IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - September 2019 - 79

traffic, the pilots will have little reasons to not look at
the electronic display. Interviews with European GA
pilots revealed that they stare at the tablet screen due to
the improved access to information and ease of use of
the application, something that can potentially degrade
the pilot's ability to visually detect nearby traffic [5].
Due to improved Internet connectivity in-flight,
pilots seek information about weather, airspace, and
airports in flight. They also make flight route changes
in flight, according to the GA pilot interviews [16]. This
situation raises concerns as to whether the timely
information retrieval with tablets will make pilots less
likely to engage in detailed flight planning and to consider risks in advance. Furthermore, tablets and their
software applications have significantly reduced the
time needed for planning, from a few hours to a few
minutes, because all calculations, including the aircraft's headings, are automatically calculated by the
computer, reducing the computational tasks required
from the pilot. Timewise, pilots can now select their
flight route just before takeoff, and can also modify
their selected route given weather updates. This raises
another question regarding the ability of foreseeing
critical aspects of the flight when calculations are
made by the computer.
The reliance on these technologies indicated a
change in the manner by which pilots identify the aircraft's position in that pilots look for coordinates rather than landmarks. As a consequence, pilots use fewer
landmarks in their flight route selection and thus,
pilots select fewer reporting points that serve as monitoring indicators of the flight. In other words, they fly
the planned track at the planned speed. The trouble is
that this flight planning change discourages pilots from
cross-referencing their position with terrain features,
as pilots no longer have these checkpoints available.
Hence, pilots drag themselves into situations where
they look at the tablet to confirm they are on track.
This change in navigation coupled with changes in
flight planning, and the implications for safe flying
intensify the need to review current planning and navigation procedures that have previously remained
unchanged for decades.
Finally, another important aspect of using such
devices is the perceived time spent staring and using
the device. A study of the use of smartphones in
daily life by the public indicated that individuals
misperceived the time they used the smartphone compared to objective measurements [17]. It is reasonable
to assume that GA pilots are also vulnerable in misperceiving the time they look at the tablet. Their lack of
attention could result in misidentifying their position.
For example, a pilot might believe that he/she looked at
the tablet for a couple of minutes, while he/she was

SEPTEMBER 2019

∕

staring at the display longer, causing the pilot to incorrectly identify the landmark.

Safety Concerns
In flight, relying on a technology that produces inaccurate results can result in unsafe situations with the most
severe example being a mid-air collision. In busy airspaces, such as those in Europe over major cities, traffic
density can be high meaning that pilots need to maintain their awareness of nearby aircraft. GA aircraft are
rarely equipped with a traffic collision avoidance system, known as TCAS in commercial aviation, and thus,
the eyes of the GA pilots remain the only traffic awareness system on board. Hence, a tablet that is stared at
for a long time can degrade pilots' traffic awareness,
increasing the likelihood of an event where the pilot

Emerging technologies introduced
to general aviation should be
verified for their operational and
safety benefits.
does not see the nearby air traffic and plan accordingly. In light of technologies that present this tra ffic
information, as mentioned earlier, more information is centralized on the electronic display, highlighting the issues of changes in planning and navigation for
the pilots.
Another situation caused by reliance on these technologies can be seen in GA aircraft flying near commercial airports. A miscalculation of an aircraft's
position cause the GA aircraft to be located inside the
airspace serving an airport's commercial flights, for
which permission to enter is needed. Such an incident
will result in diversion of airport traffic in order to
ensure safe separation between the infringing aircraft
and commercial traffic.
According to the aviation authorities in the United
Kingdom, such an incident can mean delays for up to
30 airlines and 5000 passengers and result in £50 000
worth of wasted fuel [18]. In order to avoid such
impacts, GA pilots need to be competent and detect
errors that could result in such incidents.

Changing World Views
GA is indeed in a transitional phase with emerging technologies making their appearance in the cockpit primarily in the form of satellite-based technologies and

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - September 2019

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