Modern Monitoring Part 3: The Job of Monitoring, Made Simple

It could not be a more fitting time for this last piece in our 3-part Monitoring series than at the end of a week during which aviation safety news has been dominated by findings in the Asiana 214 accident in San Francisco, nearly a year ago. In its hearing on the subject, the NTSB stated clearly that the crew, “over-relied on automated systems that they did not fully understand…As a result, they flew the aircraft too low and too slow and collided with the sea wall at the end of the runway.”

In our last two installments, we discussed how we humans—the “wetware” in the human-machine dynamic—are wired to monitor our surroundings. And as the investigative team in the Asiana 214 accident (and hundreds of other accidents in the past two decades with similar findings) have pointed out, an essential component of successful monitoring is knowing exactly what you are monitoring, how it works, and acceptable performance parameters. The 9th and final Principle of Automation Airmanship, Logic Knowledge, is defined in this way:

“Through a sound understanding of the basic logic of the automated systems and procedures, crews are able to maintain a sound mental model of the aircraft state at all times; knowledge-based modeling of expected and anticipated autoflight actions is consistently accurate, which prevents crews from under- or over-reliance on automation for flight path control by balancing their cockpit scan between relevant cockpit displays and, when appropriate, outside the cockpit clearing and scanning.”

It’s not enough just to “monitor.” You have to know what you’re monitoring, and how to respond with exacting precision and unflinching decisiveness when performance parameters are exceeded. If you have kept up with this series of posts, you have learned (or refreshed your knowledge) that Monitoring is closely related to Attention, and that humans are excellent monitors when they are aware of how their attention system can be deployed across their environment. So, in conclusion, you can apply this formula, with the right background knowledge, with good results across virtually every aspect of your flying job:

  1. Know what you’re monitoring.
  2. Monitor totally.
  3. Act decisively when monitoring reveals deviations.

Until our next report, fly safe, and always, fly first.

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