Effects of Weather Presentation Symbology

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Authors: Ulf Ahlstrom
Matthew Dworsky

Ahlstrom, U., & Dworsky, M. (2012). Effects of weather presentation symbology on general aviation pilot behavior, workload, and visual scanning (DOT/FAA/TC-12/55). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of cockpit weather presentation symbology on General Aviation (GA) pilot weather avoidance, weather presentation usage, and cognitive workload.

Background: To support the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program, on-going efforts focus on the implementation and use of weather technologies and weather presentations. Currently, there are no Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or industry standards for the presentation of weather information in the cockpit.

Method: Twenty-five instrument-rated GA pilots were randomly allocated to one of three simulation groups. During two 25-minute simulation flights, participants flew a Cessna 172 single-engine GA aircraft (using autopilot) under Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). The pilots had to avoid the weather by using the cockpit weather presentation. We manipulated the cockpit weather presentation so that each pilot group used a different weather presentation symbology.

Results: We found group differences in weather deviations, visual scanning behavior, and cognitive workload.

Conclusions: Variations in weather presentations (colors and symbology) seem to affect pilot behavior and decision-making. Applications: This simulation is part of an on-going assessment of the effects of weather presentation symbology related to the standardization and optimization of weather presentations in cockpits.