Commercial space operations pose significant aviation safety challenges. Safety systems and processes need to evolve to meet the demands of new technologies and approaches. John Goglia and Todd Curtis discuss human factors issues with experimental aircraft.
They examine the single commercial space accident in the NTSB database. The investigation looked at the 2014 inflight breaking of Scaled Composite’s SpaceShip Tow spacecraft over the Mojave Desert.
A disconnect between how engineers expected the aircraft to be operated and pilot behavior in the cockpit appears to be at the root of this accident. They look particularly at assumptions made about how the flight crew would manage critical spacecraft systems.
John shares takeaways from his review of other accidents involving test and experimental aircraft. A common thread is that during the development of these aircraft, assumptions are generally made about the crew that will fly them.
They talk about how innovations in commercial space challenge the FAA to set proper guidelines for testing. And, how the persistent need to consider human factors in aviation is a thread that traces back to the earliest days of flight.
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