University of Iowa partners with NASA to address pilot safety - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

University of Iowa partners with NASA to address pilot safety

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The University of Iowa and NASA are teaming up to help make commercial air travel safer.

The announcement of the partnership comes weeks after Asiana Airline Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but it is known the plane approached the airport too low and too slow before the crew tried to abort.

While investigators continue to try to determine if Flight 214's misguided approach is the latest result of a pilot error, researchers are working to address the problem.

"The list is pretty long of numerous accidents that have occurred where you just wonder how crews were able to do that," said Tom Schnell, director of the University of Iowa's Operator Performance Laboratory.

NASA is enlisting the University of Iowa's help in developing methods to help pilots recognize trouble while there is still time to take action.

"Auditory warnings may not have enough punch to get the pilot's attention when the pilot gets extremely stressed out," Schnell said.

Using the university's L-29 flight test aircraft, researchers are studying the reasons pilots become disoriented regarding the plane's attitude and airspeed.

"It's our job to generate and create countermeasures that make the crew aware that they are about to commit a major mistake," Schnell said.

The hope is to develop better technology in the cockpit to give pilots early warnings of potentially dangerous situations and then provide clear direction.

"You need to tell the pilots what do, rather than the status of the airplane," Schnell said. 

The university has brought on Rockwell Collins and Boeing as part of the research team.

The $1.2 million NASA-funded grant runs three years.

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