General aviation single pilot IFR autopilot study


Five levels of autopilot complexity were flown in a single engine IFR simulation for several different IFR terminal operations. A comparison was made of the five levels of complexity ranging from no autopilot to a fully coupled lateral and vertical guidance mode to determine the relative benefits versus complexity/cost of state-of-the-art autopilot capability in the IFR terminal area. Of the five levels tested, the heading select mode made the largest relative difference in decreasing workload and simplifying the approach task. It was also found that the largest number of blunders was detected with the most highly automated mode. The data also showed that, regardless of the autopilot mode, performance during an IFR approach was highly dependent on the type of approach being flown. These results indicate that automation can be useful when making IFR approaches in a high workload environment, but also that some disturbing trends are associated with some of the higher levels of automation found in state-of-the-art autopilots

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