Monday, July 02, 2007

TSS: Voice Recognition

The TSS and EDS voice recognition system is the weakest part of the simulation here at the Academy. While it is able to handle a variety of accents and tones, there are sometimes where it just simply interprets your voice the wrong way. This, unfortunately, can cause immense frustration and aggravation since you know you used the correct phraseology, but the computer simply didn't pick it up correctly.

This issue is most noticeable in the EDS labs, where you don't have a Ghost Pilot to pick up the slack and slap the computer back into shape.

Here's a pic of the EDS labs, by the way. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are six stations just like this one in a single room, running the same software and problems that is used in the large-scale TSS sims.

Some tips:
  • Annunciation and speed are key. As the problems get busier, it's tempting to speak more quickly to match the pace of the traffic. However, this will lead you to trouble, as you will spend more time and wasting more transmissions correcting things that would not have occurred if you'd just spoken a little more clearly.
  • Don't slur. A lot of us have the habit of slipping "err" or "um" into our speech patterns when we're unsure of what to say. The results can be completely unpredictable and can cause you loads of hurt.

    This was most prevalent with a couple of my Puerto Rican friends, for whom English is more-or-less a second language. However, by the time of the PV, they (and all others who had that issue) were doing really, really well.
  • Unkey for non-control instructions. Give all traffic and wake turbulence advisories with the mic unkeyed. Due to the variety and random nature of WT and traffic notices, it really opens up a lot of opportunities for the computer to go ape-shit.

    Your instructor knows that the computer is freaky and understands that you need to play it simple. They will typically "play pilot" and respond to your WT and traffic advisories.

    For instance:
    You: "Delta 333, Runway Two Eight Right, Cleared to land." (Unkey your mic) "Caution wake turbulence, arrived Heavy Boeing 777. Traffic ahead and to your left, Cessna 172, turning final Runway Two Eight Left."
    Aircraft: "Delta 333, Roger, Runway Two Eight Right, Cleared to Land."
    Instructor (playing as the DAL333 pilot): "Roger wake turbulence. We have the traffic in sight."
  • Love your Ghost Pilot. These guys work hard as hell and they're all super nice people. There's one in each TSS monitoring your transmissions and fixing any wonkiness that occurs. They will save your bacon day in and day out by fixing wayward aircraft and vehicles.
  • Know where the blame lies. It's all too easy to blame the computer for bad performance on your end. There is no doubt that the computer has its quirks, but if you're not saying things right in the first place (or saying it at the appropriate time) then you're screwing yourself. The computer is unforgiving and - unlike a real pilot - will simply do what it's told. If you screw up and tell an aircraft on short final to "enter downwind" the virtual airplane will do just that, whereas a real pilot may respond with some type of "You want me to do what?" transmission.
Of all the man-machine-translation SNAFUs that I've seen, by far the biggest troublemaker is the following example. It has screwed numerous people over and caused a chain reaction of events that caused people to fall behind.

You: "American 311, Hold Short Runway Two-Eight Right, landing traffic."
Airplane: "Roger, turning right."

Essentially, what happens is that you have an airplane holding short of Runway 28R, normally because you have another aircraft on final. The airplane on the ground hears "turn right" and proceeds to turn on to the runway... directly into the path of the landing aircraft. At this point what happens is this:
  • The landing aircraft needs to be told to go around.
  • The taxiing aircraft no longer wants to take off. This is a total "computer thing". The airplane is no longer able to be cleared for takeoff, ridiculous as this sounds. You have to taxi it clear of the runway, coordinate with Ground, and taxi it back to the runway threshhold.
  • You have to reinsert the landing aircraft into your traffic pattern. If it's a small airplane, it's not too bad, but if it's an airliner and you have other IFR jets inbound, it can cause some serious issues.
The best way to combat this is to super-enunciate "hold short Runway Two Eight Right." as "Hold. Short. Runway. Two. Eight. Right." After I started doing that, it helped everything quite a bit.

In short, one mis-read voice transmission will cause you a world of hurt, so speak clearly.

Hear are a few additional examples:

You: "N123, Runway Two-Eight Right at Charlie. Taxi via Golf, Bravo. Hold short Runway One Six."
Airplane: "N123, Roger, Taxi to Helipad Charlie via Golf, Bravo. Hold short Runway One Six."
Solution: Just re-issue the taxi instructions.

You: "American 123, Runway Two-Eight Right, Cleared to Land."
Airplane: "American 123, Roger, Holding over Woody."
Solution: The aircraft will break off final to go and hold over the Woody fix. Even if the aircraft was on a one mile final, you can no longer clear it to land. You have to first issue additional pattern entry instructions, such as "Enter four mile Runway Two-Eight Right", wait for it to actually carry out those instructions, and then clear it to land.

You: "N123, Runway Two-Eight Right. Taxi via Golf, Bravo. Hold short Runway One Six."
Airplane: "N123, Roger, Runway Two-Eight Right. Taxi via Golf, Bravo. Hold short Taxiway VORTAC."
Solution: Just re-issue the taxi instructions.

No comments: