Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Reaction Time May Be Slower Than You Think

Have you ever thought about your reaction time as a function of how data is presented to you? For example, try driving a specific speed, let’s say 35 mph. If you have a needle on the speedometer indicating the speed, you can easily see a change when the needle moves either up or down. Your eye is really quite sensitive to minor needle changes, such as 1 mph. If however, you had a digital speedometer, I had one once, a minor change would be harder to detect. Your eye does not have a visual structure such as the speedometer needle to follow, but merely some numbers in motion. Watching a series of numbers change does not give an indication of direction, as does the needle. By that I mean, needle moves left, you are slowing, to the right going faster.

An excellent example of some aircraft instruments that give both types of information  on one gage. The first was a cylinder temperature gage that incorporated both digital and analog data. Very impressive. Also, other data was presented similarly, with both analog and digital info*.

 I would like to offer some caution to those of you who fly an “All Glass Cockpit”. I just reviewed a 2008 NTSB report warning about the loss of electrical power due to malfunctions in the electric distribution system in some airline models **.  Rather than go into details mentioned in the article, I’ll let the reader go there. I would again warn against complacency in the cockpit. Be prepared to take over by using your back up analog instruments when the screens go black. Although, the glass cockpit has reduced the number of general aviation accidents, the fatality rate seems to have increased.

Finally, I am still puzzled by the number of runway and taxiway accidents that occur regularly. Just go to the FAA accident site and read through some of the incidents. They range from hitting a runway or taxiway light to dropping off the end of long runways. On the ramp, there are injuries and damage due to propeller strikes. It all seems related to inattention or being distracted. Are you texting while performing some critical or even routine operation? Although multitasking is often required, it can be our worst enemy. All it takes is a millisecond or two of distraction and wham, disaster. So, stay focused on the job at hand, and plan ahead.

 If there are thoughts or comments about any of this, please share by clicking on Comments.

** NTSB Safety Recommendation A-08-53 through -55 Retrieved on 14 April 2012.
***Wikipedia-See under Glass Cockpit sub paragraph- Safety