In order to improve flight training, cockpit displays and other necessary flight deck operations, NASA is drawing on the experiences of some 15,000 test pilots who are already in the air with American Airlines. The two groups announced this week a five-year partnership that will allow the space agency to observe, "how flight crews interact with technology in real time, in real life," NASA Langley researcher Steve Young explained. "It gives us a better idea not only about how current technology works, but how designs for future flight deck systems can provide the most impact."
Through the partnership, American Airlines will get more realistic simulator and flight training systems that both teams hope will ultimately lead to a better flight experience for all the regular folks back in the main cabin. Increased realism in a flight simulator doesn't just mean higher definition visuals though -- it also means building in challenging new scenarios like "loss-of-control events" or other situations where planes ended up in unsafe conditions.
NASA has a long history of collaborating with the airline industry and others in the private sector to develop new technologies for everyone's benefit. In 2001, the agency actually partnered with American to develop synthetic vision, which allows pilots to have clear skies no matter what kind of weather happens to be outside the cockpit windows.