An ITA professor is putting together a laboratory to study human behavior in aircraft piloting. The objective is to identify risk factors that form the basis for the development of cabins designed to help reduce pilot failures and, consequently, reduce the risk of accidents.
The numbers are impressive. According to a 1998 study by the Flight Safety Foundation, an international organization focused on air safety, no less than 80% of accidents occur due to human error. In turn, these are derived from a sum of factors, ranging from the mental fatigue of pilots before the instrument control panel, which can hinder certain readings for critical decision making.
It was with this data in mind that Professor Luíz Gonzaga Trabasso, from ITA (Technological Institute of Aeronautics), began to conceive the creation of a laboratory to study risk factors in aircraft piloting. The starting point was the idea of adapting a flight simulator developed by ITA together with Embraer (Brazilian Industry of Aeronautics) with FAPESP’s funding and established within the ITA itself to carry out the first tests.
The next step was to further all studies. Sweden emerged as a natural target due to the proximity between Saab and ITA. Moreover, Trabasso says that over the years, he has participated in various workshops organized by CISB which brought together Brazilians and Swedish. “There I established the first contacts with the Saab staff and especially the Linköping University”, he says. The institutions just embraced it and the professor conducted her post-doctoral project through a scholarship from a CNPq-CISB-Saab Project Call within the scope of the program Science without Borders, by the Federal Government, between the months of February 2016 and February 2017.
At Linköping University, the environment could not be more propitious. Allocated in the field of Human Centered Systems, the teacher had the opportunity to meet the cognition and interaction research group, areas that were yet unknown for him. The studies allowed him to learn how to analyze difficult to measure factors such as the measurement of a person’s mental workload.
“It was a new learning experience”, he says. “He brought out a laboratory project focused on equipment needed for the sector of human factors and experiments needed to take measurements”, says the professor. The goal of this research is to collect data that enable the creation of safer cabins with possible changes in warning systems, the provision of navigation panels and other items that affect the pilot’s performance.
The learning was not limited to the technical area. In Sweden, the teacher had a rich cultural experience. Among the novelties, he discovered the so-called “fika”, Swedish term meaning literally ‘a coffee’, but that is used about periodic informal meetings – the equivalent of the traditional Brazilian ‘coffee time’. Unlike what happens here, however, the meeting at Linköping University took place regularly every week – and by appointment.
During these chats, the work in progress in different areas of the university were discussed freely, addressing positive and negative aspects of each research. “They’re more tolerant to failure over there, and share the bad experiences as a means of learning. The naturalness is the same to say that an article was accepted or rejected by a journal”, says the professor. Trabasso liked what he saw so much that he wants to institutionalize the practice in the ITA.
Now the teacher seeks funding for the Human Factors Laboratory. It is a unique work in Brazil, which results in huge expectations. A meeting with BNDES [Brazilian National Bank for Development] staff is scheduled for April. Trabasso will request further resources with Finep (Financier of Studies and Projects) and FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation), all to increase the chances of making the initiative possible.