Date of Award

3-2020

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Dahai Liu, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Dothang Truong, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Scott R. Winter, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Alan Jacobsen, Ph.D.

Abstract

The research problem of pilot fatigue has been referenced as a causal factor for aircraft accidents in many United States National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports; however, the United States Code of Federal Regulations 14 CFR Part 117, Flight and Duty Limitations and Rest Requirements for Flight Crew Members, does not provide a tangible means of measuring fatigue for aircraft crew members. This problem is relevant to the airline industry and the travelling public because pilot fatigue is preventable as a causal factor in aviation accidents, and pilots need an accurate way to measure it. Adoption of a technology-based solution has been recommended by the NTSB.

The purpose of this study was to determine the factors that affect United States certified airline transport pilots’ behavioral intention to use personal, wearable fatigue monitoring technology (FMT), such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, to assess their personal fatigue levels. FMT could potentially be used to help meet pilots’ legal requirement to be aware of their personal fatigue levels, per 14 CFR Part 117. The theoretical framework for this study is the Extended Technology Acceptance Model, and the research question is: What factors affect pilots’ behavioral intention to use personal, wearable fatigue monitoring technology, and to what degree? There were ten hypotheses tested that corresponded to different relationships in the model.

The data for this study was collected using an online survey distributed to certified airline transport pilots in the United States, in which the survey questions corresponded to observed variables pertaining to each of the eight factor constructs in the model. The data was analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques to test the hypotheses. The results of the study contributed to the theoretical body of knowledge by demonstrating that a modified version of the Extended Technology Acceptance Model was applicable to U.S. airline transport pilot behavioral intention to use FMT. Six of the ten original hypotheses were supported, and four were not supported.

It was determined that the primary factors that positively affect a pilot’s behavioral intention to use FMT are perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Perceived usefulness is positively affected by the external factors of job relevance, results demonstrability, and perceived image or social status, which act as secondary factors positively influencing behavioral intention to use FMT. A tertiary factor influencing behavioral intention to use FMT is subjective norms, which positively influence perceived image, thus positively affecting perceived usefulness and intention to use FMT. Output quality, subjective norms, and perceived ease of use were determined to not have a statistically significant effect on pilots’ perceived usefulness of FMT, and subjective norms were determined not to have a statistically significant effect on pilots’ behavioral intention to use FMT.

The practical significance of this study is that pilots find FMT devices most useful when it is applicable to their jobs, provides tangible results, and increases their social status perception. It is beneficial if others around them think they should use FMT, and that if they use FMT, their social status perception increases. Practical solutions to increase the likelihood of pilot FMT device usage should include wearable device applications that provide features that directly apply to the pilot profession, report data in ways that make sense to pilots, and also make the pilot look and feel stylish. Nearly 87 percent of pilots already wear a watch while flying, and over 40 percent of pilots already wear some form of FMT for personal use, so the challenge going forward is to make the right improvements to the devices to increase usage. Such improvements may include new aviation-themed applications that appeal to pilots and provide results that can help them make more informed decisions, while simultaneously improving the aesthetic to drive an increase in social pressures to wear the FMT devices regularly.

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