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Taking the guesswork out of evaluating pilots

As the chopper angled out over the water towards the oil rig, storm clouds darkened the skies. The control panel signalled rough flying ahead; the trainee pilot adjusted the instruments accordingly. To the flight instructor, the trainee seemed calm - except that she wasn’t.

If the trainee pilot’s stress level had been monitored, it would have shown another story, including paying too much attention to the flight instruments. In real life, the pilot’s momentary distraction could have meant the difference between a successful mission and a failure.

Flight instructors have traditionally trained aircraft pilots in simulators by focussing solely on completion of manoeuvres, technique and processes. That’s about to change. Thales’s new HuMans pedagogical tool, integrated into its Reality H Full Flight Simulator, equips the simulator cockpit with cameras and sensors that can measure and assess the pilot’s behaviour, attitude, and stress levels. The sensors track eye movements, for instance, immediately alerting the instructor to inappropriate behaviour.

The advantages: instant, real-time information that allows the instructor to revise and adjust accordingly the exercises undertaken, and a more objective view of how the pilot is performing based on solid data, not just what the instructor’s five senses tell him.

“There has been a long search for a way to make training more objective,” says Etienne Chevreau, Marketing & Strategy, Training & Simulation for Thales. “With HuMans, an ‘Evidence Based Training’ tool, we are finally able to transform the way pilots are trained, in a way that’s entirely transparent and non-invasive.”

HuMans is the result of years of research conducted by Thales with specialists, high-level engineers and mathematicians and has been validated by specialists in neuroscience and medicine.

The result: an objective evaluation of the trainee that can be used for real-time feedback during the training session, as well as detailed and objective inputs for debriefing purposes. And that means safer flying and more productive missions.