A modern cockpit is the heart of a complex aerospace system. Representing complex information in a way that pilots can understand effectively remains a challenge. To understand how best to support pilots' information needs, we face the difficulty of having to study the complexity of the activity itself, the complexity of the environment, and the hidden nature of the information needs of the pilots. This paper shows how a "cue-recall debrief method" can be used as a powerful technique in investigating pilots' cognitive processes and activities. Moreover, it is claimed [Omodei M, Wearing A, McLennan J. Head-mounted video recording: a methodology for studying naturalistic decision making. In: Flin R, Salas E, Strub M, Martin L. (Eds.), Decision making under stress: emerging themes and applications, Ashgate, Aldershot, 1997, p. 137-46] that this technique has little effect on the complexity of the activity, operating environment and the pilot's experience. Using this method has uncovered distinct information-evolution stages, references, and strategies that pilots use when flying an automated aircraft. (C) 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.