Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cockpit upgrade on back burner

Shuttle cockpit lacks usability ...

"One thing Discovery won't carry is a cockpit upgrade Commander Steve Lindsey helped develop, but its ideas will be employed in the shuttle's successor.

The shuttle cockpits were designed in the 1970s, before designers thought much about how people would use them and how computers might help, Johnson Space Center's Bruce Hilty said.

"A bunch of engineers designed the way the shuttle operates," said Hilty, who worked with Lindsey on the avionics upgrade project.

The current cockpits don't employ safety lessons that have been learned over the years from aviation. "A tremendous percentage of aviation accidents are related to crew error," he said.

A typical problem with the shuttle's current system is that it will sound alarms for an avalanche of glitches, even if they stem from one root cause.

"Today's caution and warning system is not very smart, and it's going to enunciate to the crew every one of these problems," said human factors researcher Robert McCann of NASA's Ames Research Center. "Every single one is going to have its own alarm and its own fault message that shows up."

A crucial message might be obscured by a stream of trivial ones."   continued ...   (Via Space)

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