Loss of control in flight is the primary category of fatal accidents within all sectors of aviation and failure to maintain adequate airspeed – leading to a stall - is often cited as a causal factor. Stalls occur when the critical angle of the aircraft is exceeded for a given airspeed. Using airspeed as an indicator of the potential to stall is an unreliable proxy. Systems that measure the angle of attack have been routinely used by military aircraft for over 50 years however rigorous academic research with respect to their effectiveness has been limited. Using a fixed-base flight simulator fitted with a simulated, commercially available angle of attack system, 20 pilots performed normal and emergency procedures during the circuit/pattern in a light aircraft. Experimental results have shown that pilot performance was improved when angle of attack was displayed in the cockpit for normal and emergency procedures during the approach phase of flight in the pattern/circuit. In relation to pilot workload, results indicated that during the approach phase of flight, there was a moderate but tolerable increase in pilot workload. The use of such a display may assist pilots to maintain the aircraft within the optimum range and hence reduce occurrences of unstable approaches. Overall, fewer stall events were observed when angle of attack was displayed and appropriate pilot decisions made during emergencies. These results provide a new perspective on pilot workload and aviation safety.
Bibliographical note© 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
- Pilot performance
- Angle of attack management
- Airspeed management
- Loss of control in flight