Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research





Key words

fatigue, multiple flight legs, flight phases, complexity, eye movements, expertise


Eye movement characteristics might provide insights on pilots' mental fatigue during prolonged flight. The visual entropy, eye fixation numbers, and eye fixation durations of ten novice pilots and ten expert pilots were analyzed for a four-hour simulated flight task consisting of four consecutive flight legs. Each flight leg lasted approximately one hour and contained five flight phases: takeoff, climb, cruise, descend, and landing. The pilots maneuvered the simulated B-52 aircraft following instrument flight rules (IFR) in a moderate-fidelity Microsoft Flight Simulator environment. Our results indicate that experts’ eye movement characteristics were significantly different from those of novices. In detail, novices' eye movements were more random, produced longer eye fixation durations, and had fewer eye fixation numbers on the areas of interest (AOIs) than the experts. In addition, the repetitive task (i.e., four consecutive flights) significantly impacted the eye movement characteristics for both experts and novices. Visual entropy and eye fixation duration increased, while eye fixation numbers decreased for both groups as the repetition index increased. Finally, the flight phases also affected eye movement characteristics. The results show that both experts' and novices' visual entropies were relatively higher during climb, cruise, and descend phases, whereas those were relatively lower during the takeoff and landing phases. The present results provide a foundation for us to better understand the similarities and dissimilarities of eye movement characteristics between the experts and novices for a prolonged flight. Lastly, potential scaffolding training methods and pilot anomaly alerting systems, derived from such eye movements, are introduced.



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