The present study examined the effects of stimulus complexity and geographic familiarity upon mental rotation while simultaneously engaging participants in a simulated flight task. Nineteen licensed pilots (16 men and 3 women) participated in a mental rotation task. Results indicated a piecemeal strategy was used with maps representing an unfamiliar geographic area. Further, an exploratory analysis indicated that unfamiliar condition participants may have used a strategy described by Loftus (1978), in which two rotations are performed - the first from the cue orientation to the nearest cardinal direction, and the second from the cardinal direction to the target orientation. Those in the familiar condition used a nonrotational strategy (i.e., a piecemeal comparison between the presented map and their cognitive map) to perform the rotation task. Unfamiliar condition flight performance was more affected by the experimental manipulations. This suggests that cognitive transformations performed on unfamiliar geographic images are cognitively more demanding than those using familiar geographic images.