Excerpts from the NASA ASRS

One of my students last semester (thanks, Ronney!) turned me on the “Callback” publication from the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System. These are almost all first person stories written as case studies of errors and accidents or near accidents. There aren’t so many that it falls under my list of neat databases, but it certainly is interesting reading.

I’ve collected a few below to give a taste of the stories that are included. These are just the top level descriptions – click through to read the first person accounts.

From Issue 381 Upside Down and Backwards

  1. “An aircraft Mode Selector Panel that “looks the same” whether right side up or upside down, and that can be readily installed either way, is a good example of a problematic design. Confronted with an inverted panel, this Cessna 560 Captain found out what happens when the wrong button is in the right place. “
  2. “Without detailed instructions and clear notation, nearly symmetrical parts can be installed incorrectly. Faced with the replacement of such a part, this CRJ 700 Maintenance Technician wound up with a case of component “misorientation.”

From Issue 383 When Practice Emergencies Go Bad

  1. “…a C182 pilot performed a simulated engine failure while undergoing a practical examination. It appears that both the examiner and the examinee were so engrossed in the simulated emergency that they both tuned BEEEEP out BEEEEP the BEEEEP gear BEEEEP warning BEEEEP horn.”
  2. “When faced with a real engine failure, performing the Engine Secure Checklist reduces the chance of a fire on landing. However, actually performing the steps in the Engine Secure Checklist when the engine failure is not real can lead to a real problem.”

From Issue 382 Fly the Airplane!

  1. “A review of recent ASRS reports indicates that failure to follow one of the most basic tenets of flight continues to be a concern when pilots are faced with distractions or abnormal situations.”

From Issue 376 The Fixation Factor

  1. “The ability to maintain the “big picture” while completing individual, discrete tasks is one of the most critical aspects of working in the aviation environment. Preoccupation with one particular task can degrade the ability to detect other important information. This month’s CALLBACK looks at examples of how fixation adversely affects overall task management.”
  2. “Advanced navigation equipment can provide a wealth of readily available information, but as this Cirrus SR20 pilot learned, sometimes too much information can be a distraction.”

From Issue 375 Motor Skills: Getting Off to a Good Start

  1. “The Captain of an air carrier jet experienced a very hot start when distractions and failure to follow normal flow patterns altered the engine start sequence.”
  2. “This pilot was familiar with the proper procedures for hand-propping, but despite a conscientious effort, one critical assumption led to a nose-to-nose encounter.”

Photo credit smartjunco @ Flickr

 

 

 

What values are pilots allowed to enter for the weight of the plane?

I’d assume when pilots enter a weight estimate for the plane prior to takeoff that there would be a decision aid to prevents gross miscalculation. It certainly seems like an undue load (no pun intended) on the pilot to require entering multiple components for weight correctly. From the article linked below I am no longer sure how much automation is involved. Apparently, the pilot forgot to account for the weight of the fuel. Doesn’t it seem as though that would be the easiest weight to automatically enter?

From the article:

Pilot Miscalculates Plane Weight, Avoids Disaster

“The weight of the plane dictates the speed required to take off and too little speed could have caused pilots to lose control of the aircraft. Luckily, the captain realized something was wrong and compensated before the plane ran off the runway.

According to the report there have been “a significant number of reported incidents and several accidents resulting from errors in take-off performance calculations around the world in recent years.”

On a side note, I’ve been on small planes where we all had to be weighed as well as our luggage prior to boarding. If the margins are that thin, I sure hope no one made any data entry mistakes!

 

Photo credit martinhartland @ Flickr

Neat SciAm Blog Post on InfoVis

This story was passed to me today by Matt Shipman, who writes about research on The Abstract.

An excerpt:

[Right – Comparison of two road signs, Highway Gothic on the left, Clearview on the right, 2007. Credit: Wikimedia Commons – click on link to see large]

The previous road sign font, Highway Gothic, was hard to read because of very small counter spaces, or the enclosed shapes of a letterform (the inside of an “O” or “P”). Clearview, with larger enclosed shapes, taller lowercase letters and better letterspacing, is easier to read from a distance and at night.

[Left – Clearview letterforms. Credit: Wikimedia Commons – click on link to see large]

Clearview improved drivers’ reading accuracy, reaction time, and recognition distance – all with a few small tweaks to the design. In this case, proper type is crucial for public health and safety.”

Really, it is worth reading the whole article. Enjoy!

Intuitive Interfaces for Software Developers

Here is a link to some neat new research being done by my colleagues at NCSU.  It’s about the development of a tool that instantly changes the look of software code as it’s being developed, allowing for different ways to investigate bugs and features, but without changing the code in any way that might introduce errors. Dr. Emerson Murphy-Hill developed the interface for this “refactoring” of code and published on it this past semester.

From the article:

Making Refactoring Tools More Attractive For Programmers

“The researchers designed the marking menus so that the refactoring tools are laid out in a way that makes sense to programmers. For example, tools that have opposite functions appear opposite each other in the marking menu. And tools that have similar functions in different contexts will appear in the same place on their respective marking menus.

Early testing shows that programmers were able to grasp the marking menu process quickly, and the layout of the tools within the menus was intuitive.”

 

“I wasn’t trying to make a computer interface, I was just trying to make a drum” – NPR interviews Bill Buxton

NPR interviews Bill Buxton on the technology side and Sherry Turkle on the social impacts side.

The Touchy-Feely Future Of Technology

Excerpts:

“I wasn’t trying to make a computer interface, I was just trying to make a drum,” Buxton tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “Did I envision what was going to happen today, that it would be in everybody’s pocket — in their smartphone? Absolutely not. Did we realize that things were going to be different, that you could do things that we never imagined? … Absolutely.”

Today, Buxton is known as a pioneer in human-computer interaction, a field of computer science that has seen a spike in consumer demand thanks to a new, seemingly ubiquitous technology: Touch.”

“Turkle says that’s because touch-screen devices appeal to a sentiment that pretty much everyone can relate to: the desire to be a kid again.

“[The] fantasy of using your body to control the virtual is a child’s fantasy of their body being connected to the world,” Turkle says. “That’s the child’s earliest experience of the world and it kind of gets broken up by the reality that you’re separate from the world. And what these phones do is bring back that fantasy in the most primitive way.”

And Turkle warns that living in that fantasy world could mean missing out on the real world around you.”

 

 

Photo credit Bejadin.info at Flickr.

ATM Accessibility (not)

I’m catching up on some older topics I never blogged about. This is one of my favorites.

The Consumerist posted a video of a blind user interacting with an ATM. As they said, “Overall, it seems like whoever designed the ATM didn’t ask a blind person to try it out first.”

Quotes from the video:
(Re: finding the headphone jack) “It was camoflagued, I swear it was camoflagued.”

Then the voice instructs him to press Enter on the keypad and pauses. THEN it describes the location of the enter key on the keypad.