Effects of Pilots' level of certification and flight experience on their memory performance when using 4 different METARs format


David O'Hare and Amy Waite (2012) conducted a study to experiment the pilots capability of memorising graphical weather information using different types of Geographical Weather Displays. The reanalysis of thier research will be more focused on how pilots with more flight experience and high certification can memorise the weather information on the four display forms more than pilots with less flight experiences and less certification. Also it will reanalyses the results and show what display type was most effective.


The study indicated that there is a significant correlation between the level of certificate held by pilots and the type of METARs display used to recall the weather information.

Table 1 shows that pilots with higher certificates such as the (ATPL pilots) were able to memorise most of the weather information presented to them despite the type of METARs display form. On the other hand, Pilots that held less certificates such as the PPL couldn't recall as much information as highly certificated pilots could. In addition, the results indicated that there was a significant effect of pilots' recent flight experience on recalling the information. The table shows how pilots with more/less flight experience and high/less certification did regarding the amount of information they memorised from all type of displays.

Table 1: Level of Certification + Flight experience Vs amount of information recalled
Mean = M Standard Error = SE
Highly certified pilots 17.17 1.16
Less certified pilots 12.04 1.40
Pilots with more than 20 hrs of flight experience 17.05 1.37
Pilots with less than 20 hrs of flight experience 12.46 1.47

Also, another interesting result that indicated that even when using the coded version display, the type of certificate has a significant effects on pilots' memory. Table 2 shows how the type of certificate affects pilots when using the Coded version display:

Table 2: the level of certification in the Coded version display
Mean = M Standard Error = SE
Highly certified pilots 18.58 1.41
Less certified pilots 9.85 1.70

However, out of the four display format, the dual-mode display (Plain English & Graphical) seems to be the most effective type for pilots in order to memorise weather information. Table 3: shows the mean and standard deviation of pilots who could recall weather information when using the dual-mode display and the Graphical display.

Table 3: Recalling weather items using Dual-Mode or Graphical displays
Display Type Mean = M Standard Deviation = SD
Dual-Mode Display 16.87 6.42
Graphical Display 13.18 6.44

As illustrated on the table, the mean of participants who memorised weather information on the dual-mode display was higher than when they did the experiment on the only graphical display.

Moreover, after participants done with the experiment, they were required to rate the interpretability of each METAR display. Despite of the level of certification or the recent flight experience, the study showed no significant effects or interactions of the two variables in relation to participants' ratings. Table 4 illustration.

Table 4: Participant's ratings to the four METARs Display
Display Format M SE
Coded Version 1.9 .16
Plain English 1.87 .19
Plain English & Graphical 2.16 .22
Graphical 2.1 .19


Research approach

This study has been conducted to compare the effectiveness of the four METARs display format and see which one was most effective type for pilots to memorise graphical weather information during their flights and whether the pilots' flight experiences and level of certification were major factors on their memory performance.


Two female and 33 male pilots participated in this research. The pilots were from three different aero club locations and holding different certificates as shown on Table 5.

Table: 5. Participants
No of Pilots Type of Certificate Total in percentage
1 Pilot ATPL 2.9%
19 Pilots CPL 54.2%
10 Pilots PPL 28.5%
4 Pilots No Certificate 11.4%
Median of total flight hours of experience = 280


O'Hare and Waite used a PowerPoint presentation that includes an Introductory slides to present a METARs contents, which provide the graphical weather information in four different Display format. After that, participants were given a Demographic questionnaire asking for pilots information and flight experiences etc… Also, a Load sheet was provided for pilots to complete a typical General Aviation aircraft load sheet. As well, an Interpretability scale was given to collect participants responses and opinion using the Likert scale ranging from 1 (very easy) to 5 (very difficult).


Before commencing the experiment the pilots were asked to complete the demographical questionnaire individually. Then they were seated in front of a laptop computer. The experimenter was sitting behind the participant to monitor their performance. Then the experiment started and participants were asked to follow the instructions carefully. A PowerPoint presentation used to present four cross country flights along with an introductory slides providing the names for the departure and destination airfields. Also, a topography between each airport was provided to participants to familiarize them with the location of the flight. In addition, two METARs for each of the four presentations were presented to the participants containing weather information. There was four display formats provided to participants:
1) Coded version.
2) Plain English translation.
3) Graphical Display.
4) Dual-mode Display; both Plain English and Graphical Display.

Data Analysis

The results of the research indicates that pilots with higher certification and more flight experience were capable to memorise a great amount of graphical weather information. That explains the relationship of these two variables on the pilot performance. They achieved higher results than those who have less flight experience and less certifications. Although, the authors could have considered the flight simulator as an experimental tool to get more accurate results. In addition, using the four types of graphical weather displays was important to examine pilots' behaviour. It showed that pilots performed much better when using the dual-mode (plain english & graphical) display. Eventhough, some participants have done well memorising information on the Coded verision display due to their flight experiences and level of certification.


1. O'Hare, D. & Waite, A. (2012). Effects of pilot experience on recall of information from graphical weather displays. The international journal of aviation psychology, 22(1), 1-17.

Want to know more?

The original research artical.

Contributors to this page

Mohammad Alsumairi.

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