Background: The design of data link messaging systems to ensure optimal pilot performance requires empirical guidance. The current study examined the effects of display format (auditory, visual, or bimodal) and visual display position (adjacent to instrument panel or mounted on console) on pilot performance. Methods: Subjects performed five 20-min simulated single-pilot flights. During each flight, subjects received messages from a simulated air traffic controller. Messages were delivered visually, auditorily, or bimodally. Subjects were asked to read back each message aloud and then perform the instructed maneuver. Results: Visual and bimodal displays engendered lower subjective workload and better altitude tracking than auditory displays. Readback times were shorter with the two unimodal visual formats than with any of the other three formats. Advantages for the unimodal visual format ranged in size from 2.8 s to 3.8 s relative to the bimodal upper left and auditory formats, respectively. Auditory displays allowed slightly more head-up time (3 to 3.5 seconds per minute) than either visual or bimodal displays. Position of the visual display had only modest effects on any measure. Discussion: Combined with the results from previous studies by Helleberg and Wickens and Lancaster and Casali the current data favor visual and bimodal displays over auditory displays; unimodal auditory displays were favored by only one measure, head-up time, and only very modestly. Data evinced no statistically significant effects of visual display position on performance, suggesting that, contrary to expectations, the placement of a visual data link display may be of relatively little consequence to performance.
- Display design
- Display modality