A New Era of Aviation Safety - Preparing for UAP (UFOs) - with Iya Whiteley | Merged Podcast EP 12
I think we have no time. - No time. - No time. That generation who were punished had to leave the profession to remove the stigma of reporting because that pain was still there. People heard it in the corridors.
Don't you dare. It took 25 years. It's as long as professionals stay in the profession to leave and then for the new generation to take over. So do we have 20, 25 years? From now, when stigma is still here to report and for these people who are flying, this basically, even if they don't collide, well, it's in their mind it's playing and it's taking away their working memory.
It's taking away their situational awareness. It's taking away out of flying safe. It's taking away from doing their job diligently. It's playing on their mind.
Are they crazy? Are they not? And it's a big issue for a pilot to think, "Am I hallucinating? Am I safe? Am I a good pilot? Am I still fit to work?" These things still go through the mind. Why should we put people through that? You saw it, okay, well, let's look at it. What is it? What did you see? I think this is the first lesson.
How does it detract from their professional life and from their attention of being safe? Why not accept and see what we can do with this? It's a real human concern. It's care. It's professional care. - Coyas Institute is a pioneer in the field of AI-driven comparative and qualitative analysis and was established with the primary goal of uncovering the hidden value left behind in complex data sets. Through a combination of human expertise and cutting-edge technologies, Coyas has developed a range of services that cater to various industries.
They are providing valuable insights that can help drive growth, formulate competitive strategy, and to identify key patterns in targeted demographics. Head to their site to learn more. Coyas.Institute, that's
C-O-E-U-S.Institute. (upbeat music) - Welcome to "Merged." I'm Ryan Graves. Today, we're talking with Dr. Ia Whiteley,
space psychologist and cognitive engineer. Ia is focused on improvements to human behavioral and cognitive function through information, presentation on displays, and design of training. She has 17 years of space, human flight research, and longer in aviation cockpit design, as well as designs for astronauts. She's advised the UK government as chair of the Space Environment Working Group, and the member of the UK Space Exploration Advisory Committee. Thank you for joining me. And now, Dr. Ia Whiteley.
- Well, yeah, thanks for joining me. I think one of the first things people might wonder is what exactly is a space psychologist? - Yes, so I did not know that I would become a space psychologist, but I wanted to work either to become an astronaut, but, you know, as close as I could get to understanding how people work in extreme environment. And my interest is really, is that how to improve people's performance when it's stressful, when it is, you know, a lot of pressures. And I found that, I have a background in martial art, and I really like that because I found that it keeps you focused. You're always watching, you are always aware. And I kind of grew up in that, because my father was martial artist and it was not allowed at the time.
But I kind of grew up with awareness that you need to know that you're part of the environment and, you know, everything has meaning. So it's Eastern philosophy. And it was important for me to see how, you know, in extreme environment, some people excel and some people don't. So something happens and the person taps in into something that they did not know about themselves.
And I find that, you know, a lot with, you know, very reactive professions, meaning like, you know, pilots, for example, it's a lot of training, so the reaction is trained, but nevertheless, you have to make a decision and you have to go with it. You know, you can't step, you know, rewind. - You have to live with your decision. - Yeah, yeah, you can't rewind. It's not a simulator, right? You just, you know, stick to it and then, you know, work with the consequences. And what I found is that there are many professions and situations where people have these insights, you know, of they wouldn't have thought of it if it wasn't for that situation and they discover something about themselves.
So I just started to look how I can learn more about that, you know, about this human performance in extreme environments and how do people tap in into this, you know, why, you know, all these myths that I grew up with, having, you know, like martial art temples where there were masters who could, you know, sense the environment from, you know, with their back and, you know, they knew what was coming and, you know, that kind of understanding. And then I came, you know, very close with that, you know, coming with people, like unexpectedly so. So for example, there were firefighters in Australia and so what they do is that they were studying the decision-making in extreme environment. And the decision-making, it's sort of hard to articulate of why one expert does something. And so they've used this methodology, which I think would be useful in the UAP, understanding what happens in our reactions to UAP. - So as a space psychologist, you've kind of been essentially working with people in highly technical tasks, highly specific tasks, such as pilots, such as astronauts.
Can you explain some of the work that you've done in support of astronauts in your role as a space psychologist? - So I have several projects that worked, that I worked in space. And they're focused on improving our performance, but also to help us understand what happens to us as we sort of go into these unusual environments or not suitable, I guess, for living for a long, long time. And I'm focused on research, on designing tools for psychological support and measuring wellbeing and seeing how to prevent problems because it's the best cure, prevention. And so what we found in the work, and there's always a team that we work together, and so what I found is that astronauts and cosmonauts are very capable, you know, and the last thing they really want is to be monitored, right? So because they're there for a reason, they took a long time to get there.
And there is this challenge of having, understanding your limit. And these are the people who always push the limit. They push the limits in their training. They study several subjects, they do many degrees, they multitask, they, you know, at the same time, they still have to maintain their personal life. This is all quite challenging. So in order to assist, but not to, the point is to help.
It's not to monitor for the sake of whom caught you. - Yeah, so NASA's are basically the ground controller, trying to set up a very controlled and disciplined and scheduled environment, and it's not allowing the astronauts to expand the way they normally do, kind of to fill the void, fill the time, be efficient with their time. Is that what you're describing? - Well, yes, so there's that. So, and that's interesting, I think, you know, what you're touching on, because there was, you know, a standoff, right? When the astronauts completely switched off the communication, which is unheard of. So on the Skylab, the crew being highly efficient, you know, and the people are trying to use every minute because it's paid by the government, you know, it's our tax, essentially, and people are fully aware of that, you know, on the ground who are helping and people in space, so astronauts themselves. So they want to be as efficient as they can.
So what happened is there was a frustration because they're given a schedule and it's planned meticulously so, because it can sometimes has to coincide with a particular orbit and you have to take shots or you have to do certain measurements being in the particular location. Then you have to transmit it when you're on the other side of the Earth and so on, so 90 minutes, you know, like that's repeat. And of course they have to sleep and they also want to engage in some conversation, personal conversation. But what happened is that they have, sometimes they're not allowed to do a task because it's not on the schedule.
But they know they can do it because they've got the tools because sometimes the bigger problem actually on ISS, on International Space Station is losing things. So to actually, to prepare to do a task, sometimes, you know, one crew lost a shoe and never found it. It's like, you think, how could you lose a shoe, you know, and why do you need a shoe? Well, they need shoes to run, you know, on the treadmill.
But so they want to be efficient, but they were not allowed. So, and it's almost like, you know, this absolutely top of the field expert who's very efficient to get there suddenly is not allowed to control their schedule, you know. - So they just shut the comms off? - Yeah, yeah, they completely, they switched off for, I think it was 24 hours or long enough to make people nervous. - That's a long time. - It's a long time, yeah. - Do you have any idea what the reaction was on the ground? - No, I haven't spoken with anyone on the ground, but the consequences were is that they were making a point, but nobody was listening.
You know, they were saying, look, we could be doing these things, but we're not allowed. And so quiet boycott, you know, I guess, is better than anything else in terms of sabotage, but. - And that's where you would come in before that, right? You would want to try to build that psychologically safe and comfortable place for astronauts or other explorers in the future to be able to operate in. That's how I interpret what a space psychologist or perhaps a cognitive engineer would do. These skillsets that you have studying that, my understanding is it applies to aviation safety. I've heard you speak to some of the nuances of aviation safety and they resonated with me because it was some of the same language that was taught to me when I was in the Navy flying F-18s, both on our initial training, but even every six months, we go through recurrent training on different instrument and other types of training.
And the words that you spoke to really resonated with me because one of the difficult things I find in this conversation is expressing why UAP represent an aviation safety concern. The common refrain is, well, why don't I hear about us hitting these all the time? As if that is, it's a binary issue. It's either they're not real or we must be hitting them all the time for them to be a safety issue. I understand that aviation safety is more nuanced. I lived and breathed that for a while.
I was trained as an aviation safety officer. You were trained at a much higher level to interface at almost the first principles level. It's my understanding engineering level to help understand what these procedures and these environments could be like, perhaps. So I really respect your training and your expertise in aviation safety. I was hoping you'd help me help others understand a little bit about the nuance of aviation safety and aerospace safety.
Let's talk a little bit about how aircrew work in a framework of safety and how we account for various assumptions or considerations as we go about our day. We don't just leave things unconsidered because we need to mitigate various safety issues to provide the high level of safety that we do, both on the military and the commercial side. - Yeah, yeah.
So I, on purpose, went through pilot training 'cause I just like flying, but also it's sort of like you are not, you're unable to speak the language. And to me, to be able to speak the language is understanding the thought processes. So I cannot, for example, I'm not a surgeon, yeah? So when I worked with surgeons, I found it difficult to actually communicate because there's a lot of other terminology, know-how and understanding. But when I understood what the flying processes is about, so to understanding, like you have to have peripheral vision when you are landing and nobody can kind of explain this to you until you felt it.
And knowing where your wheels are and in relation to the runway, how fast you're going, how you should be accelerating and you know when you're gonna touch down, okay, before you do. So it's all that feeling and you can't possibly explain it to me if I'm not a pilot, not really. And so understanding that thought process was important for me of what you go through in your mind in order to actually help in any way because it's something that is so embedded in how you think. So, and to understand that you always have to be ahead of the plane all the time. It's a big deal and not many people understand.
So like in the car, right, people are driving and you would look, I don't know, pick a music or you got distracted a little bit, but you're not planning, you know, because you're gonna, I don't know, have to land in a couple of minutes and you have to watch where you might have to turn what the winds are. You have to keep all of that in mind. So to understand that all of that is happening in the pilot's mind at all times and that transfers to life as well. Yeah, so there is that processing. - It's a little worse.
- Well, you know, but that's why, you know, the world is so diverse, right? And it's helpful to get that thinking, that thought process. So I think for me, that was important to understand as fundamental aspects of safety or even touching on design, you know, on and of course I'm not a fighter pilot, you know, I don't fly jets. So there's a lot of knowledge gap, but at least I can understand what the flow might be in any one of those phases. And by understanding that, then we could start to think about, you know, safety aspects.
So what do you need or can we load you with more information or can we ask you for more things? So for example, when doing studies with pilots, which I also did in the cockpit is that, so NASA has this workload list, also workload questionnaire, that you ask a few questions and you figure out how busy the pilot is. But the problem with that is that I'm sitting with you and you know, you were flying or doing something, or you're talking to me, and suddenly I throw it to you with four questions. Where's your thought process? You know, like you have to then regroup, you know, come back with situational awareness, do all the scans, you know, because your mental capacity could taken away. So this is not useful. It is useful for whoever studying workload, but it's not representative of what happens in the cockpit, you know, at all. And so I was interested is that how can I get in to that space and to understand what is the thought process in order to then to put my face sense, you know, that I might be helpful in some way.
- That's incredible. That was always, you know, one of the hardest things for me as a pilot was just that. We often ride that edge of cognitive limitation when we're in fighters, especially in air to air engagements where we're targeting into a lot of groups and we have to organize that information, potentially communicate that to some of our other wingmen. It's very, very challenging. One of the things we do with technology is we compress the battle space into a representative imagery, such as a situational awareness page that brings all the data into one spot. One of the concerns that has been expressed by myself and others is that that filtration process represents a point where potentially if we're not looking for something, we're going to filter that out of the data set because we're looking for something that has characteristics X and Y, but things such as balloons that might be traveling very slowly over the continental United States don't necessarily get picked up by those types of sensors.
- That's a very good point, you know, that you brought up about if you are not looking for it, you're not going to see it. And that's, so there's a famous experiment about the gorilla, right, working across the room, right? So, and so that's the point is that if you're focusing on something, you know, other information is going to miss out. Pilots are the exception to that though, you know, because especially I would imagine in combat situation or, you know, when you're busy, you know, aerobatic maneuvers is another one of flying information. And so you are then, you know, you're looking for minor change, but also what you're doing is that you're looking for when is the right time to communicate to your, you know, whoever you need to communicate with, either your, you know, wing person or air traffic control, or I don't know, to where you are, you know, to keep situational awareness.
And I find that, so when I was working, we were talking about conversion from C-130 analog aircraft, which is kind of got dials, so many clocks. So this is an old type of setup. It's a military big cargo airplane. You and pilots say only the mother can love the face. With beautiful bird actually.
When you hear it flying, it's very nice. So I do hear it, it does fly around where we leave and I come out and I like it. So then when, so when we're converting from analog to glass, which has became screens, basically computer screens. - Inside the cockpit.
- Inside the cockpit, yeah. So it's converting from analog cockpit, going to a modern cockpit, which is called glass cockpit because it's full of displays. And so they're all reflective. And what I found is that when pilots were, you know, doing tasks, and so it was in Australia at the time.
So we were, again, as a team consulting, is it okay to go from four to five people, crew to two? And is it turned out to be, it's not, you know? So, you know, the claim was by Lockheed Martin that the two people, you know, everything else automation would do for you. But no, what happens is what we just discussed with you about this communication aspect is that the navigator and the engineer and the master, who is kind of not part of the cockpit, right? But he's still the crew. They know when you've got the space, the capacity, you know, whoever they need to communicate with, whether it's pilot with an engineer or a pilot with a load master or a navigator with a pilot, you know, all of that is titling, it's like a network, you know, and they know when the window opens and you can communicate that information and it wouldn't overload somebody. - But the system's working well.
- Yeah, exactly, yeah, yeah. But that's what crew source management is, right? Is when you learn to coordinate that. And I think that's important is that looking for those gaps, you know, when you're working at the edge of cognitive capacity, because I don't think it's edge of your cognitive ability, because that stretches all the time as you train. But I think it's important to recognize that you're always open to new input. And I think I heard you speak once when you were talking about merging, you know? And, you know, you got split seconds when you're actually passing by another aircraft and you could see how the wind, you know, how the wind, not the wind, the air moves on their wings.
You know, that detail and it's that split second, you know, of knowing what the intention of that pilot is just by a slight change, you know, of something. And you can't possibly articulate that. And this is what is precognitive, preverbal knowledge it's called.
So experts have that. And it's really hard to articulate. - Let's talk a little bit about that. - Okay. - I know that's an area of interest. So consciousness is an interesting topic area, of course.
My loose understanding is that it takes about half a second, 500 milliseconds for basically the chemical processes, the synapses from the essentially input of information to the brain through the analysis of the information, the cognitive, or excuse me, the conscious processing of that, and then the ability to then react to that information takes about a half a second. Of course, we react in much faster times than that. So that's kind of where those two models of how our brain work collide. And we don't necessarily have a good answer for that right now is my understanding. Is that what you're talking about when you talk about the ability to somewhat have that intuition about what's happening? Is that one way of thinking about it, being able to react very quickly in high stress environments? - So there are sort of science that science doesn't expect, doesn't accept, right? And I'm talking about actually, experiments that have been repeated over and over again about the ability to perceive milliseconds before.
So we know, somehow we know of what's going to happen. So, and these experiments were done by Noetic Science Institute, IELTS, and Dean Radin writes about this extensively, and they were repeated over and over hundreds and hundreds of time. So somewhere our body knows about what will happen.
And the experiment really is set up to run by showing the pictures to you that will have an emotional response. So they're very either pleasant or very unpleasant. And somehow without having any ability, you don't have to be special. Just any human will have a reaction that we are not aware of in a way consciously, we're not aware of. So when science talks about other aspects that we have this much time to react, I lived through my career as a scientist, for people thinking, having models of how our memory works and it goes through a diagram. Well, in my experience and talking to people working in extreme environments, there's no diagram.
You just, it just pops up and sometimes you can't trace it where it's from. And this is from really talking with pilots, with astronauts, with surgeons, they just know. They don't know why, they don't know how. They can tell you the background story if it's for a medical committee review, they can make it up of why they thought to do that.
But in reality, no, they just know. And it comes from this experience that people have of being working on this edge. This is why expert is different. So when you're talking-- - Can we think of the, sorry, I just couldn't wait to say, is can we think of this almost like the expert gets access to two things, one, more data over time to build their expertise and then unique or new data because they're working on the edge and they're exposed to more difficult cases or harder cases. And would that be similar to a machine learning algorithm that is exposed to more data and newer data and so its models are better. And we as the outside reserve may not 100% understand why that machine learning model is performing the way it is or outputting the exact answer.
We can't see into exactly how the model works or the way it's work exactly. Is that almost the same for an expert? It's just the conscious experience of that model being generated is outside of their experience. - Well, I'm thinking on how, I don't know how to answer that.
It sounds similar, it's almost like an expert is doing this more often. Again, I should say why perhaps it's hard to train that someone else that say, hey, here's the exact skill set I have 'cause I haven't fully processed it into perhaps a list, but they're still reacting to their data and their experience. And it's perhaps, is it coming from nowhere? Or is it perhaps just unrecognizable because it's coming from inference of a lot of data? - Well, I'll give you an example. I think it's quite like real kind of tangible things that you can work through. So the method that I've used for understanding the thought processes and this pre-verbal expertise that now in three professions that I have looked at. So what happens is that firefighters, so this is where the technique that I'm using has got originated in Australia.
And so they were studying to understand of why some firefighters are able to exit the building just before it's gonna collapse, right? Well, how do they determine where bushfire is gonna spread? It's not obvious, but they know. And so when you listen to them, you get goosebumps for these experts talking about it because they talk about this as a living system, the fire on how it behaves. And so when they're discussing it, they're saying like, it's crackles differently, it behaves in a certain way, it has heat differently, it flows differently. But then when they were trying to teach other novice, because the whole point is that how can you pass that knowledge? And so they're not allowed, right, to they've got this protection, heat protection covers on their helmet, they actually open them. And I don't recall if they remember or don't remember doing that and when they come out, they pull it down.
But what happened is that they feel the change either in movement of air or in temperature. And that's when they know they need to get out. And it's so crucial and you could never, well, possibly someone who is so aware of their senses and how they operate, but to get to that granularity of expertise, which is literally preferable and wouldn't have come out unless that technique was used when you can actually take them back into that situation to that degree that they can recall what was happening.
But they were doing this and this piece of information possibly saved many, many lives, including getting out to the building too early and saving somebody's life, but also for the crew to get out on time. - That's interesting. We call that as pilots flying by the seat of our pants. I'm sure you're aware. And of course why we don't like flying in the simulator very much because it just can't mimic what it is actually like to be in the jet.
- Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so I am interested in this, where does this information come from? And how do you know that, a good example for everyday for us driving is sort of like, you know what that driver is gonna do. In essence, they haven't done anything yet, but you could see that for sure they're just gonna cross you in a minute. They're not gonna indicate and turn or something or they're gonna stop suddenly.
There is this expectation and you're processing all of that information and possibly it was there. You might have by glimpse saw that there was something coming to the road and that's why they would react. But in actuality, you can't articulate that, but you react to that.
And that's what I'm interested in, is that ability to absorb all of that information and be safe. And so I'm interested where that safety decision comes from. What pieces of information do you collect? And that's exactly what these pilots articulated to me in order to design a different type of layout of information so they could be more efficient and quicker. But it's not coming from me, it's understanding the cognitive processes of the expert and then giving time them to articulate them. 'Cause if you ask a pilot, how did your landing go? What would you say, you land on the deck? - I don't even know.
- Yeah, exactly. - I would fly it in and I would describe my deviations from what would be expected as far as my air speed or my altitude to a glide slope and say, I was a little high that time, but otherwise it was pretty good. - Yeah, exactly. So how could I improve displays from that? I can't. It seems like it's already perfect. There's nothing I can do.
So, well, me as maybe somebody else can. But the point is that you report what you generally trained to do and it's safe to do and it's cultural to do and it's efficient, right? Because that's all that's required. There was nothing out of the ordinary. But in order for me to help in any way, I would want to see of what was actually flowing through your mind. Was it a night landing and you saw bioluminescence and you looked at that, for example? - My eye actually fell on you.
- Yeah, so I'm interested in that. But it is also interesting to that where you're talking about the eyes. So suddenly the technology kind of, you know, as develops and the eye tracking, you need to see where pallets are looking and suddenly this became like a big thing. But it's not the fact that you're absorbing that information. - You're looking, but not maybe seeing. - Yeah, also not seeing, but also it might not be useful.
You looked at it, but ignored it. And it's taken as data as if you've taken it in or you look at that, but maybe, you know, it has nothing to do. So nothing to do with you needing that information.
So it's about taking that of what was, you know, literally reading your thought process second by second and understanding on what that part of it, you know, help you to stay safe. And that's what I'm interested in. And that's the most helpful way to kind of then to externalize or help you out externally on the displays, place information differently. So you can next time you don't need to search for it in your memory or do a mental calculation, hence cognitive engineering, right? So the subject is to help your cognition to be assisted by technology that can do other things better for you. - Very cool.
Well, I wanna ask you how perhaps that type of cognitive engineering and your lesson learned could perhaps be applied to better understanding and building procedures around UAP. But first, perhaps you could just provide a little background about any interests that you have or in a professional experience, personal experience that you might have with UAP or how you got into this as a area of aviation safety concern. - So it's a taboo, you know, the topic is a taboo and it's taboo in science in the same way as it is in aviation.
So I don't work on that, you know, at the university in my current position. So this is kind of a hobby. And it's sad because, you know, I grew up with the notion that people experienced this.
I had no problem kind of putting that into my mind or some people, you know, see it and that's possibly in the field of their view based on what they do or where they work, just unusual things happen. But then, you know, since, you know, several years now or at least two years that it's kind of came to a surface in the US and it became a real issue. I thought, you know, like, so what do I know? You know, how can I use my tools that I have sort of acquired over the years to, you know, to assist because I'm passionate about, you know, aviation, my profession. I'm interested how people, how to improve people in extreme environments, you know, what they can do.
So this is, you know, just sticks all the boxes for me. So I'm very curious, but there's no funding, you know, there's just nothing. And you're not allowed to mention this in the community, which is really sad because it's a real issue.
Have you spoken with any of your colleagues about this? No, no, I spoke with pilots that I used to work with. And so the pilots are very, the people that I know openly share or say they have or they haven't and what was it. And, but generally people would stay off that topic if it becomes on record, right? So, but, you know, we have tools that, you know, may assist the issue. So I don't understand why can't we look at that, you know.
Who's with the scientific community? Well, I mean, I can see tools, right, that I have used in the teams that I've worked with, right? So why not utilize those tools? And obviously it's not one person's job. So I can't do this alone. There has to be a team, you know, I can't tackle this on my own. I can't tackle this without pilots, you know, coming forward and being, you know, wanting to share of what is actually going through their mind, feeling safe, you know. And, you know, like with pilots I worked with, I talk about this, you know, kind of a great detail in my work, but you don't have to mention names, you know. The whole point is that I navigate, that I understand what the, I mean, from my point of view, it's the information processing challenge, right, in the first issue.
So, and what happens, for example, in, so how it relates to what I've done before, right? So my expertise were in dealing how automation is a challenge, is in a way, so there was a problem called automation surprise in a way. In aviation? In aviation, yeah. So when we went from analog to glass, so from, you know, clock like cockpits, you know, with-- The modern digital displays? Yes, that's right. So then there was an idea of an autopilot, you know, built into it, and it's not just autopilot, there's many, many functions, so it can navigate it, descend it, can ascend, can navigate, calculate the fuel estimate, you know, there's many, many things.
And the challenge was, is that it was programmed by engineers, or how to make efficient, you know, fuel management to save, you know, because of how they manage flight path and how they manage ascend, descend, deceleration, deceleration, change in modes. So it was all about, you know, this hoo-ha about saving, you know, well, also saving environment, you know, because it will save fuel. And, but what happened is that when it came through and pilots did get trained on it properly, it's called ab initio kind of conversion, where you go from a previous cockpit to an automated cockpit and it's all done in a similar, it's actually computer-based training, which I went through to understand, you know, how it filtrates. So I went through A320 and 777 and C130J, you know, to understand what was the process, but I never flew one.
So, but what helped me is to understand on what, you know, when they start speaking the language of what they were experiencing as a problem. So, so what I saw is that accidents were happening more so than, well, they slightly increased. So there were like 30 accidents per year. This is like late nine, late, late nineties. And then there was airplane crashing, so fatal.
So this is fatal accidents. - This is an increase. So when they introduced automation. - Exactly, increase by one, every one week.
- Accident a week. - Yeah, an accident a week. So there were nearly 50 accidents per year.
So, and so it became a real problem, right? And so the analysis, you know, initially they were saying they were like, you know, very high human error. And then they started to introduce other experts into the investigation. And what started to happen is that people were not unable, they couldn't understand of why this was happening. And people were not happy to talk about it because they did not know what the aircraft was doing.
So when I would go to a conference, right? And say like, look, the pilot doesn't know what the cockpit is, what the aircraft is doing. People like what, you know, I'm flying this. - That's the last thing you wanna hear. - Yeah, you know, I'm flying this, you know, commercial airliners, let's say, you know, every week, some business people fly it very frequently.
But it was a problem. And, you know, they were all trained, they were all checked. They were checked, you know, checked captains who would do the training who had the same problem. And there were certain things that were assumed that the pilot doesn't need to know, or assumed that the pilot would think the same way. But the problem is that the aircraft managed flight path or any type of change in mode on how it would, for example, transition from descent to ascent or to altitude.
It was, the logic was different on how they would fly, what they will put priority to, instead of fuel management. - Yeah. - Yeah. - And that's-- - The engineer programmed it to be as efficient as possible instead of, so that it could be flown by the pilot as safely and easily as possible. - Yeah, and so the challenge was, is that they were saying, I don't know, what's it doing? You know, how did it switch? And so the accidents were initially were taught to be 80%, you know, human error, meaning not human error, but pilot error. But then they started to look in further in trying to understand to depict it. And it was 40%, you know, human error, not pilot error, but human error.
So there were many things that were, there was still human error, but not the person in the cockpit. So for example, there would be, you know, maintenance error, you know, that contribute to it, management problems, pressures that the pilots had, and all of these things have to line up for an accident to happen. So it's like a Swiss cheese model by James Reason, that I'm sure you taught in you.
- I was. - Yeah, in you with actors. So, and the idea is that all of these things detract from pilots' attention. - Everyone adds a little bit into that problem, essentially. - Exactly, yeah. So for example, you know, a report that needs to be filed that they haven't filed. Management, you know, said, you must say if you do not do an extra circuit, you know, for example, if you're unsure or the weather's not right, or, you know, just press on, you know, do land, or land on time, you know, like, you know, this is it. - Burn more fuel and leave yourself in a tighter position, perhaps, be more economical.
- Yeah, yeah. So, and all of those things, they're playing on a pilot's mind instead of focusing on dissent and safe lending. So all of these things, and of course, there's, you know, family, personnel, colleagues, you know, all of that is happening. And then Cookpit does something. Was like, what? You know, I'm just about to land, and I didn't set, you know, that mode, or didn't transition into that.
And suddenly the aircraft is either stalling or descending too fast, or you're losing altitude, and suddenly terrain, terrain comes up and thinking like, you know, we shouldn't be here in any way. And you are miles behind them. - Yeah, behind the aircraft. - Yeah, you're behind the aircraft, and you need to now not only deal with the situation, but you need to figure out where you are, navigationly, operationally, and, you know, whom do you talk to, what do you do? And of course you pull up first, right? But, you know, all of this is still going through. And what if you don't have enough lift? And so you're not able, you're not, you know, you're not flying by the seat of your pants.
Because you are trusting. So this trust and automation somehow, you know, we trust easily actually as humans. We trust very easily, we give our trust easily. And what has been happening is that they have, pilots started to talk among themselves because they could not say they don't understand what they're, you know, what is happening in the aircraft.
Or a check captain couldn't say, I did not know what was happening, you know, good cut out. But then in parts-- - They're all having the same issues. - They're all having the same issues, but they're not talking. - Sounds familiar.
- Yeah. Yeah. So because they're surprised, they're shocked. So it's their reputation, right? It's their professional stand, you know, on who they are. They, if they don't know what they're flying, they've just converted, they might've got an increase in salary, you know, all sorts of consequences, it's livelihood. You know, this is what the person, you know, the whole life had been reaching.
And they finally flying the most latest aircraft and they can't, you know, they're not doing their job, which they used to do 20 years before. - They're climbing themselves and not the system itself. - Yeah, but because when you are flying, you are responsible, right? So you are responsible for the airplane, you're responsible for your crew if you're a captain, and you're responsible for everybody who's in the back, right? So you're thinking, you're processing all of that. So all of that is going through your mind in addition that I don't know what the aircraft is doing.
So I'm thinking, do I say it? Do I not? Do I just, you know, work through it and hopefully it will never happen again? You know, like different thinking problems. - I imagine that thinking that you just said, maybe I can ignore it, it'll never happen again. I imagine that probably goes through a lot of pilots minds if they have a UAP experience. - Possibly, you know, like, and, but it's a, once it entered your mind, you know, you can't wipe it off, not really, you know? So if it happened to you and you're thinking, well, I'm just gonna ignore it, right? But it's there, it happened. So you will always, it will now take up some of your working memory.
So your capacity to absorb new things or to act or to be safe or to remember other important things. So, and this is safety, you know, this is a problem because once a little bit capacity of you thinking about safety has taken away. So it's kind of chopping your resources and suddenly you're not on the task. So same thing was happening.
So they started talking in the pubs, you know, or starting to talk to friends, you know, who would, you know, they will test the waters. - Trusted friends, yeah. - Yeah, yeah, test the waters, you know, like, and then suddenly they realize they're not alone and it's a big relief.
It's a big relief because they are now saying like, it's not me, I'm not stupid. You know, I have, you know, all my professional training is correct. You know, I'm experiencing this. It's not my own fault. It's not because I'm not attentive on or did not train well, you know, everybody, not everybody, but like, you know, the majority of the people in my profession are having this.
I haven't talked to everyone, but people I touch base and trust, they're having the same issue. So they're starting now to, you know, to think about what to do. So at this time, you know, the aviation, so aircraft designers are not knowing this, right? They don't know that. - We're still talking about automation.
I know it sounds like we could be talking about UAP right now, but we still talk about automation. It's very closely aligned. - Yeah, exactly. So the aircraft designers still don't know that there is an automation surprise problem with pilots, right? But they're not starting to talk and they feel like it is becoming a safety. So people who are safety conscious like yourself, you know, people who need to keep, you know, safety policies, procedures, and, you know, constantly debriefing and seeing what the problem might be, they're starting to rise, but they're punished. They're punished until they're backed up.
So pilots, some pilots lose jobs, they lose families, their children suffer. So like big consequences, you know, and this, some people never recover. Some people commit suicide. It's that bad. So like these are real, you know, lives.
And, you know, and the only reason that person committed suicide, right? It's because he couldn't take responsibility of killing all other people in that aircraft. You know, that is something that is going through their mind. And I think that's important to account, right? You know, like, so these are people who are vulnerable people, you know, and we disrespect their professional opinion. This is shameful, I think, you know, like, you know, you wouldn't, you know, you would trust the surgeon, right? You know, with your life. And here you trust, you know, hundreds of people in the back of the aircraft. And we're not trusting, you know, their actual observation, you know, that they feel uncomfortable flying, or they don't feel they're gonna, you know, bring those people across safely.
So I think it's important, you know? Even if it's just, it maybe, you know, sounds like a cry for help, you know? So maybe it's real, you know, like maybe if it's real for this person who's been doing this job for many, many years, you know, maybe we should pay attention. And if there are many people talking about it, then definitely, you know, there's a professional concern. And these are people who are, you know, trusted with many, many things.
- So how did that eventually get resolved in the automation world? You said, you know, they got more support. What did that look like? - So pilots got together. And so at the time the internet wasn't that advanced 20 years ago, or more than 20 years ago now. So 25.
So this is, so they started to create forums. So these are forums that you wouldn't be admitted to, unless you-- - And my bond to a few-- - Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so unless you're checked and trusted, right? So they would start discussing these issues and they will start actually putting technical details in. So they will say, this mode, that mode, I was doing that and this happened.
And then the other pilots say, yeah, I had exactly the same thing, or no, something else different happened for me. Watch out for that. - So the only way they felt comfortable is basically back channeling it on web forums to have conversations.
And honestly, I assume. - Yeah, well, I don't know. - Semi-anal, who knows? - I don't remember whether there were, I mean, certainly you could log in to a different name, because I got into those forums by pilots who whom I worked with, they said, go check this out. And so, and you'd read one Linus, thousands and thousands of reporting the types of automation and they're not grouped by anything.
So there would be like, I flew yesterday and on landing my speed decline to nearly to a stall. And this was, these were the steps, and this is how I recovered. - Oh, so putting actual procedures. - Yeah, yeah. So it's because they're concerned for each other.
- Well, I get it. I totally get it as a pilot, but it's just as shocking and sad to see that that's the state of affairs at that point. - Yeah, so then, they feel power in numbers, right? - Yeah.
- And somehow I don't know that step, but it filtrates to, well, probably it filtrated through accidents, unfortunately. So, major-- - That's typically how we learn aviation through blood. - So I'm just terrible, right? So because this is hundreds of people and children. And anyway, it's loss of life in, and so these started to rise, and there were some famous accidents that to do with colliding with the mountain and unable to recover, and then they go to black box, and this is because it was not spoken to, but people were experiencing this way before, right? So these accidents, and I'm scanning these, so my PhDs to do with improving, converting from analog to glass and making sure that we can improve information processing to help the pilot to be more efficient, because the expectation that automation will take hold or replace-- - Just fix everything. - Yeah, well, yeah, we'll replace engineer or navigator, and so now pilot can look at it, but the pilot is not told the information, he needs to look it up, hence his capacity is taken away.
- Can't monitor the-- - Yes, he can't do other things. And so there's many assumptions that are done, and it was interesting to look into that. So now what we're seeing is that I suddenly have access to all this data, database, right? Precious database that by concerned pilots in us.
- In the form of these forms. - Yeah, that's right. So now we as scientists, so we are pouring all over this because we're looking what happens with accidents, we're waiting for accident reports to come out, they take months to come out.
Obviously there's a very diligent people who are looking to it, concerned pilots, looking to it, and so the awareness is being raised, and I now present this information on conferences of what I observe, the analysis that I see, and the word filtrates back to aviation. I meet Airbus captain who was designing philosophy for Airbus, and everybody's concerned, like many, many things starting to change and new upgrades are happening to the cockpit. But more so, first thing always, first thing is training. First thing, procedures and training. This is something that you can fix quicker, right? And hopefully not through loss of life. - What lessons can we take from that and apply to you and me? - Yeah, I think we have no time.
- No time. - No time. Because if it took, look at 25 years ago, and only now new pilots feel comfortable talking about it, them not understanding something in the cockpit. So that generation who were punished had to leave the profession to remove the stigma of reporting because that pain was still there.
People heard it in the corridors. Don't you dare, you might lose it. - So there was a lag between when a suitable reporting mechanism would put in place and when it truly became integrated into the pilot community. - Yeah, so the safety culture, you speak up, because, so for example, and yeah, so it took 25 years.
It's as long as professionals stay in the profession to leave and then for the new generation to take over. So do we have 20, 25 years from now when stigma is still here to report? And for these people who are flying, this basically, even if they don't collide, if people say, why should we be concerned about it? There's no interaction, for example. Well, it's in their mind, it's playing, and it's taking away their working memory, it's taking away their situational awareness, it's taking away out of flying safe, it's taking away from doing their job diligently. It's playing on their mind. Are they crazy? Are they not? And it's a big issue for a pilot to think, am I hallucinating? Am I safe? Am I a good pilot? Am I still fit to work? These things still go through the mind.
Why should we put people through that? You saw it, okay, well, let's look at it. What is it? What did you see? Describe, let's see maybe, there is a forum where other people experiencing the same thing. But so I think this is the first lesson.
So that even people are not talking about it. How does it detract from their professional life and from their attention of being safe in the cockpit? Caring all these people, have they experienced it and they got frightened even, for example? They don't want this because of their belief system, maybe even, they just don't want to look at it. It's just, it doesn't fit into their world of view. And that's acceptable too, because we're all different. We all experience the world through a different lens.
So why not accept and see what we can do with this? It's a real human concern, it's care, it's professional care. - If I think there's an actual effort to provide context around what these pilots could be seeing, it's going to minimize the distraction and enable them to hopefully in the future with process or procedure that could be implemented, be able to ensure safe separation from that object and then be able to properly communicate that to the appropriate authorities, whether that's ATC that would then handle that or not. I've spoken with pilots who have been hesitant to even radio out to ATC, air traffic control, because they don't want their call sign associated with the sighting even. And that they have then reached out after they've landed to other pilots they heard to then let them know that they've shared the same thing.
I think we're moving in the right direction, but it's still something that I hear from pilots that they are uncomfortable talking about it publicly and essentially want to keep their heads down and out of it for the time being anyways. - Yeah, and why? What's playing on their mind? Why do they not want to do it? It means they're concerned, they don't want to be affected. And that means it does take capacity. It worries them to some extent.
And I'm interested in that to what degree does it affect their performance? - So how do you propose on studying? - So I think first a very good step to do is just to get to speak with the pilots who are experiencing to understand what do they, what are they thinking? What is their concern about it? Not even just what they're seeing, right? Because seeing is one thing, but then what happens with your cognition? How loaded are you with this concern or thought or maybe not even a problem? Maybe they're curious, it doesn't matter. But the point is that to collect that reaction, so when the other person is confronted with it, they know, or they have read, for example, that other people experience similar concerns or discomfort or excitement or fear or concern what other people would think about it. Should I talk to your traffic control? What would my co-pilot think? And all of these things, do I talk about this to the family? All of that thing, because it's your professional time.
It takes on hold, it kind of slows you down, it's weight, that shouldn't be, we shouldn't be burdening that person with that. They should be able to do their job, what they expect it to do. And given the parameters, if something is unexpected, well, there is a backup, right? Like mission control, right? There is lots of scientists, there are safety experts. There are people who can take that load off and say, "Okay, what are you getting? Let's have a look at this. How does this affect you?" So first, I think, from my point of view, I would, people who experience this soon after the event to speak.
- Well, let's be clear before we go into that, that you're proposing an actual study, right? And so this would be something that you would oversee and you would be looking for volunteers to participate in. It would involve some type of reporting, whether anonymous or not. So just to be clear, this is something that you are looking to actually engage on as soon as practical. So yeah, I just wanted to put that out there. So, you know, we're not just talking about hypotheticals now.
- Yeah, so I thought on how could what I know or what I have done might be helpful in this situation. So by understanding that, so first step would be to get people to talk about not that what they've seen, but what they're experiencing, because it's that the experience that allows us to open up or trust others. But if I tell you, you know, I've experienced this, you will tell me, oh yeah, I did too.
But you may not step up to it until I told you. And that trust is important. So, and then that person feels accepted. They could literally exhale and you see people kind of like, you know, like weight is falling off of the shoulders because somebody got it, you know, somebody understood and I'm not alone.
And we can now, you know, even if you don't look at it together, next, but at least, you know, like I'm not going mad and it's not an illusion and it's really happening and to other people similar to me. So by understanding what they're experiencing, by going into a situation, maybe even, you know, things that are happening before and how this enters their mind, how it's then impacts on what they're doing. And by understanding what kind of thought processes go on, I'm sure there will be similarities across people and there will be people then, you know, once we understand these categories of what person is thinking through, just by recollection of how did it affect me, then we are able to then look up, also to understand in what scenario it happened. So capture under what circumstances it happened. So now we have these categories of what person experienced and what scenarios were around that.
So we then can put this into a cockpit, you know, simulator and get pilots who have not experienced this to see, obviously they would know, you know, so wouldn't be complete surprise, but they would know that they would be experiencing it, but they don't know when or how and how they would actually react. And the interesting thing that would have thought through on how I would react, but what fascinates me every time we surprise ourselves in the situations of unexpected events, most often in a good way, you know, like we rise to the event and able to deal with it. So then at that point, I can use the methodology that I used with surgeons, with pilots, with astronauts, that was used with firefighters to actually depict the finite, you know, those microseconds that you're talking about, you know, of decision-making and thought processing and, you know, how does this piece of information actually affects our cognition? And then we are able to draw even further, you know, distinction on what is helpful, because we will see the reaction, what is not helpful, what corrective actions can be taken that are helpful. And we then can write procedures, we can design training, you know, from that one, we're able to take, you know, some outcome that would be helpful, because once, you know, why do you do simulator training? - Build the muscle memory. - Exactly, yeah. So it takes away capacity, you know, as well.
So apart from, you know, knowing what to do with aircraft, but it's also, you don't need to process it as much. It goes into kind of a secondary buffer and you can take new information. So once, even if I read how other pilots react, when I'm in the aircraft, I would have already in my mind thought through those reactions and possibly even categorize myself where I would be. So when I encounter it, it wouldn't be as much of a surprise because I've already thought of it and it would be even better if what the suggestions are would help other pilots dealt with it after, you know, what they do during and after.
So now, once we have this process in our mind, we then don't need to occupy our, you know, - Load memory, essentially. - Yeah, yeah. So you have suddenly a capacity to deal with all the safety things that you need to do. And then we could do training, you know, there would be something we can do, like even computer training, you know, something, you know, online that's as easy, maybe for, you know, more serious type of operations,