With Flying Colours: Pilot Performance with Colour-Coded Head-Up Flight Symbology

James Blundell, Steve Scott, Donald Harris, John Huddlestone, Dale Richards

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    163 Downloads (Pure)


    The manipulation of colour in display symbology design has long been recognised as a method to improve operator experience and performance. Recent developments in colour head-up display (HUD) and helmet-mounted display (HMD) technology underline the necessity to understand the human factors considerations of symbology colour coding against conventional monochrome symbology formats. In this low-fidelity desktop human-in-the-loop experiment, the colour of flight symbology on an overlaid symbology set was coded as a redundant cue to indicate the accuracy of professional and non-professional pilots’ flight profile across a range of simulated flight manoeuvres. The main finding of this study was that colour coding flight symbology supported the manual flying performance of both professional and non-professional pilots. Notably, colour-coding of the bank indicator and airspeed tape minimised performance error during turning and altitude change manoeuvres, respectively. The usability of colour coded symbology was also rated higher than the monochrome symbology. We conclude that colour coded HUD/HMD symbology is preferred by the user and may improve performance during low workload manual flying tasks. A fuller understanding of performance and workload effects will require future studies to employ higher workload flying tasks and examine the utility of colour coding within higher fidelity environments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101932
    Number of pages12
    Early online date25 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

    Bibliographical note

    NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Displays. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Displays, 61, (2020) DOI: 10.1016/j.displa.2019.101932

    © 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


    This work was supported by Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency, with support from the UK Aerospace Technology Institute (grant reference number 113108 ).


    • Aviation
    • Colour
    • Head-mounted-displays
    • Head-up-displays
    • Performance

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Human-Computer Interaction
    • Hardware and Architecture
    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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