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> Touchscreens, which are ideal for representing multiple user unterfaces

I am no expert on this, but from talking to people in the aviation industry I noticed slow a trend away from the cockpit-with-2,000 controls and towards using computer screens which switch between display multiple things. Or rather, there still are 2,000 controls, but thanks to the computer-screens, the number hasn't blown up to 200,000.

So my guess is the touchscreens in these ships replaced some computer screen where input (and mode switching) had been done by physical buttons. And now they are moving it back.




Configurable displays that you can quickly glance are great.

OTOH controls that you normally, and especially in a critical situation, reach and operate without looking, is a different thing. They should be stationary, and provide good tactile feedback.


One important fact here is that everything the pilots will need to reach quickly in an emergency still is a physical button. It's just the more "nice to have" things (e.g. programming the cost factor of the engines, putting the route into the autopilot) that are done through the screens. Though, even those inputs are largely done with a funky kind of mouse+keyboard. Actual touchscreens are largely relegated to tertiary functions like airport information displays.


I’m no where an expert and don’t know anything but I gave it a bit of thought. It seems to me that there are two types of vehicles or two types of operations. Instrumental and visual. So if a system is operated in instrumental mode, like instrumental flight, when all the information necessary is available in the screen in front of you, it seems to me that it would be more efficient to make interactive and turn the screen into touch screen. You’re only looking at the screen after all. But when you operate something in visual mode, when you have to monitor surroundings, the controls should be knobs and buttons, ones that you know from your muscle memory and can operate without looking.

For planes that means that controls required during normal flight can be touch controls. After all on Concord and TU-144 pilots didn’t even have visual. However during departure and landing, pilots need physics buttons and switches as it is visual flight.

Another conclusion is that fighter jets can’t have any touch controls, they are supposed to be in visual all the time.


Scene from a movie that comes to mind is the one from District 9, when they are starting the spaceship in the end. He’s totally focused on the screen, everything is happening on the screen so it totally makes sense to be a touch screen. Same goes for Star Trek, I suppose the operators don’t actually have visual on that big screen it’s just for comfort and reference.


Aviation tends to multiple-function displays with somewhat common controls used for them. Started with softkeys around the screens, on recent A350 you have two keyboard/mouse sets for both pilots, plus extra buttons, and a bit complex setup of which screens can display what.

No touchscreens for in-flight, though, although iPads became common as replacement for paper charts.




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