Visual scanning and pilot expertise: The role of attentional flexibility and mental model development

Andrew H. Bellenkes, Christopher D. Wickens, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to examine differences in flying expertise, 12 novice and 12 expert pilots flew a 7-segment simulation pattern under specific: attentional constraints while cockpit instrument visual scan was recorded. Flight segments involved various combinations of maneuvering of heading, altitude and airspeed. Expert pilots performed better than novices on vertical and longitudinal, but not lateral control. They accomplished their superior vertical tracking by allocating more control resources to the vertical control. Analyses of scanning strategies revealed that experts: a) had shorter dwells and more frequent visits to most instruments; b) adapted their visiting strategy more flexibly in response to changing task demands; c) demonstrated a better mental model of cross-coupling and predictive relations between and within axes; and d) showed more frequent checking of axes whose values remained constant. The data is discussed in terms of their implications in pilot cockpit scan training program development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-579
Number of pages11
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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