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Pilot Tests for Emergency Landing Planner

An Automated Planning and Scheduling Group team has completed a series of tests of an Emergency Landing Planner (ELP) for damaged aircraft. When damage or failure occurs, pilots invoke the ELP through the aircraft's flight management computer. The ELP considers all runways within a 150-mile radius, constructs the best path to each one, and evaluates the risk of each possible path. The risk model takes into account a large number of factors, including airport facilities; runway length, width, and condition; airport ceiling, visibility and surface winds; en route weather; and the flight envelope of the damaged aircraft. The best alternatives are then presented to the pilots in order of increasing risk.

Tests were conducted in the Advanced Concepts Flight Simulator (ACFS) at Ames over three weeks in August and October, utilizing five crews of professional airline pilots. The tests consisted of 16 runs for each crew using different locations, flight plans, weather conditions, and damage models. Objective data was then collected on the choices pilots considered, the amount of time it took them to reach a decision, and the outcome of the decision. Preliminary results indicate that the ELP can dramatically speed up the decision-making process, particularly in cases of bad weather. This speedup is often crucial in cases where there is fire, fuel leakage, or medical emergency, or where the risk of subsequent failures is high. Subjective information was also collected from the pilots using questionnaires at the end of each run. Pilot response to the software was overwhelmingly positive, with several pilots expressing the desire to have this capability in their existing aircraft.

BACKGROUND: This project was one of the components of the multi-year Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Integrated Resilient Aircraft Control (IRAC) project. The overall goal of the project was to substantially improve stability, maneuverability, and landing in the presence of adverse conditions. The ELP built on and utilized previous work in the program on damage modeling and adaptive control.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: ARMD, Aviation Safety Program, Integrated Resilient Aircraft Control (IRAC) Project, and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)

PROJECT TEAM: Nicolas Meuleau, Christian Neukom, Christian Plaunt, David Smith, and Tristan Smith. CVSRF staff: David Brown, Diane Carpenter, Ramesh Panda, Ghislain Saillant, Darrell Wooten, and Terrence Rager

Contact: David E. Smith

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