1992-07-01

Flight Deck Automation and Pilot Workload 921132

The highly-automated glass cockpit offers many advantages. For example, it saves fuel compared to manual flight if weather conditions are not severe. But pilots regard automation as a mixed blessing (Wiener, Chidester, Kanki, Palmer, Curry, and Gregorich, 1991). From a human factors perspective, automation is not always an innate good. While proper use of automation can improve flight safety, automation also introduces the possibility of new kinds of error that might not occur with older flight decks. As is the case with any new technology, one must also take into account how people interact with new tools. This article focusses upon some of the potential problems that can occur with glass cockpits, especially as they relate to pilot workload. The goal of the article is not to condemn automation but instead to emphasize potential problems so that they can be avoided in the future. Designers should not eschew high levels of automation. But the implementation of automation should be human-centered with due appreciation of the limitations and expectations of the pilots who are the end users of such automation.

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