Aviation Safety and Industrial Research

Aviation Safety Research

DVI's Aviation and Aerospace Experts are actively involved in promoting aviation safety and are performing research to help better understand the causation of aircraft accidents. Below are some of the recent research activities:


Technologically Advanced Aircraft and Risk Homeostasis

DVI's Aviation Consultants have published papers in both the journals for the National Association of Flight Instructors and the Aviation Insurance Association. These papers examined the relationship of Risk Homeostasis Theory and the propensity of pilots to increase their risk taking behavior while flying Technologically Advanced Aircraft. In the aviation arena, it is likely that such risk adjustment behavior would manifest itself as an increase in the likelihood of an individual being willing to expose themselves to greater levels of risk if the aircraft were perceived as being safer due to technological changes. It is important, therefore, not to focus strictly on the technological safety features or aircraft capabilities; but to recognize the performance of the human element. Each individual has an acceptable level of risk which they assign to any particular task; those that train to become pilots need to understand their personal limitations and the limitations of their equipment. This will increasingly be brought to the forefront as more technologically advanced aircraft and systems become available to less experienced pilots in general aviation. Risk Homeostasis Theory is also an underlying explanation as to why so many spatial disorientation events occur. This is a key concept to understanding the seductive nature of visual misperception and disorientation. Flying is a cognitively-demanding task and a pilot’s attentional resources are always pulled in many directions. Some of the classic examples of this are when a pilot inadvertently (or intentionally) enters IMC and fails to make a rapid and precise transition to flying solely by reference to instrument cues. Or in other cases, it’s all too often that pilots confidently choose to fly visual approaches at night or continue upon their navigational route despite limited visibility. Technologically Advanced Aircraft, Is Safer Really Safer? Aviation Insurance Association Article.


Scenario Based Command Training for General Aviation Pilots

DVI's President has also researched and developed, based upon 13+ years as a flight instructor and as a University Faculty member teaching Aviation Human Factors, a one-of-kind Human Factors based Flight Review program. This unique scenario based training program was developed to allow pilots the opportunity to explore and understand their own behaviors and reactions to unexpected circumstances. Contrary to popular opinion, good judgment can be taught. Heretofore, it was supposed to be gained only as a natural by-product of experience. As pilots continued to log accident- free flight hours, a corresponding increase of good judgment was also assumed. Unfortunately, there are a number of classic behavioral traps into which pilots have been known to fall into. Pilots, particularly those with considerable experience, as a rule always try to complete a flight as planned, please passengers, meet schedules, and generally demonstrate that they have the “right stuff.” The basic drive to demonstrate the “right stuff’ can have an adverse effect on safety and can impose an unrealistic assessment of piloting skills under stressful conditions. These tendencies ultimately may lead to practices that are dangerous. All experienced pilots have fallen prey to, or have been tempted by, one or more of these tendencies in their flying careers. These dangerous tendencies or behavior patterns must be identified and eliminated. Utilizing scenario based training methods, pilots that participated in this program, are exposed to realistic accident scenarios and are forced to apply cognitive problem solving skills.


The Use of Flight Simulators for Spatial Disorientation Training

DVI’s Spatial Disorientation Experts conducted an internal research project to investigate the use of flight simulators to train pilots to identify and recover from spatial disorientation events. It was found that accidents attributable to pilots succumbing to spatial disorientation events are as prevalent today in the operation of commercial jet and military aircraft, as they were decade ago.  This is a very unfortunate fact, given that the fidelity of the latest generation flight simulators could be used to effectively mitigate these occurrences. DVI’s Spatial Disorientation Experts identified a major gap in the use of flight simulators to train commercial jet pilots; namely the lack of any simulator software capable of realistically emulating both the scenario leading up to an event and the actual inducement of spatial disorientations. This new application of simulator training could be the best teaching tool because education alone has not been able to significantly impress upon pilots their own susceptibility. A commercial pilot’s first experience of an actual spatial disorientation event might be with a plane full of passengers. By having the ability to allow pilots to experience their misperceptions first hand in a simulator specifically designed to mimic spatial disorientation events, their perceptual limitations can be demonstrated and self realized.


The Thoroughness of Flight Reviews

DVI's Aviation Consultants recently conducted a survey of a large number of the flight schools (representative respondents ranging from university flight programs to independent instructors) to investigate whether or not the thoroughness of biennial flight reviews, conducted in Technologically Advanced Aircraft, was commensurate to the complexity of the aircraft. Anecdotally, the Certified Flight Instructors “sitting on the couch” waiting for a new client (an opportunity to build hours) to come in the door will typically not turn business away just because they are less familiar with an aircraft’s equipment. The research found a relationship between CFIs (respondents) with and without TAA experience, and how they approach biennial flight reviews, regardless of the aircraft used. One safety recommendation that was made as a result of this research was that because there is such a large divergence in the training community as to how to properly evaluate safety and technology, a group like NAFI/SAFE should create an industry standard for a TAA self-endorsement that fits within the biennial flight reviews. Below is a sample of the respondent's answers to DVI's questionnaire.



Aviation Industrial Reseach

DVI's Aeronautical Scientists and Aerospace Design Experts are actively engaged in performing pioneering industrial research. Shown below are some examples of the work that DVI's Aviation Scientists have been involved with.


Development of Durable, Low Friction Coating for Refueling Drogues

DVI’s Aerospace Experts worked to identify a more durable aerospace coating system that can be applied to the MC-130J’s VSRD outer ribs in order to increase the mean time between failures and reduce life cycle cost. High friction and failures of the current coating system is preventing the deployment of the VSRD from the refueling pod storage tube. Failure of the VSRD to deploy from the storage tube prevents the MC-130J from completing its aerial refueling mission. This failure mode is mission critical, because the receiving aircraft are dependent upon the successful transfer of fuel to stay airborne.

Coatings applied to surfaces, such as the ribs on the VSRD, often provide a very cost effective means to achieve properties (low friction, high toughness, and low wear) that would be difficult or even impossible to obtain with monolithic materials. The utilization or proper selection of coatings can be impeded by the lack of relevant performance data that would allow an applications engineer or designer to select a particular coating that would likely meet the requirements of a specific application. Generic materials property data such as hardness, service temperature, and coefficient of friction exist for many coatings, but experience has shown that the substrate, coating, and mechanical apparatus behave as a system. This creates significant challenges to forecast the in-service performance of a coating system. 


Development of Super-hydrophobic Coatings for Landing Gear

DVI’s Aeronautical Scientists identified a practical super-hydrophobic coating system that could be applied to landing gears in corrosion-prone environments. Landing gear components experience service in extreme environments, and often utilize materials that are prone to corrosion. As such, corrosion prevention is critical in ensuring the safety and reliability of aircraft landing gear.

Most landing gear corrosion prevention strategies comprises one or more of the following systems, based on the function of the surface: sacrificial platings (cadmium, LHE Zn-Ni), barrier platings (chromium, HVOF, nickel, anodize, etc.), and primer/paint application. However, these defenses can be compromised or can be inadequate for the service conditions to which they are subjected.

DVI’s Aerospace Scientists and Experts identified that super-hydrophobic coatings are one possible way to minimize or prevent corrosion. Super-hydrophobic coatings are defined as having contact angles of 150o or greater. In theory, super-hydrophobic coatings should improve corrosion resistance by acting as a barrier to transport of the electrolyte to the coated surface, and this has been found to be the case, but characterizations typically do not encompass all of the practical issues to determine if super-hydrophobic coatings can provide corrosion protection in practice. For example, many approaches increase the roughness of the surface because this creates air pockets that contribute to the super-hydrophobicity, but rougher surfaces also have increased friction that is not desirable if surfaces are sliding against each other. Many of the materials used for super-hydrophobic coatings also lack the abrasion resistance that is needed to resist abrasion from particulate matter in the air, especially in theaters such as the Mid-East. The utilization or proper selection of coatings that meet the aircraft manufacture’s requirements can be impeded by the lack of relevant performance data that would allow an applications engineer or designer to select a particular coating that would likely meet the needs of a specific application. Generic materials property data such as hardness, service temperature, and coefficient of friction exist for many coatings, but experience has shown that the substrate, coating, mechanical apparatus, and operating environment behave as a system. This creates significant challenges to forecast the in-service performance of a coating system. 


Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with NBC Airborne Sensors

DVI’s Drone Experts assisted in the development of an autonomous airborne sensor that could actively track and trend the dispersion of radioactive particles and airborne pathogens. The Fukushima-Daichii nuclear power plant accident highlighted the limitations for collecting real-time dispersion data during radioactive fallout. In some instances, radioactive monitoring sensors were simply attached to vehicles driven by First Responders and other workers. These unsophisticated methods require great personal risk with unexpected consequences when evaluating NBC threats. Furthermore, there are few ways to determine the source of the pathogen release, its concentration, or the trends and direction of the pathogen/radiation in real-time. An autonomous airborne sensor eliminates the need for a person to physically evaluate the contamination site. This airborne sensor can be deployed very rapidly and provide information back to personnel where it normally takes a surveying team significantly longer to implement. This lost time during implementation of personnel allows the pathogen or radiation further time to migrate and disperse. Proprietary algorithms determine the altitude, concentrations, direction, dispersing trends, speed of advancement, and source point of the NBC event.