Human factor issues related to flight deck automation require thorough knowledge of airline pilots’ perceptions of advanced automated aircraft. This understanding is important in designing effective training programmes and developing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of an airline that are needed to fly these aircraft safely. The purpose of this study was to identify the core components of advanced flight deck automation and to construct a valid and reliable instrument to measure the perceptions of airline pilots with regard to automated flight deck systems on modern commercial jet aircraft. An Automation Attitude Questionnaire, the AAQ, was constructed and distributed to all the pilots employed at a major South African carrier. The subsequent data, received from 262 respondents, was interpreted and then analysed using the SPSS and StatsPac statistical software packages. Exploratory factor analysis indicated that five distinct factors were responsible for a significant portion of the variability in pilots’ perceptions of advanced flight deck automation systems and training on those systems. After analysis, these factors were labelled ‘comprehension’, ‘training’, ‘trust’, ‘workload’ and ‘design’. The results indicated that those pilots who operated mainly Airbus-manufactured aircraft types had a statistically significantly more positive perception of the design of the automation system than those of their counterparts who flew mainly Boeing-manufactured aeroplanes. Co-pilots who operated primarily on the company’s long-range aircraft expressed significantly more positive perceptions of advanced flight deck automation training than the line captains dedicated to long-range flying. It was found that captains flying the company’s short-range aircraft also held a more positive perception of automation training than captains operating long-range aircraft. The biographical variables of age, years of flying experience and total flying hours, appeared to be negatively related to both the comprehension and training dimensions of advanced flight deck automation. However, the mere opportunity to fly these advanced automated aircraft seemed to affect pilots’ perceptions of these systems more positively than negatively. Finally, the overall responses of the majority of participants in this study were very positive with regard to the five core factors related to perceptions of advanced flight deck automation. It is suggested that future studies of this nature should incorporate a larger sample consisting of cross-cultural carriers in the global industry. This will confirm the external validity of the present study and support the transfer of findings to other airline pilot populations.
Dissertation (MPhil)--University of Pretoria, 2009.