A methodology to determine the psychomotor performance of helicopter pilots during flight maneuvers

Terry W. McMahon, David G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Helicopter flying is a complex psychomotor task requiring continuous control inputs to maintain stable flight and conduct maneuvers. Flight safety is impaired when this psychomotor performance is compromised. A comprehensive understanding of the psychomotor performance of helicopter pilots, under various operational and physiological conditions, remains to be developed. The purpose of this study was to develop a flight simulator-based technique for capturing psychomotor performance data of helicopter pilots. Methods: Three helicopter pilots conducted six low-level flight sequences in a helicopter simulator. Accelerometers applied to each flight control recorded the frequency and magnitude of movements. Results: The mean ( ± SEM) number of control inputs per flight was 2450 ( ± 136). The mean ( ± SEM) number of control inputs per second was 1.96 ( ± 0.15). The mean ( ± SEM) force applied was 0.44 G ( ± 0.05 G). No significant diff erences were found between pilots in terms of flight completion times or number of movements per second. The number of control inputs made by the hands was significantly greater than the number of foot movements. The left hand control input forces were significantly greater than all other input forces. Discussion: This study shows that the use of accelerometers in flight simulators is an eff ective technique for capturing accurate, reliable data on the psychomotor performance of helicopter pilots. This technique can be applied in future studies to a wider range of operational and physiological conditions and mission types in order to develop a greater awareness and understanding of the psychomotor performance demands on helicopter pilots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-646
Number of pages6
JournalAerospace Medicine and Human Performance
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Control
  • Fl ying
  • Performance
  • Pilot
  • Psychomotor
  • rotary wing

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