22/03/2021 -

Visual scanning strategies in the cockpit are modulated by pilots’ expertise

Christophe Lounis, Vsevolod Peysakhovich, Mickael Causse

During a flight, pilots must rigorously monitor their flight instruments since it is one of the critical activities that contribute to update their situation awareness.
The monitoring is cognitively demanding, but is necessary for timely intervention in the event of a parameter deviation. Many studies have shown that a large part of commercial aviation accidents involved poor cockpit monitoring from the crew.

Research in eye-tracking has developed numerous metrics to examine visual strategies in fields such as art viewing, sports, chess, reading, aviation, and space. In this article, we propose to use both basic and advanced eye metrics to study visual information acquisition, gaze dispersion, and gaze patterning among novices and pilots.
The experiment involved a group of sixteen certified professional pilots and a group of sixteen novice during a manual landing task scenario performed in a flight simulator. The two groups landed three times with different levels of difficulty (manipulated via a double task paradigm).
Compared to novices, professional pilots had a higher perceptual efficiency (more numerous and shorter dwells), a better distribution of attention, an ambient mode of visual attention, and more complex and elaborate visual scanning patterns.

They classified pilot’s profiles (novices—experts) by machine learning based on Cosine KNN (K-Nearest Neighbors) using transition matrices. Several eye metrics were also sensitive to the landing difficulty. These results can benefit the aviation domain by helping to assess the monitoring performance of the crews, improve initial and recurrent training and ultimately reduce incidents, and accidents due to human error.

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