Pilot Surveys on Identification of a Failed Engine in Twin-Engine Propeller Aircraft

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Andrey K. Babin
Dr. Andrew R. Dattel


Twin-engine propeller aircraft accidents occur for many reasons including human factors, such as misidentifying a failed engine. Engine misidentification has led to several fatal accidents. Babin, Dattel, & Klemm (2020) found that, in a simulated engine failure scenario, using a visual indicator for engine identification resulted in significantly lower response time than the “dead leg-dead engine” procedure. To better understand the pilot perspective regarding the issue of engine failure and the method used for the identification of a failed engine, opinions and feedback were collected via surveys. Method: Two surveys were created and distributed among pilots to gather their opinions regarding the issue. Survey One was completed by airline pilots operating twin-engine turboprop aircraft; Survey Two was completed by instructor pilots operating light single- and twin-engine piston aircraft. Results: Forty-nine airline pilots and twenty-three instructor pilots responded to the survey. The average flight experience was 6,000+ flight hours/nine years for airline pilots and 420 flight hours/four years for instructor pilots. Approximately nineteen percent of airline pilots and half of the instructor pilots had had to utilize the engine-out procedure in their prior experience. Most respondents felt comfortable with the current method of identification of a failed engine. Twenty-nine percent of airline pilots and fourteen percent of instructor pilots agreed with the statement that there could be a better method of identification of a failed engine. Forty percent of all pilots who provided suggestions for improvement to the current method (both surveys combined) recommended adding a visual indicator to help with the identification. The results of the surveys provide greater insight into the problem of engine misidentification and suggest that many pilots favor visual cues, supporting findings described in Babin et al. (2020).

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Peer-Reviewed Articles
Author Biography

Dr. Andrew R. Dattel, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Andy Dattel is Associate Professor in the School of Graduate Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, USA, and the Director of the Cognitive Engineering Research in Transportation Systems Lab. He holds a PhD in experimental psychology with a concentration in human factors from Texas Tech University.


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