An Assessment of Pilots' Concurrent Use of Runway Entrance Lights and Surface Movement Control System Guidance System Stop Bars

May 2011
Topics: Improving National Airspace System Performance
Dr. Kathleen A. McGarry, The MITRE Corporation
Emily K. Stelzer, The MITRE Corporation
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Two Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) simulations were conducted to investigate the concurrent use of Runway Entrance Lights (RELs) and Surface Movement Guidance Control System (SMGCS) stop bars. The first study investigated use by pilots who did receive training on using these lighting systems simultaneously, while the second study investigated use by pilots who did not receive training. A total of 11 commercial pilots were asked to taxi a mid-fidelity simulated aircraft under low visibility conditions. Results suggest that pilots who have not received the proper clearance from ATC are not likely to cross the illuminated stop bar, even when RELs extinguish indicating that the runway is not actively being used. In addition, RELs were found to generate stopping responses on 100% of trials for the trained pilots, and 67.5% of trials for the untrained pilots when they were erroneously cleared onto an active runway. While the lighting systems were effective in reducing the number of runway incursions, pilots ignored or did not respond to the RELs in 32.5% of trials in the untrained group. Though the performance data suggest that these lighting systems can enhance runway safety, some pilots' subjective reports indicate that the concurrent use of the systems could cause some confusion. Results point to the importance of an effective training program, and notification that the systems are concurrently being used in an airport environment to ensure their full effectiveness.


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