What can we do to overcome the vulnerabilities of the eye? The most important thing is to
develop a thorough, effective, and comfortable visual scan. In normal flight, the threat of a
midair collision is greatly diminished by scanning an area 60 to 90 degrees to the left and right of
center and 10° up and down. This doesn't mean the rest of the area should be ignored.
Scanning is training your eyeballs to systematically move and appropriately process data both
inside and outside the cockpit. It is obvious you must look outside the aircraft to see where you
are going, interpret where the aircraft is in reference to the horizon, and clear for other air traffic.
Conversely, you must look inside at the instrument panel to check for proper power settings,
flight instrument readings, and for any signs of aircraft malfunction. A scan pattern is a means,
or procedure, by which you observe everything you need to see by starting at one point, moving
visually about the aircraft, checking applicable items systematically, and completing the pattern
at the starting point. A scan pattern may be started anywhere, but it must be complete and
continuous. The proper division-of-attention techniques you learn in training will lay the
foundation for the mandatory alertness of the military NFO/WSO.
Initially, your scan pattern, or crosscheck, may feel uncomfortable and forced. However,
continue to assertively move your eyes along the chosen scan pattern. As your proficiency
increases, you will scan primarily from habit, adjusting your scanning rate and sequence to the
demands of the situation. The entire scan pattern should take little time and no one item should
fix your attention at the exclusion of another. It cannot be overemphasized that your level of
training success will vary directly with your ability to develop and maintain a proficient,
accurate, and expeditious scan pattern.
Here is a workable example of a scan pattern:
Outside the cockpit:
Left Area: Airspace between left wing and nose clear of hazards.
Attitude: Left wing to the nose in proper relation to horizon.
Inside the cockpit:
Attitude: Check nose position/wings level on the EADI. Crosscheck altimeter and VSI.
Performance: Check airspeed indicator and power setting. Scan engine instruments.
Outside the cockpit:
Right Area: Airspace between nose and right wing clear of hazards.
Attitude: Nose to the right wing in proper relation to horizon
There are other methods of scanning, of course, some of which may be more effective for you
than the preceding type. Figures 3-2 and 3-3 illustrate other utilized scan patterns.