Ryan Leadens

Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Mark Dusenbury


As flight deck technology has become more advanced, the pilot–machine interaction has become a larger point of emphasis in pilot training programs. Increasing demand for air travel in future decades will create greater need for highly accurate and reliable navigation systems. These systems reduce a pilots’ exposure to “stick and rudder” skills while increasing the knowledge and situational awareness required to operate safely.

It is imperative that pilots are properly trained on these systems prior to conducting line operations. In order to create an efficient and effective training program, it is important to understand how pilots perceive their role on the modern flight deck and how they prefer to learn the functionality of automated aircraft systems, ranging from auto-flight modes to an aircraft’s flight management system. Perception plays a role because it can display vulnerabilities to certain types of errors in the flight deck. Important factors include levels of trust in automation, system knowledge, and how system functionality are taught.

This study used an online survey to gather information regarding pilot perceptions of automation use, and analyzed the data from a generational standpoint. Pilots offered their opinions on automation use and training. The results showed that younger generations of pilots have higher levels of trust in automated systems and their components, as well as higher levels of confidence in using various levels and modes of these systems. Pilots also ranked the effectiveness of various methods used during training. Those results showed that pilots of older generations preferred a more traditional hierarchical educational setting, whereas younger pilots were more open to interactive methods. Common preferences were also observed among pilots of all generations in supplemental training materials as well as well as other training techniques.