Michael Portman Master's Thesis Proposal

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This thesis proposal 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 along with phase of flight awareness, aircraft profile modeling, and expected human responses to individualize the alert’s activation threshold for each approach.  This thesis details a proposed 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 attributable 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.  Preliminary analysis shows the total energy alert would have sounded roughly 22-27 seconds before impact, earlier than any currently installed system, and potentially early enough for corrective action.  Next, a plan of action is proposed to compare the context dependent total energy alert to current day technologies using the flight path records provided by Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) data. The proposed work will then examine how sensor properties impact alert effectiveness and conclude with recommendations for the design and application of a context dependent total energy alert.

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