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Pilots in cockpit
Pilots in cockpit

Better Flying with Usability-Based Tools

Whether pilots are flying personal or business jets, commercial or cargo planes, or medical or military missions, they share one requirement: They must be able to work effectively to fly their craft safely and efficiently.

A key to making that happen is aviation tools that work for pilots. Over the years, our research has contributed to the idea that the usability of tools makes a big difference in helping pilots stay on task, reduce errors and avoid accidents.

Technologies that provide up-to-date weather information, that give pilots “synthetic vision” in low-visibility conditions, that alert crews to potential hazards—all are designed with the user top of mind.

From dials to “windows” to 3D views, and from buttons to mouse clicks, a steady stream of user-friendly innovations has reduced complexity and made it easier to fly safely and efficiently.

A Comprehensive User Focus

The Honeywell User Experience (HUE) group works to understand the needs of all our users—pilots, installers, maintainers, channel partners, purchasers and employees—and then design intuitive products and services that meet their needs.

Engineers and analysts in cockpit design focus on human-to-machine interaction, studying how pilots use proposed innovations, rather than focusing on the avionics system alone. In every scenario, across the range of pilot tasks, our engineers strive to transform the user experience, increasing efficiency and reducing errors.

Usability research has contributed to effective use of on-demand digital mapping tools, synthetic vision technology and predictive insights that make it easier to control current flight scenarios and manage future scenarios.

The importance of user-friendly design is not limited to the aircraft. Automated checklists, predictive maintenance alerts and suggested solutions to operational issues help maintenance workers do their jobs more easily and efficiently.

Usability was also key for Honeywell in creating user-friendly e-commerce sites GoDirect Trade and this site.

 

“Two of the criteria Honeywell uses to evaluate proposed innovations are operational benefit and usability. Change should be based on tangible benefits. And why add something if it is not usable?”
 
—Mike Ingram, Vice President of Cockpit Systems, Honeywell

 

Aviation Innovation Is in Our DNA

With more than 100 years of experience in aviation, defense and space, our heritage is in high-stakes technology and aviation products and services.

We spearheaded many early breakthroughs in cockpit displays, graphical and software-based flight planning, synthetic vision and predictive software. 

Ready to Talk?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is usability and user-experience research?

Usability is a measure of how effectively and efficiently a product helps users achieve their goals. In aviation, that user is often the pilot, and the product in question is the array of tools used to fly the aircraft. In assessing those tools, a usability expert would consider:

  • The tasks that must be accomplished (for example, flight planning, takeoff, in-air navigation and landing)
  • The intuitiveness of the tools designed for those tasks 
  • The ease of learning to use those tools
  • Consistency within the set of tools
  • Reduction of irrelevant information or interfaces
  • Assurances that actions are being successfully executed
  • Clear transitions from one task to the next
  • Availability of system help
How is usability and user-experience research different in aviation from other industries?

In aviation, ease of use is not just important for making customers happy. It can be critical for safety. Technology advances must be rooted in the concept of making decisions and workloads easier to do. If technologies are too difficult to use or distracting, it is easier to make errors and threaten safety.

That’s why user-experience and human-factor experts are critical to innovation in the aviation industry as efforts are made to make flying more intuitive and efficient. 

How have user-experience experts helped improve safety?

The overall rate of aircraft fatalities (as measured by fatalities per million passenger boardings) has dropped 96% since 1970, partly as a result of new technologies carefully tested by user-experience experts.

The aviation industry has replaced buttons with touchscreens and moved from circular gauges to 3D, animated diagrams. Overall, designs have evolved to provide more information for pilots while reducing complexity, workload and fatigue.

What common problems does usability research attempt to solve?

A list of common human elements that can cause workers to make mistakes was developed in the early 1990s regarding aviation maintenance workers. It remains relevant today across all areas of aviation, not just maintenance.

The so-called “dirty dozen” includes poor communication, distraction, insufficient resources, stress, complacency, lack of teamwork, pressure, norms, lack of awareness, lack of knowledge, fatigue and lack of assertiveness.

What aviation innovations used today have benefited from user-experience research?

Human factors and user-experience principles have had a direct impact on design of the modern flight deck.

Flight-deck advances include the following:

  • Placement of critical information where it can be most easily viewed
  • Auto-sensing features that indicate when tasks are completed
  • Graphical elements that make it easier to understand scenarios the pilot may be facing
  •  Verbal directions and assurances
  • Ease of training and availability of system help

Advances in information available includes:

  • Progressive taxi assistance, in which multifunctional displays show runway positions, lines and incursion hotspots, which is especially helpful when landing in an unfamiliar place.
  • Terrain awareness, in which 3D displays provide a synthetic representation of known obstacles.
  • Enhanced weather understanding through cockpit displays that give pilots views of current and likely weather to help them make decisions across the flight route.