Training Pilots in the Employment of FIAPA
Gary Bell and Greg Cox, FAA, Flight Inspection Services, Aircraft Configuration Team
Location: Regency Ballroom
Date/Time: Thursday, Apr. 19, 2:35 p.m.
This paper discusses the training program developed to train pilots in the Flight Inspection Airborne Processor Application (FIAPA). This training involved an understanding of the system, components of the system, system operation, differences from the previous flight inspection system, techniques for system use, risks associated with this system and mitigations for those risks.
FIAPA is a key piece of the Flight Inspection System currently being fielded by the FAA. NAFIS Phase II consists of both hardware and software changes. FIAPA is the proprietary software program used to collect, analyze and log flight inspection data. This data is then used to evaluate the functionality of navigational aids and procedures. FIAPA functions in the flight inspection aircraft, in the office on a desk top computer, or in the field on a laptop computer.
The FIAPA system operates in three modes: Real-Time mode, Re-Run mode, and Replay mode. In the Real-Time Mode, FIAPA collects and processes data from the flight inspection aircraft’s sensors. Inspection results are immediately available. FIAPA also logs this real-time data into a raw log file. Using this raw log data, the Re-Run Mode allows the operator the option to alter the inspection settings, then processing the raw logged data as if the aircraft had flown another inspection pass. The Real-Time and Re-Run modes re-calculate inspection results. FIAPA also operates in a Replay mode allowing the operator to view the results of a previous inspection. The data used in the Replay mode is the results data from the flight inspection mode used to perform analysis during Real-Time or Re-Run operation. Replay Mode does not re-calculate previously collected data. It simply provides visibility of the results of a previous inspection pass.
FIAPA utilizes multithreading technology in order to create a responsive graphical user interface (GUI) and to ensure the availability of processor time for the analysis and collection of real-time flight inspection data. This GUI is designed to be more user friendly and intuitive. In addition to collecting facility data and providing results of Real Time inspections, re-calculation of previously collected inspection data (Re-Run) and displaying the results of previously analyzed inspections data (Replay), the GUI continuously monitors system diagnostics and provides notification of out of tolerance conditions during real Time and Re-Run mode inspection passes.
While this has been a paradigm shift in operating procedures for the Mission Specialist, the pilots’ normal procedures have changed dramatically as well. Congruent to the installation of NAFIS Phase II with FIAPA, Flight Inspection Team (FIT) has also installed Cabin WiFi which enables the pilot through the use of Virtual Network Computing technology (VNC). VNC is a graphical desktop sharing system. It transmits the monitor images from one computer to another. In our application, VNC allows the pilots to see the Mission Specialists workstation. The pilot interface is a small tablet computer (iPad Air II) which is mounted in view of the pilots and is the electronic flight bag (EFB) interface.
The VNC capability, combined with the enormous leap in functionality provided by FIAPA, provides the pilot substantially more information concerning the ongoing, or previous, flight inspection data collection passes and data analysis. We have found that this combination can significantly increase the efficiency of the flight inspection by leveraging the combined awareness of pilot and Mission Specialist during the ongoing data collection pass to improve the shared mental model of the tasks at hand. By providing a common visual reference, it also reduces verbal communication requirements. It can also greatly enhance the efficiency of the aircraft flight path during a series of inspection runs by providing the pilot direct access to the current relationship between facility and sensor. However, the GUI, designed for the Mission Specialist, not the pilot, does not provide information in a format designed for navigation. The display is designed to be viewed on two full sized monitors. The VNC provided replication of the display on the iPad will usefully display no more than approximately one sixth of the working display. In order to maximize the usefulness of the information available, the pilots must be familiar with the FIAPA GUI. Our training program emphasized the information available and the location of the information within the GUI. As developmental testing progressed, various techniques were discovered that were found to increase the efficiency of the flight path achievable through access of facility signal data.
The objective of the pilot training was to produce a pilot able to safely and effectively support flight inspection using a NAFIS Phase II (FIAPA) configured aircraft. To that end, the pilot must be able to: Understand NAFIS Phase II (FIAPA) vs. NAFIS Phase I component differences; Know FIAPA operating procedures; Know FIAPA terms and labels; Know how to conduct and report RNAV inspections; Be introduced in how to monitor inspections using iPad/VNC
Training was developed in conjunction with developmental testing. Initially only those pilots involved with developmental testing were exposed to the capabilities provided by FIAPA. As developmental testing drew to a close, additional pilots, selected to be initial cadre instructors, were introduced to the VNC/iPad FIAPA information. This group then became the instructors when formal training commenced. The training program consisted of ground training of approximately 8 hours, and flight training consisting of a 4-day inspection itinerary in a FIAPA configured aircraft, or a single training flight in which the pilot training was the sole training event.
Both methods were used and provided acceptable results. Generally, crew task management and inspection efficiency improved, due both to increased situational awareness, and improved communications between crew members. The design of the GUI and information provided was found to be an effective reference system. An advantage was found for the Mission Specialists in orienting themselves to the current aircraft position as well as providing a reliable predictor of time remaining until the next inspection pass. The pilots benefitted greatly from additional awareness of the facility status, but more importantly, in the ability to monitor the status of the preparation for the next run. On several instances, the FIAPA display was the key to discovering that the pilot was planning for a certain flight inspection maneuver, while the Mission Specialist was configuring the FIS for something completely different.
However, there was a more than expected amount of push back by pilots. This seemed to be for two reasons. The first involves the simple fact of paradigm shift. Certain pilots were uninterested in change. It is believed that given enough time to grow comfortable with the information provided, the pilots will find their own level of use. As Mission Specialists fly with many different pilots, they, as a group, will exert pressure in the course of crew interaction that will tend to standardize pilot usage at an optimum level. More disturbingly, though, is the tendency of the interested pilot to focus attention on the iPad display and reduce attentiveness to the external environment. The result could be a case where no one is looking outside the aircraft, or even inside at the performance instruments. Clearly this is not an acceptable situation in the low-altitude, high traffic regime of flight inspection. This tendency was foreseen and training emphasized techniques and procedures to mitigate this risk.
In addition to being a step in the evolution of flight inspection data collection and analysis, FIAPA provides benefits in the safe and efficient execution of flight inspection. FIAPA can increase crew interaction, decrease verbal and extraneous communication and save time, fuel and money by making the flight path of each flight inspection mission more efficient.