Flight Simulator Training : Assessing the Potential

Abstract: Mental workload is an important concept and has been proven to be a precursor to situation awareness and operative performance. This thesis describes methods to measure mental workload through self-ratings and psychophysiological measurements. Similarities and differences in psychophysiological reactions and rated mental workload between simulated and real flights are described. The consequences of such similarities and differences are discussed and its possible effect on training potential.A number of empirical studies are presented. They describe the experience and the psychophysiological reactions of pilots flying in a simulator and in real flight. In most cases, the reactions are similar – there is a high degree of accordance in rated mental workload and psychophysiological reaction between simulated and real flight. The studies show, that even though the responses are similar, there are also interesting differences. In one study, the pilots have consistently lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability and less eye movements in the simulator than in real flight. In another study, during certain events, the pilots have higher heart rate in the simulator than in real flight. The results are important in order to understand the training potential of simulators from a human factors perspective. Further, two measurement equipments for psychophysiological recording are compared and various psychophysiological measures are tested in applied settings.The thesis also discusses some methodological aspects, such as methods to create reliable and valid variables in dynamic applied research and how to deal with individual differences. An algorithm is suggested to remove differences between individuals. This facilitates the finding of within-participant effects.Finally, results from a study on embedded training tools are presented. In this study, student pilots and instructors rated the usefulness of several embedded training tools. These tools were built into a simulator to facilitate learning and teaching by illustrating concepts that can be difficult to understand. The results show clearly that such training tools are appreciated by both students and instructors. Well implemented, thoroughly selected training tools can dramatically improve the training potential of future training simulators.