Visual Scanning Techniques and Mental Workload of Helicopter Pilots During Simulated Flight

The visual scanning techniques used by helicopter pilots are a critical skill to accomplish safe and correct landing. According to the human information processing theory, visual scanning techniques can be analyzed as a function of fixation location, number, and duration of fixations. This study assessed these techniques in expert and novice pilots during an open sea flight simulation in a low-workload condition, consisting of a daylight and good weather simulation, and in a high-workload condition of night-time, low visibility, and adverse weather conditions. Taking part in the study were 12 helicopter pilots. Mental workload was assessed through psychological measures (NASA-TLX). The pilots’ performance was assessed and eye movements were recorded using an eye-tracker during four phases of the flight simulations. Overall, pilots made more fixations out of the window (OTW; 22.54) than inside the cockpit (ITC; 11.08), Fixations were longer OTW (830.17 ms) than ITC (647.97 ms) and they were shorter in the low-demand condition (626.27 ms). Further, pilots reported higher mental workload (NASA-TLX) in the high-demand condition compared to the low-demand condition, regardless of their expertise, and expert pilots reported a lower mental workload compared to novice pilots. Pilots performance and perceived mental workload varied as a function of expertise and flight conditions. Pilots rely on instrument support during the cruise phase and external visual cues during the landing phase. The implications for a new visual landing system design are discussed.


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  • Accession Number: 01769666
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 24 2020 12:15PM