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Issues and Evidence for Flight Deck Automation



Since automation was first introduced in airplane flight decks people have been talking and writing about issues related to pilots using that automation. The relative importance of issues was often measured by the number of people that were discussing them. It was clear that a resource to identify as many of the issues as possible and provide data related to each of them would be useful to those doing research, developing training and procedures, and designing flight decks.


The primary challenges were to develop a comprehensive taxonomy of issues related to the design and use of flight deck automation and to develop a means to make the information available about the issues useful to all who would like to use it.

Approach and Solution

Our general approach followed these objectives. In Phase 1 we reviewed literature, reviewed accident and incident reports, conducted our own survey of pilots, and performed automation analyses to identify flight deck automation issues. In Phase 2 we surveyed aviation experts, reviewed literature and accident reports, and analyzed incident reports to compile data and other objective evidence related to those issues. Since Phase 2 was completed, we have continued to review automation-related literature, accident reports, and incident reports for additional evidence. Our work has yielded a list of 94 flight deck automation human factors issues, over 1000 instances of evidence related to those issues, and a large body of supporting information. To make the issues, evidence, and other information accessible to those who could use it effectively, we created a website located at It summarizes our findings and provides a searchable database of human factors issues related to flight deck automation. All the initial development work in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the project was accomplished in partnership with Oregon State University.


We now maintain the database and website to keep the information current and to answer any questions that users may have. The website has won several awards and is used regularly by human factors researchers in industry and academia, flight deck designers, and airline training and operations departments.

Funding Agency:

Federal Aviation Administration

Research Integrations is a purpose-driven human factors research service and consulting company where we put people first,  trust the process, and in turn develop usable products that truly meet our customer's needs. 

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