CEC Graduate Student, Michael Portman, Successfully Defends his Master's Thesis in AE

JUN 28, 2019 -- Today, CEC graduate student, Michael Portman, successfully defended his Master's Thesis in AE, titled, “Context Dependent Total Energy Alerting System for the Detection of Low Energy Unstabilized Approaches.” His research is advised by Dr. Karen Feigh and Dr. Amy Pritchett of the CEC with committee members Dr. Brian German (GT-AE), and Dr. John-Paul Clarke (GT-AE). Below is the abstract of his thesis:

This thesis examines context dependent total energy alerting to protect against low energy unstable approaches in commercial aviation operations. Currently, many individual states are monitored independently to identify unstable approaches, rather than an integrated single assessment of total energy. An alert would also have to be context dependent, integrating the individual states with awareness of phase of flight, approach profile modeling, and expected pilot response to individualize the alert’s activation threshold for each approach. This thesis details a design of such a context dependent total energy alerting system. First, a preliminary analysis examines when such an alert would have been given in a case study of Asiana Airlines Flight 214. This flight’s crash on approach into San Francisco International Airport was attributed to lack of pilot situational awareness and understanding of the aircraft’s autoflight systems, leading to the aircraft having sufficiently low total energy that it stalled into the seawall just before the runway threshold. Analysis shows the total energy alert would have sounded roughly 14-41 seconds before impact, earlier than any currently installed system and potentially early enough for corrective action. Next, the context dependent total energy alert is analyzed to assess its performance in real flight as captured by Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) data. The analysis examines how alerting parameters impact when and how often the alert is triggered, and the thesis concludes with recommendations for the design and application of a context dependent total energy alert, along with recommendations for future work.

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