Stress training enhances novice pilot performance in a stressful operational flight
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McClernon, C.K., McCauley, M.E., O'Connor, P. & Warm, J.S. (2011). Stress training enhances novice pilot performance in a stressful operational flight. Human Factors, 53(3), 207-218.
This study investigated whether stress training introduced during the acquisition of simulator- based flight skills enhances pilot performance during subsequent stressful flight operations in an actual aircraft. Despite knowledge that preconditions to aircraft accidents can be strongly influenced by pilot stress, little is known about the effectiveness of stress training and how it transfers to operational flight settings. For this study, 30 participants with no flying experience were assigned at random to a stress-trained treatment group or a control group. Stress training consisted of systematic pairing of skill acquisition in a flight simulator with stress coping mechanisms in the presence of a cold pressor. Control participants received identical flight skill acquisition training but without stress training. Participants then performed a stressful flying task in a Piper Archer aircraft. Stress-trained research participants flew the aircraft more smoothly, as recorded by aircraft telemetry data, and generally better, as recorded by flight instructor evaluations, than did control participants. Introducing stress coping mechanisms during flight training improved performance in a stressful flying task. The results of this study indicate that stress training during the acquisition of flight skills may serve to enhance pilot performance in stressful operational flight and, therefore, might mitigate the contribution of pilot stress to aircraft mishaps.