Effects of Training Strategies on Acquiring and Retaining Manual Control Skills

Evidence suggests that manual flying skills of pilots operating highly automated aircraft are declining due to the lack of opportunity to exercise such skills in the modern air transport environment. When the automation shuts off unexpectedly, for example, in an upset condition, these skills become vital to recover to a safe flight condition. In order to prepare pilots for such events and maintain or improve aviation safety, the training of manual flying skills needs to be optimized. Previous studies investigated the acquisition of manual control skills in target-tracking tasks using multimodal human operator models. The main goal of those studies was to investigate transfer-of-training effectiveness using different levels of simulator fidelity. During a recent experiment that looked at transfer of stall recovery training it was observed that pilots experience different levels of learning performance depending on the time schedule of the experiment. Moreover, pilots experienced fatigue, showing degraded performance towards the end of the training sessions. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of different training time schedules on the learning performance of the pilots. In addition to task performance, pilot modelling tools will be used to investigate how control behaviour changes during the training process. An experiment will be conducted where pilots will perform a fixed-base roll-tracking task. Participating pilots will be placed in different groups, each training with different time schedules. Moreover, different groups will train with either stable or unstable controlled elements. The main goal is to obtain an optimal training strategy for the acquisition of manual control skills that will yield the best learning performance while at the same time minimizing the effects of fatigue. The different controlled dynamics will be used to investigate the effect of task difficulty on this optimal training strategy. As part of the study, we will also investigate how the acquired manual control skills are retained over time. After the training sessions, pilots will participate in the same experiment after different periods of time and their performance will be re-evaluated.