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Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) HSI Guidelines and Resources

A flying plane.

Human Factors Considerations in the Design and Evaluation of Flight Deck Displays and Controls, Version 1, sponsored by the FAA Human Factors Division, is intended to be a single source reference for Human Factors (HF) regulations, guidance, and best practices on design and evaluation of flight deck displays and controls. 

Content includes HF issues associated with: 

  • Display Hardware
  • Electronic Display Information Elements and Features
  • Considerations of Alerting 
  • Organizing Electronic Display Information Elements 
  • Controls
  • Design Philosophy 
  • Intended Function (Chapter 8) 
  • Error Management, Prevention, Detection, and Recovery 
  • Workload 
  • Automation

In addition to guidance and best practices, it contains example testing procedures and scenarios, sample checklists, and a list ofkey references for use by practitioners.

Topics of attention and distraction are considered throughout the document. These topics are discussed specifically within the context of display features and characteristics that either draw a pilot’s attention to important information (i.e., via auditory or visual alerting) or distract or confuse the pilot due to their design characteristics.  

A few examples that are offered in relation to display features (i.e., color, blinking) and use of alerts include:  

“If an aural tone is used, it should be readily distinguishable from all other cockpit sounds and provide unambiguous information to direct the pilot’s attention to a visual indication of the condition.”  (p. 61)

“The colors that are used for attention getting and alerting should be identifiable through the full range of normally expected flight deck illumination conditions.”  (p. 84)

“The use of blinking should be limited because it can be distracting and excessive use reduces the attention getting effectiveness.”  (p. 135)

For additional information, see the “Management and Human Factors” portion of the Volpe Center site (

Human Factors Design Standards (2003)  is intended to serve as a common source and reference tool of FAA-specific design requirements.  

The book consolidates Human Factors knowledge, practice, and experience that practitioners can apply to the design of new systems.  

It covers a comprehensive set of topics, such as: General design requirements, automation displays, controls and visual indicators alarms, human computer interface, user documentation, workplace design system security, personnel safety, environment, and anthropometry.

Design standards related to issues of attention and distraction are addressed relative to automation and human computer interface topics in this book. For example, a few design standards related to automation are excerpted below.  These examples include prevention of user distraction from operations, considering potential vigilance decrements, and minimizing errors. 

3.1.12 Prevent distraction from operations.  User interaction with automation shall not require the user to take significant amounts of attention away from the primary task.  [Source: Danaher, 1980] (p. 3-3).

3.7.15 Consider potential vigilance decrements.  The effects on vigilance due to the use of automation should be considered before introducing new automation.  [Source: Warm et al., 1996]. 

3.12.5 Minimize errors.  Error-prone conditions should be minimized by maintaining user awareness, providing adequate training, developing standard operating procedures, and fostering crew coordination.  [Source: Sheehan, 1995] (p. 3-24).


  • FAA Human Factors Considerations in the Design and Evaluation of Flight Deck Displays and Controls, Version 1.
  • FAA Human Factors Design Standards (2003). Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Sheehan, J. (1995). The tyranny of automation. Professional Aviation Briefing. Retrieved April 3, 2000 from FAA web site http://www.faa. gov/External Linkavr/NEWS/Previous/ autom.htm.
  • Warm, J., Dember, W. N., & Hancock, P. A. (1996). Vigilance and w orkload in automated systems. In R. Parasuraman & M. Mouloua (Eds.), Human factors in transportation. Automation and human performance: Theory and Applications  Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 183-200.