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An Analysis of Helicopter Pilot Scan Techniques While Flying at Low Altitudes and High Speed

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Master's thesis

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This study compared the eye scan patterns of nonexperienced and experienced helicopter pilots during a simulated high-speed, low-level flight. For helicopters, flying at high speeds and low levels is not the safest way to fly, but in times of war, it is necessary for survival. Subjects were 17 active-duty Navy helicopter pilots, all of whom had different levels of flight experience based on their total flight times. Each pilot was asked to successfully navigate a course through a simulated southern California desert in a fixed-based helicopter simulator modeled after the U.S. Navys MH-60S. The pilots eye scanning behavior was tracked by an eye-tracking system while they flew the course to determine scan rate and locations. Flight parameters, such as air speed and altitude, were recorded by the simulators recording system. Analysis of the results obtained from the eye tracking system showed a decreasing relationship between scan rate and pilot experience, indicating that the scan rate decreases as a pilot becomes more experienced. The analysis used altitude variance as a measure of flight performance. Results indicate that higher scan rates correlate with higher degrees of variance in the altitude, indicating that a quicker scan does not necessarily result in better performance. The more experienced pilots showed a lower degree of altitude variance overall they were more consistent in maintaining a constant altitude above the ground, yet all of these pilots exhibited slower scan rates. The integration of eye tracking technology with a simulator representing an aircraft currently in service was a success. Although none of the null hypotheses presented were rejected, trends were evident in scan rates when compared with pilot experience. The relatively small sample size was identified as the major reason for the lack of significance of the results. Data were lost on five subjects from both the eye tracking system and the simulators flight recording software.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Helicopters
  • Psychology
  • Anatomy and Physiology

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