Detecting Mode Confusion Through Formal Modeling and Analysis

Abstract

Aircraft safety has improved steadily over the last few decades. While much of this improvement can be attributed to the introduction of advanced automation in the cockpit, the growing complexity of these systems also increases the potential for the pilots to become confused about what the automation is doing. This phenomenon, often referred to as mode confusion, has been involved in several accidents involving modern aircraft. This report describes an effort by Rockwell Collins and NASA Langley to identify potential sources of mode confusion through two complementary strategies. The first is to create a clear, executable model of the automation, connect it to a simulation of the flight deck, and use this combination to review of the behavior of the automation and the man-machine interface with the designers, pilots, and experts in human factors. The second strategy is to conduct mathematical analyses of the model by translating it into a formal specification suitable for analysis with automated tools. The approach is illustrated by applying it to a hypothetical, but still realistic, example of the mode logic of a Flight Guidance System.

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