in Aviation Systems
Mica R. Endsley SA Technologies
In the aviation domain, maintaining a high level of situation awareness is one of the most critical and challenging features of an aircrew's job. Situation awareness (SA) can be thought of as an internalized mental model of the current state of the flight environment. This integrated picture forms the central organizing feature from which all decision making and action takes place. A vast portion of the aircrew's job is involved in developing SA and keeping it up to date in a rapidly changing environment. Consider this excerpt demonstrating the criticality of situation awareness for the pilot and its frequent elusiveness:
Ground control cleared us to taxi to Runway 14 with instructions to give way to two single-engine Cessnas that were enroute to Runway 5. With our checklists completed and the Before Takeoff PA [public announcement] accomplished, we called the tower for a takeoff clearance. As we called, we noticed one of the Cessnas depart on Runway 5. Tower responded to our call with a "position and hold" clearance, and then cleared the second Cessna for a takeoff on Runway 5. As the second Cessna climbed out, the tower cleared us for takeoff on Runway 5.
Takeoff roll was uneventful, but as we raised the gear we remembered the Cessnas again and looked to our left to see if they were still in the area. One of them was not just in the area, he was on a downwind to Runway 5 and about to cross directly in front of us. Our response was to immediately increase our rate of climb and to turn away from the traffic. . . . If any condition had prevented us from making an expeditious climb immediately after liftoff, we would have been directly in each other's flight path. ( Kraby, 1995, p. 4)
The problem can be even more difficult for the military pilot who must also maintain a keen awareness of many factors pertaining to enemy and friendly aircraft in relation to a prescribed mission in addition to the normal issues of flight and navigation, as illustrated by this account: