Pilots' retention of aeronautical knowledge learned during private pilot training was studied in four experiments. In the first experiment, ten questions from the FAA private pilot airplane knowledge test were administered to sixty pilots, yielding an average score of 74.8%. Test scores were compared against seven characteristics of the pilots tested: certificates and ratings held, current role in aviation (pilot, CFI, or applicant for additional certificate/rating), total flight time, recent flight experience, reading habits, months passed since last evaluation, and months remaining until next evaluation. These factors explain some of the overall variability in test scores. Three follow-up experiments explored hypotheses about how retention might be affected by pilots' working environment: (1) pilots' knowledge becomes tuned to familiar aircraft charts; (2) difficult-to-remember regulations prompt pilots to substitute simpler rules that still allow them to operate legally; and (3) pilots' geographical region reinforces knowledge about local weather patterns, while knowledge of different weather patterns falls to disuse. The results well support two of these hypotheses but also further demonstrate that there are no simple-to-measure determinants of what aeronautical knowledge will be remembered and forgotten. The experience of everyday flying or teaching, together with recent flight experience and flight review requirements, does not appear to eliminate the need for ongoing study or rehearsal of aeronautical knowledge.
Casner, S. M.,
& Jones, K. M.
(2007). Retention of Aeronautical Knowledge. 2007 International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 122-127.