Flight Deck Displays

As an intern at Boeing, I worked on the commercial aircraft flight deck team where I helped test interface features, designed protocol for touch screen ergonomics tests, and conducted user research for new product lines.

Digital control pannels in a commercial aircraft cockpit.

Due to the confidentiality of this project, details pertaining to the actual technology solution cannot be discussed.
The information provided does not necessarily represent the views of the Boeing Company.

Problem Statement

Touch screens are not a new technology, but they are new to the world of commercial aviation. That's because only the most reliable equipment can be approved for critical flight systems. Because of the rigorous testing required for new equipment in the cockpit, touch screens are only just entering this market. In order to keep up with the competition, it is imperative that companies like Boeing understand the needs of the pilots and the potential applications of this technology in the cockpit.

Research Method

To understand how commercial pilots could use this technology to its fullest potential, I conducted one-on-one interviews with 12 pilots with commercial airline experience. Before the interviews, I spent time learning about the pilot's work flow from retired pilots in my work group. The interviews were semi-structured using an interview guide with suggested questions, however, my goal was to keep the dialog open and conversational.

Data Analysis

After the interviews, I created an affinity diagram based on the responses from the pilots. The groupings that emerged were used to create a more structured follow up survey. This survey allowed me to glean more quantitative information to share with stakeholders and prioritize features. After all the data was collected, the numeric data was consolidated using a coded spreadsheet and the qualitative data was sorted into functional categories.


Using the data collected in the user research phase, I was able to narrow the focus of the new product line down to three features which would be most beneficial to the airline pilot work flow. As my final deliverable for the summer, I pitched these ideas to management and received approval. Since my internship ended, the proposed technologies have surpassed the TRL3 review process.

Lessons Learned

The biggest challenge of this project was interviewing users about a process I was unfamiliar with myself. Learning about the airline pilot work flow before conducting interviews allowed me to conduct more comprehensive user research. But my position as an outsider also allowed me to ask more probing questions and not jump to conclusions about the needs of the users.

What's next?