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Conference papers

Visual scanning strategies according to aircraft automation level

Abstract : The growing role of automation in modern cockpits allowed a drastic diminution of aircraft acci- dents and permitted to lower crews’ workload. At the same time, it introduced new challenges that necessitate new research, particularly on error management, and vigilance (Wickens et al., 1998). High level of automation is suspected to provoke a loss of hand-flying capabilities, an increased complacency, and a reduction of the situation awareness (Endsley et al., 1995). Loss of hand-flying capabilities is observed when automation takes on the tasks previously assigned to the operator. In this situation crew skills may atrophy as they go unexercised (Haslbeck et al., 2016). Crews tend to be “automation addict”, further reducing hand flying capacities. Thus, the ability to face a sudden breakdown of automation or an unexpected situation can be alleviated (e.g., Haslbeck et al., 2012). On the other side, complacency effects (e.g., Parasuraman et al., 2010) can promote the occurrence of a particularly prominent typology of error: the failure of the crew to properly monitor the flight instruments, particularly when using highest levels of automation. The present study compared visual scanning strategies of professional pilots with and without automation. Twenty airline pilots (10 Captain and 10 First Officers forming 10 crews) performed two approaches (once as pilot flying, once as pilot monitoring) with different levels of automation (with or without flight directors and autothrottle) in an Airbus 320 full flight simulator. Flying the aircraft without any automation is considered more complex because it requires frequent gaze tran- sitions between all instruments with no external references. Pilots were required to perform the approaches in poor visibility and in accordance with operator regulations, more specifically regard- ing stabilization requirements. Eye movements of both pilots were recorded with head-mounted eye trackers. We analyzed flight performance, eye fixations, and visual patterns to examine visual scanning strategies, associated with the different automation levels. We hypothesized that during the approach without automation, the visual scanning strategies should be different than during the approach with automation, associated to a higher number of visual patterns. In addition, we hypothesized that a sub-optimal gaze allocation could be observed during approaches without automation, with the Pilot Flying possibly highly focused on primary flight instrument (specifically the attitude indicator and ILS deviation scales) to the detriment of other flight parameters. On the opposite, we assumed that pilots could highly focus on the flight directors to the detriments of other flying instruments when flying with full automation level. Our results confirmed that full automation systems were associated to a monitoring strategy fo- cused on the flight directors to the detriment of basic flight instruments, and a lower number of visual patterns. On the opposite, without automation, visual scanning was more distributed among all primary flight instruments and the number of visual pattern was higher. Results con- firmed that cockpit monitoring can be impacted by variations of the level of automation, and that an inadequate monitoring can result from complacency when automation is high. We also suggest the importance of developing better training programs to enhance pilots’ monitoring skills.
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Contributor : Laurence Porte <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 2:44:35 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 11:24:01 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02933506, version 1



Olivier Lefrancois, Mickael Causse, Nadine Matton. Visual scanning strategies according to aircraft automation level. ICCAS 2020, 1st International Conference on Cognitive Aircraft Systems, Mar 2020, Toulouse, France. ⟨hal-02933506⟩



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