re: Risks articles

From:         m.t.palmer@larc.nasa.gov (Michael T. Palmer)
Organization: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA  USA
Date:         29 Jun 93 09:23:04 PDT
References:   1
Followups:    1
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In article <airliners.1993.481@ohare.Chicago.COM> ernst@Tymnet.COM (Dennis Ernst) writes:
[etc deleted from RISKS articles]
>All that is set to change. Yesterday the first test demonstration of
>equipment which will allow pilots and air traffic controllers to
>communicate through computers was held. An experimental BAC 1-11 "flying
>laboratory", belonging to the Defence Research Agency at Bedford, flew
>above East Anglia sending and receiving messages on its on-board computer.

[and also...]
>It is not quite true that this was the first demonstration of such
>capabilities. The European Space Agence (ESA), in cooperation with several
>organizations and airlines, demonstrated our PRODAT satellite mobile
>communication system with, among other features, ATC digital communication,
>starting in 1987.
>
>The trials included installations on several aircraft - including the very
>same BAC 1-11 quoted in the Independent article. One Airbus 310 was flying the
>equipment for more than a year, and ATC experimenters were collecting flight
>data on a regular basis, but the system was not actually part of the ATC
>operations of this aircraft. One dedicated flight, with a private Jetstream
>aircraft, between Madrid and London, was carried out with the PRODAT link as
>primary ATC communication channel (and voice as backup) for the part of the
>flight taking place in Spanish airspace.

While interesting, these tests are not necessarily the first or the most
extensive investigations of the use of digital datalink.  NASA Langley
Research Center in Hampton, VA has been conducting experiments in this area
using our Boeing B737-100 "flying laboratory" (which has two complete and
fully functional cockpits - a normal one up front for safety, and a full-size
experimental cab about where coach class would start) since the early '80s.

These tests have examined not only the visual formatting of the information
but also the procedures for use.  This includes using "Roger," "Roger/Enter,"
and "Unable" keys for handling ATC flight plans, modifications, and terminal
area vectors.  The "Roger/Enter" key is the interesting one, since it not
only sends back an acknowledgement but also enters the values into the
appropriate window(s) of the mode control panel.  NOTE, however, that the
pilot usually still must take another action to actually initiate any changes
in the aircraft's guidance, such as pressing the "EXEC" button on the CDU or
pressing the "Altitude Capture" button on the MCP.  Specific attention was
given in these trials to the interaction of the pilot with the datalink and
how it affected air/ground communication as well as cockpit procedures.

Current work (running from about 1989 to the present) includes national and
regional scale satellite weather radar in the datalink system.  I participated
in an initial evaluation of this concept which compared weather avoidance
performance using the datalink graphical weather presentation, a datalink
textual presentation similar to what was done earlier, and voice communication
with a simulated company dispatch.  This paper is currently in the review
process and should be published and distributed by October.

A follow-on experiment is nearly complete, in terms of collecting data.  The
analysis and writing will, of course, take a little while  :-).  Dr. Charles
H. Scanlon is the lead researcher in this experiment, and is responsible for
the development of the graphical weather concept and much of the datalink
work here at NASA Langley.  If anyone is interested in this work, let me know
and I'll put you in contact with him.


Michael T. Palmer         |  "A man is crazy who writes a secret in any
m.t.palmer@larc.nasa.gov  |   other way than one which will conceal it
RIPEM key on server       |   from the vulgar." - Roger Bacon, 1220-1292