen destination. The touch screen would also have a 'Changing Contingency' Button, so that the pilot can tell the computer they have just lost another engine, and the program recalculates with the new critical information, and determines if the first choice is still a valid option.

I think this is MORE than just doable, it is undoubtedly the future of new Aviation tech. If I can rattle off stuff like this from the top of my head, then it is probably on somebody's drawing board!

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 8:27 AM

Possible? Yes. Practical and cost effective? Not likely. Accepted by the general public...maybe when we're all dumbed down by dependence on computers/apps. Accepted by qualified pilots and their union? Not going to happen real soon. I'm sure someone is working on it...it's just going to be alooooong time before it happens. The computer systems on the space shuttle are pretty complex, there are multiple backup systems, and yet they still have the ability for the pilot to take command. Driverless cars are coming soon in certain areas, but planes that make their own decisions on the lives of hundreds of human passengers?

I wrote a lot of software for government/military applications and I can tell you this. If the application had lives at stake, it was the hardest code to write, the hardest code to test, and the most expensive! I still worry about code that I know is still out there somewhere!

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 10:00 AM

I take it you are not familiar with current and/or prospective aircraft technology.

"...programming, and possibly some degree of R&D to accomplish two way connectivity of all the radios, and GPS to the computer..."

All ready been done.

"...present the emergency options to the pilot..."

Has been in flight research (NASA) for many years, and even updated as technology evolves. Such systems are already coming online as passive advisors, ie; this system just failed, here are your recommended actions.

You are only looking at the technology aspects of the problem. We're well beyond that in the US and, I'm pretty sure, with Airbus. As for myself, I flew on a totally automated helicopter flight controlled by a ground computer in 1977. That was a NASA/Army project.

What needs to be resolved is, first and foremost, the cost to outfit the fleets. Even less agressive systems are held back by current costs to implement. The Feds always want the manufacturers/operators to absorb the costs and vice versa.

Then, getting the approvals/mandates through the political systems, primarily the FAA in the US. Then again, if approved in the US (or other jurisdiction), it still must be approved by the international aviation authorities to enable worldwide use. The politics are horrendous and many years in the making.

Finally there are less tangible issues like customer acceptance. Many, including me, (with over 2000 hours flight crew experience and >30 years working in the industry), avoid flying on Airbus a/c with their overly demanding flight director. The state of the technology (at current costs) shows that these systems are nearly as likely to cause accidents as to prevent or ameliorate them in everyday use.

What you describe probably isn't going to happen in my lifetime. Watch the struggles of getting self-driving cars allowed/accepted and then add an order or two of magnitude for commercial aircraft. The most positive aspect of this technology is that younger generations are much more accepting of putting their lives in the hands of technology than I am, and subsequent generations even more so.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 10:57 AM

Don't look for this flight management system on any aircraft for many years to come.

I'm not saying never happen, but as Hooker stated, introduction of new technology into modern aviation is a slow, deliberate incremental process. ( would have it any other way)

Case in point, GPS systems were developed 30 years ago, but not integrated into aircraft navigation until many years later.

Then, there's the controlled flight into terrain by Air France Flight 296 the first "fly-by-wire" commercial aircraft flown in passenger service, during a demonstration fly=by at an air show to ponder.

I think it will be awhile before we see this.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 12:16 PM

You are so right, Lyn. We're already putting too many lives at risk by early adoption.

Then there's the Air France Airbus that came out of Rio and headed northeast out over the Atlantic. At cruise altitude the flight director believed the aircraft was losing altitude and kept adjusting by pitching the aircraft up until the autopilot disconnected. When things didn't improve the pilots believed the flight director and tried to manually pull the nose up because every time they dropped the nose the stall warning came on. Eventually they stalled it at cruise speed, over-stressed the aircraft and it broke up.

The cause was the freezing up of the pitot system which gave a false indication of the aircraft descending. The flight director was apparently not programmed well enough to address the actual problem and the pilots were too reliant on the technology to assess the problem independently.

No experienced pilot in a more manually flown aircraft would miss a probable icing problem in the pitot system. There are a number of instruments that use the system that would display abnormal readouts that would make it easy to diagnose the problem. Put a computer between the sensors and the readouts and you're at the mercy of the programmers who don't fly airplanes.

There's an interesting report on the flight director problem here that indicates that while the computer knew about the freeze up Airbus had not provided a way for that info to be brought to the attention of the pilots.

Hooker

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#28
In reply to #11

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/08/2018 2:27 PM

So many young pilots coming in. Plus you can't "feel" the airplane using a joy stick. I guess now there are right handed pilots, and left handed pilots, but auto pilot is only one way. At least the Boeing gives some aspects of "old school" stick and rudder.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/08/2018 3:13 PM

".. Plus you can't "feel" the airplane using a joy stick. ..."

Seems like that would depend on the joystick. Feedback can be provided.

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#2

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/06/2017 11:53 AM

...."probability of any particular course of action being successful"...is also very dependent on the skills of the pilot. That's not something easily "calculated".

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/06/2017 12:49 PM

Yes, he's/she's called the "pilot in command" for a reason. All the lives on board are their responsibility. They are within their rights, at any time, to choose whether or not to follow the instructions of ATC.

I haven't seen the movie but have listened to the conversation between ATC and Sulley.

They directed him to divert to Teterboro but in his judgement the Hudson was a better alternative.

A computer may have also chosen Teterboro and the decision to divert there, while maybe technically correct, could have also proven fatal to all on board.

I'll entrust my life to the pilot and hope he wants to live as much as I do.

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#27
In reply to #3

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/05/2018 1:04 AM

I recall reading that Sully had been advised to divert to Teeterboro, but he based his decision on two considerations:

1) fewer casualties in event he didn't make Teeterboro

2) immediate availability of rescue craft in terms of vessels in area of midtown Manhattan

Would the glorified GPS that the OP recommended take such factors into consideration?

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#30
In reply to #3

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/14/2018 4:12 PM

My dad 'had' to retire at age 60 in 1980, (as was required by all airlines). Most pilots felt that they were in their prime. Now a 'daze', (with so much input, and so little 'flying') older pilots are retiring. The newer crop of pilots, don't learn to 'fly' as much get trained on how to program the airplane. Which is fine but once the program is inputted, there is a bit of complacency.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/14/2018 11:07 PM

The FAA upped it to 65. Last year he was deemed unqualified to transport passengers after flying since he graduated from Annapolis in1973.

Agree with you 100%.

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/14/2018 11:40 PM
  • My son became a pilot 17 years ago. I was told by his commander that he was a very good pilot because "he is a gammer". video games do contribute to hand eye coordination.
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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/15/2018 3:44 AM

He probably meant 'he is a gamer'.

A gammer is an old country woman. Gamming on the other hand means getting together socially, gossipping, engaging in scuttlebutt.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/15/2018 10:49 AM

It's all a game.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/15/2018 4:17 PM

That model can have utility.

Even gamming about gamers like a gaggle of gammers is a game, I guess.

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#4

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/06/2017 11:11 PM

Experienced human pilots are the best computers in emergencies.

This is becoming more obvious in the resistance to overbearing flight computers installed in Airbus aircraft that often take decision making away from pilots in favor of pre-programmed decision making that is usually wrong, or at least not optimal.

Hooker

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#5

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 12:25 AM

Thank goodness for professional pilots, I hardly doubt anytime soon will be seeing ejection seats on commercial airliners.

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#7

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 2:32 AM

Many people forget or do not know that Sully in addition to his military experience as a pilot, was an accomplished glider pilot.

This gave him the advantage of familiarity with unpowered flight.

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#12

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 1:08 PM

The point is to speed up the calculations and present the results to the pilots, not to take control away from them or to fly the aeroplane automatically.

If power is lost then the distance to a particular airport, the altitude difference and the best glide angle for the current all-up weight have to be known to judge whether it can be reached. There will usually be two turns involved and the wind direction and strength will be important. If it is going to be a close call the type of terrain en route, obstructions and population centres may also matter.

Rather than looking for changes to cockpit displays a plug-in tablet-type device might be suitable. There could be an option to share this data with ATC, which would then instantly have access to the same information as the pilots in an emergency.

During normal flight the device would continually display data for accessibilty and courses to the nearest airports in case of total power loss, and of airports with various facilities in case of other flight difficulties, health or security problems on board. It might also be able to warn if the planned destination of the flight exceeded the range of the fuel on board, as in the 'Gimli Glider' incident and perhaps the recent tragedy involving the Chapacoense football team on LM12933.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/07/2017 1:28 PM

Don't take the movie too seriously.

This system would never find its way onto general aviation aircraft and the instances of commercial, multiengine aircraft losing ALL engine power and crashing is almost unheard of, even though at any given time there are 3-4 thousand aircraft in the air around the world.

What you want is impractical and not necessary.

Take a train or drive if you think air travel is unsafe.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 12:19 AM

Ray:

a plug in tablet type device / if the plane was jostled the user could drop it at a rather inopportune time.

The range of fuel on board / I always thought that on an aeroplane's dashboard, a fuel gauge was standard equipment.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 8:05 AM

For most commercial flights where the aircraft has a flight director (computer) the flight planning (routes, frequencies, etc) are entered into a tablet in the office and then transferred to the flight director before the aircraft is cleared to leave the gate. Just like in the cabin there aren't many unsecured objects in the cockpit during takeoff/landing. All objects must have mounts that have been designed to survive at least 7 G's static crash loading and the design must have been reviewed and approved by the FAA for US aircraft flying under a commercial certificate.

For smaller aircraft without a permanent flight director/GPS the tablets are usually secured to the pilots's legs with velcro straps to prevent them wandering around. And a removable GPS is installed in a secure mount on the instrument panel.

Regarding fuel - yes, passenger aircraft have fuel gauges but are not normally fully loaded with fuel as the full fuel load with a full load of passengers and cargo is usually over the weight limitations for a safe takeoff/landing. Fuel load is calculated for the trip plus 30 minutes for safety in case of a diversion, and then maximum passenger/cargo load can be calculated. This is why the route and load determines the class of aircraft used; short, medium or long haul. Also, fuel loads are described in pounds instead of gallons to make for less possibility of error during calculations.

Planning, especially for passenger flights, is meticulous for all flights. At least in the US. Remember, the pilots are usually the first at the scene of a crash.

Some of this info may be dated as I've been retired for several years but should mostly still apply.

Hooker

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 10:22 AM

From: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

  • Taxi fuel
  • Trip fuel (to reach intended destination)
  • Contingency fuel (higher of 5% of "trip fuel" or 5 minutes of holding flight)[10% trip fuel for international flights]
  • Destination alternate fuel (to fly a missed and reach an alternate)
  • Final reserve fuel (45 minutes of holding flight for reciprocating engines, 30 minutes for jets)
  • Additional fuel (if needed to guarantee ability to reach an alternate with an engine failure or at lower altitude due to a pressurization loss)
  • Discretionary fuel (if the pilot in command wants it)

Commercial air transport aircraft usually do not carry too much extra fuel because it costs to carry it on the aircraft.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 11:54 AM

Thanks. I figured it was probably more complex but I was too lazy to look it up.

For the last ten years or so I've only been working with aircraft for lease or charter service. Scheduled passenger flight is more demanding.

Hooker

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 12:13 PM

AFIK, (2010) American Airlines still carries 65 minutes of reserve on all flights.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 1:10 PM

Yeah, there are FAA regulations (FAR's), IACO regulations and then the airlines often have SOP's that exceed the official requirements.

The company I worked for far exceeded FAA and international requirements in general, especially when operating in international environments. For example I usually designed stuff to far exceed the 6 G crash requirements as long as it didn't impede the mission.

We depended heavily on customer satisfaction and aircrew confidence, and reputation helped grease the skids when crossing borders. Sometimes with a few greenbacks, especially in Africa.

Hooker

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#15

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 2:17 AM

Airline travel measured per passenger mile is exceedingly safe. It is far safer than automobiles, trains and busses.

General aviation is not nearly as safe as airline travel. If you are concerned about traveling in your own plane, perhaps consider WARPS

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#21

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 6:55 PM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airline_flights_that_required_gliding

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/08/2017 7:29 PM

Good for you!

You have discovered how totally unneeded such a system as you describe really is.

As you have demonstrated, the odds of a required engine out glide are incalculably astronomically small.

31+ a few odd ones over 65 years of reported incidents, if we average that out to even 1,000 flights/day comes out to 23,725,000 flights and that doesn't include intermediate stops.

Total fatalities? 681.

Total passenger miles flown? Billions! You do the math.

Does this justify millions, or billions, of dollars /untold hours spent on a system that may be required once every 2-3 years worldwide when 14 of the 31 incidents did not result in lost lives?

It's not worth it.

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#23

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/09/2017 3:35 AM

The reason the pilot is put at the front of the aircraft is to use the individual's survival instincts in order to protect the others on board.

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#24

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/09/2017 4:19 AM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_starvation

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#25
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Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

01/09/2017 9:09 AM

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#26

Re: Aircraft Realtime Emergency Options

11/03/2018 11:48 PM

This air craft did have state of the art onboard computer, called "Sully". He is a HOOF......hands on old fart.

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