Designing external aids that support older pilots' communication

Daniel Morrow, Christopher Wickens, Esa Rantanen, Dervon Chang, Jamie Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voice communication with air traffic control (ATC) taxes pilots' cognitive abilities, contributing to errors that reduce safety. External aids such as note-taking help pilots manage communication demands, and may especially benefit older pilots. Emerging technologies provide new opportunities for external aids that are integrated with other systems. We compared an electronic notepad (epad) positioned next to the instrument panel of a flight simulator to conventional note-taking (kneepad) on a read-back task. In Experiment 1, 6 older and 6 younger instrument-rated pilots listened to and read back ATC messages while using the epad, kneepad, or no aid. Epad use in this communication-only condition was compared to a condition in which pilots used the epad to support communication while flying the simulator. Read-back accuracy was higher when pilots used either aid compared to no aid, and the pattern of results suggested a smaller age difference with either aid than in the no-aid condition. Accuracy supported by the epad was not reduced in the multitask condition, suggesting the epad would support communication during flight. In Experiment 2, 12 younger and 12 older pilots performed the same tasks, with a modified epad interface. Further evidence was found for smaller age differences when communication was supported by either aid. The results replicate note-taking benefits for older pilots' communication (Morrow et al., 2003) and extend this finding to the novel epad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-182
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Aviation Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Applied Psychology
  • Computer Science Applications


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