Effects of probabilistic flight-route risk estimates for enhanced decisions (FRREED) on aeronautical weather-hazard decision-making

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Parmar, Sweta
Thomas, Rick P.
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A tool commonly used to aid the navigational decisions of pilots to avoid weather hazards is Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD), which provides information about geographically referenced precipitation. However, this tool is limited because, when pilots use NEXRAD, they have to infer the uncertainty in the meteorological information for both understanding current hazards as well as extrapolating the impact of future conditions. Recent advancements in meteorology modeling afford the possibility of providing uncertainty information concerning hazardous weather for the current flight. Although probabilistic weather products do not exist in today’s cockpit, it is critical to evaluate how operators might use or misuse such products when incorporating uncertainty information in their decision-making. In addition, it is important to study how accurate a probabilistic decision aid needs to be for effective use by operators. Although there are systematic biases that plague professional’s use of uncertainty information, there is evidence that presenting forecast uncertainty can improve weather-related decision-making. The current study investigates a simulated probabilistic component of a decision aid that renders flight-path risk as a probability that the route will come within 20 nmi radius (FAA recommended safety distance) of hazardous weather within the next 45 minutes of flight. The study evaluates four NEXRAD displays integrated with Flight-Route Risk Estimates for Enhanced Decisions (FRREED) providing varying levels of support. The “no” support condition has no FRREED (the NEXRAD only condition). The “baseline” support condition employs a FRREED whose accuracy is consistent with current capability in meteorological modeling. The “moderate” support condition employs a FRREED whose accuracy is likely at the top of what is achievable in meteorology in the near future. The “high” support display provides a level of support that is likely unachievable in an aviation weather decision-making context without significant technological innovation. The results indicate that operators did rely on the FRREED to improve their performance over the no-support condition (NEXRAD only). The level of performance of the operators improved in terms of both calibration and resolution as the aids increased in accuracy. I will discuss the implications of the findings for the safe introduction of probabilistic decision aids in future general aviation cockpits.
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