Human Factors and the Weekend Pilot

If any area of aviation could benefit from realistic and workable human factors solutions, itís the area of general aviation (GA) and the weekend pilot. Many of the aircraft flow by the weekend pilot are older and do not have the benefits of modern flight deck design. However, the demands on these pilots, as far as maintaining radio contact with air traffic control and operating their aircraft in crowded airspace has increased. Air traffic control is generally speaking, less tolerant of the weekend pilot, yet this type of GA pilot is expected to perform as expeditiously as the pilot who flies for a living. Human factors research and design needs to be applied to the weekend pilots operating environment with the same vigor as it is applied to the rest of the aviation system.

Some positive changes have been made. Visual charts or maps, which the weekend pilot uses to help navigate in visual flight conditions, have become user friendly. High traffic areas are color-coded for easy identification (and avoidance). Visual flight corridors, where weekend pilots can navigate through high traffic areas and around busy commercial airports, are also clearly marked for ease of use. This type of map design has clear human factors design inputs. Graphics (color and print) are quickly recognizable by the pilot to minimize the time the pilot spends on information processing. Less cognitive resources the pilot has to spend on chart recognition, the more mental

resources the weekend pilot can apply to flying the aircraft. The weekend pilot can now purchase the Traffic Proximity Alert System (TPAS), which uses microwave technology and voice alert notification for fewer than five hundred dollars. Systems like the TPAS assist the pilot with situational awareness, a sure benefit for the pilot who does not fly often.

Standardizing flight requirements and operating characteristics through the application of human factors in all levels of flying is important. Safety of flight is paramount. The less distractions the weekend pilot encounters during flight, the safer we will all be.