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St Mary’s to Host Research Seminar on Aviation Safety

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The School of Management and Social Sciences at St Mary’s University, Twickenham is to host a research seminar on the future of aviation safety on 2nd December. The seminar entitled Helping Pilots Get Back in Control: Accessing the Human Performance Envelope in Civil Aviation will be delivered by lecturer at the Cranfield University Safety and Accident Investigation Centre Dr Jim Nixon. Dr Nixon will argue that despite our highly automated aircraft operating with extraordinary levels of safety, there is still scope to improve pilot safety. The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Global Fatal Accident Review (CAP1036) reported that worldwide, the fatal accident rate between 2002 and 2011 was 0.6 per million flights flown. Aircraft are complex sociotechnical systems in which highly trained operators and high integrity engineering work together to deliver safe flight every day. All aircraft operate within a flight envelope, which is defined by the limits of the aircraft’s structural and control capabilities. For example, there is an upper limit to the height at which aircraft can fly or the rate at which they can turn. Outside of these limits, structural damage to the aircraft or loss of control can occur. Recovery from highly unusual turn or climb rates can become increasingly difficult. In the Global Fatal Accident Review, the most frequently identified primary causal factor in serious accidents was flight handling and skill. That is, the ability of the pilot to effectively fly the aircraft. Dr Nixon’s research is looking to characterise the human performance envelope in a similar way in which we can specify and use the engineering performance envelope. He argues that if we can reliably detect when a pilot is approaching or exceeding their performance envelope we may be able to assist in reducing the likelihood of catastrophic outcomes. This assistance may include the deployment of automation that could itself recover control of the aircraft, or targeted guidance or warnings, which would guide the pilot back to a safe zone within their own human performance envelope. The lecture is free and open to the public without prior registration, and will take place at 4pm in room G1 at the University’s Strawberry Hill Campus.
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