After only a short time flying with a HUD in the real airplane, pilots become familiar with the symbology. And soon after, HUD becomes intuitive. Instructors report that pilots new to flying with a HUD usually progress through three stages during HUD familiarization, starting with an initial phase where they tend to see only the HUD symbology and really don’t take much notice of the outside world and ending with total mastery of HUD.
The second stage is when the pilot sees both the HUD symbology and the outside world together, and can reconcile what the HUD is displaying with what he really sees ahead of the airplane. In the final stage, pilots begin not to notice the HUD symbology as much, but rather they start concentrating on the outside world, reaching an ideal state where they simply understand what the symbology is telling them and make corrections without much conscious thought.
Reaching this zen-like state of flying occurs gradually with increased use of a HUD, training providers say. Initial familiarization with the HUD is a fairly straightforward process during which the pilot learns what the basic symbology means and how to react to it. After a few hours spent flying with a HUD, pilots say they begin to realize they are taking less notice of the symbology, and instead are merely “understanding” what the symbology is telling them. The result is a pilot who will consistently hand-fly stabilized and extremely precise approaches, with smooth but minimal control input.