Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Simulator Training Improves Pilots' Procedural Memory and Generalization of Behavior in Critical Flight Situations

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Simulator Training Improves Pilots' Procedural Memory and Generalization of Behavior in Critical Flight Situations

Article excerpt

Loss of control in flight was identified by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA; 2016) as the most critical risk area for fatal accidents worldwide. Loss of control is generally a consequence of inadvertent aircraft upset, also called unusual attitude (Federal Aviation Administration; FAA, 2015). By definition, unusual attitudes of an aircraft involve a pitch angle greater than 25° pitch up, or lower than 10° pitch down, or a bank angle greater than 45°, or flying at inappropriate speeds within the above mentioned parameters (FAA, 2015). The recovery procedure depends on the type of aircraft (FAA, 2015). According to the control theory, the requirements for controlling a process are specified by the goal, observability, process model/ algorithms, and action conditions (Leveson, 2011). Thus, controlled upset recovery requires knowledge of the goal condition (e.g., flying within certain parameters), observability (e.g., the ability to ascertain the deviation from goal parameters and feedback to adjust the control actions), a mental model (e.g., procedures on how to influence the flight parameters) and action (e.g., the ability to influence the parameters within certain space and time limits). This study aimed to investigate the effect of simulator training on pilots' procedural memory and generalization of behavior in recovering from an unusual attitude during flight. The recovery procedure for the unusual attitudes used here was based on the "power-push-roll" method described by Stowell (1996).

Safe recovery from an unusual attitude requires both declarative and procedural knowledge. Declarative memory refers to the conscious recollection of facts and events using a mental model of the external world, whereas procedural memory is expressed through performance rather than recollection (Squire, 2004). Procedural memory is a major system of human learning and memory involved in learning cognitive and behavioral skills (Schacter, 1994). In the context of aircraft piloting, declarative information uses goal representations (e.g., speed, power, aircraft's attitude), and representations of unusual aircraft attitudes (e.g., pitch, bank, or speed deviations described above). Procedural information specifies what to do, how to control the aircraft for reducing deviations from the goal parameters (e.g., roll the shortest way upright to bring the aircraft's wings parallel to the horizon, adjust power and pitch to maintain a certain vertical speed, push the elevator to reduce the absolute pitch angle).

In the acquisition of a cognitive skill, Anderson (1982) identified a declarative stage in which domain knowledge about the task is encoded and a procedural stage in which the domain knowledge is applied performing the task. Lohse and Healy (2012) argue that procedural skills acquired during training have a high retention rate but also a low generalizability to new contexts, and declarative information is less durable but highly generalizable. Lohse and Healy (2012) recommend differentiating between the amount and type of information when designing a training program. The training program evaluated in this study used a combination of declarative and procedural training elements.

Flight simulators are used extensively for training procedures as they permit more in-depth, safer, and more flexible instruction than is possible with real flight. Research on the evaluation of training programs has focused merely on transfer between simulator and real flight (Pfeiffer, Horey, & Butrimas, 1991; Dennis & Harris, 1998; Roessingh, 2005).

Roessingh (2005) evaluated the transfer of manual aerobatic flight skills from a personal computer (PC) simulation to real flight in 24 pilots. The equipment used was a PC with aerobatic software and a Bellanca Super Decathlon aircraft. Five maneuvers (loop, slow roll, inverted flight, Immelmann, and split S) were flown in a fixed order during 10 consecutive flight lessons of thirty minutes each. …

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