Non-voice data exchanges will become a primary method of communication between pilots and Air Traffic Controllers as the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan for the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen) evolves. In support of this communication evolution, pilots will need the most efficient interface tools in order to accurately and quickly exchange text messages with Air Traffic Control. Keyboards, or similar input devices, will be become a necessity in the cockpit. This study aims to investigate and compare the typing speed and accuracy possible using three sizes of two-hand, QWERTY1 keyboards: a full size (100%), a medium size (92%), and a small size (thumb typing home theater PC keyboard) that could be used for aviation data exchanges. Each study participant was administered 15 typing tests having aviation specific content, on each keyboard, including 5 tests of short length, 5 tests of medium length, and 5 tests of long length. The results of this study suggest that in terms of words per minute typing speed, participants using the medium size keyboard had a slightly faster typing speed than with the large keyboard, while the small keyboard produced a considerably slower typing speed than either the medium or large keyboards. In terms of accuracy, participants using the small keyboard had the highest level of accuracy, followed by the medium keyboard, while the least accurate keyboard tended to be the large keyboard. Overall, findings suggest that the optimal size of two-handed, QWERTY keyboard for use in an aircraft cockpit was the medium keyboard.
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