The use of external aids (e.g., a kneepad) can reduce the demands of Air Traffic Control (ATC) communication on pilots’ working memory during routine flight. Older pilots may especially benefit from such aids because of agerelated declines in working memory, although cognitive declines may impair the ability to coordinate the use of these aids with concurrent flight navigation and control tasks. We investigated the use of two external aids that may vary in ease of coordination: a conventional knee pad and an electronic notepad, or e-pad. Participants were 6 older (50-65 years) and 6 younger (20-40) active instrument-rated pilots. While in a Frasca flight simulator, they listened to and read back complex (four-instruction) ATC messages while using the kneepad, e-pad, or no aid. Readback accuracy was analyzed by an Age x Aid x Instruction type (Heading, Altitude, Speed) ANOVA with Aid and Instruction as repeated measures. Accuracy was higher when pilots used either aid compared to no aid, and lower for older pilots. The findings suggested a greater aid benefit for older pilots, with a smaller age difference in the two aid conditions than in the no-aid condition. While the Age x Aid interaction was not significant, this interaction was significant for the altitude instruction readbacks. Despite the small sample size, our study replicates note-taking (kneepad) benefits for older as well as younger pilots’ communication, and extends these findings to the novel epad. Results of a usability survey helped improve the e-pad interface. We will next investigate potential attentional costs of these aids for task coordination during simulated Frasca flight, as well as their benefits for communication.
& Raquel, L.
(2005). External Aids and Age Differences in Pilot Communication. 2005 International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 507-511.