People factor critical, FAA says
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 01, 2000
To ease the modernization of the National Airspace System, the Federal Aviation
Administration needs money to research how people can better adjust to new
technology, agency officials said Wednesday.
Funding for research to address the human-computer interface and change
management issues associated with introducing new air traffic control technology
at FAA is necessary to improve and hasten modernization of the National
Airspace System, FAA officials said.
To be as modern as possible, the Federal Aviation Administration needs
money to research how people interact with computers, particularly with
new air traffic control technology, agency officials said.
The FAA has requested $25.1 million to study "human factors" and aviation
medicine as part of its $184 million research, engineering and development
request for fiscal 2001.
"Human factors represent our most significant challenge in the aviation
world," said Steven Zaidman, FAA's associate administrator for research
and acquisitions, during a hearing before the House Science Committee's
Research on how people handle computers is necessary to smooth the transition
to new air traffic control systems, he said.
New systems that require controllers and pilots to adapt include Free
Flight, which gives pilots information to choose the most efficient flight
paths, and the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, which would
replace displays, software and computers at more than 170 terminal air traffic
Issues to be addressed include how new automated controller tools will
affect how controllers are hired and trained, said Alexis Stefani, assistant
inspector general for auditing at the Transportation Department, in testimony
submitted to the subcommittee. "In addition, research is needed on the impact
on pilots from new data link communications and cockpit display technologies,"
STARS, for instance, ended up $460 million over budget, largely because
FAA didn't consider how to set up the technology to make it as easy as possible
for controllers to use, according to Stefani's testimony.
Other priorities FAA relayed to the subcommittee include:
* A new $5.5 million research and development investment to find tools
to detect and protect against infrastructure threats and cyberattacks.
* Continuing relationships with the Defense Department and NASA to develop
new technologies to reduce aircraft noise and to research aging aircraft
systems. Robert Doll, chairman of the FAA Research Engineering and Development
Advisory Committee, expressed concern in his testimony that NASA's investment
in aviation research will be phased out in the next few years. NASA is better
suited to conduct research than FAA, which is a regulatory and operational
agency, Doll said.