Automation surprise: results of a field survey of Dutch pilots

R.J. de Boer, Karel Hurts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Automation surprise (AS) has often been associated with aviation safety incidents. Although numerous laboratory studies have been conducted, few data are available from routine flight operations. A survey among a representative sample of 200 Dutch airline pilots was used to determine the prevalence of AS and the severity of its consequences, and to test some of the factors leading to AS. Results show that AS is a relatively widespread phenomenon that occurs three times per year per pilot on average but rarely has serious consequences. In less than 10% of the AS cases that were reviewed, an undesired aircraft state was induced. Reportable occurrences are estimated to occur only once every 1–3 years per pilot. Factors leading to a higher prevalence of AS include less flying experience, increasing complexity of the flight control mode, and flight duty periods of over 8 hr. It is concluded that AS is a manifestation of system and interface complexity rather than cognitive errors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-41
JournalAviation Psychology and Applied Human Factors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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