Combining control input with flight path data to evaluate pilot performance in transport aircraft

Matt Ebbatson, Don Harris, John Huddlestone, Rodney Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: When deriving an objective assessment of piloting performance from flight data records, it is common to employ metrics which purely evaluate errors in flight path parameters. The adequacy of pilot performance is evaluated from the flight path of the aircraft. However, in large jet transport aircraft these measures may be insensitive and require supplementing with frequency-based measures of control input parameters. Method: Flight path and control input data were collected from pilots undertaking a jet transport aircraft conversion course during a series of symmetric and asymmetric approaches in a flight simulator. The flight path data were analyzed for deviations around the optimum flight path while flying an instrument landing approach. Manipulation of the flight controls was subject to analysis using a series of power spectral density measures. Results: The flight path metrics showed no significant differences in performance between the symmetric and asymmetric approaches. However, control input frequency domain measures revealed that the pilots employed highly different control strategies in the pitch and yaw axes. Conclusion: The results demonstrate that to evaluate pilot performance fully in large aircraft, it is necessary to employ performance metrics targeted at both the outer control loop (flight path) and the inner control loop (flight control) parameters in parallel, evaluating both the product and process of a pilot's performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1064
Number of pages4
JournalAviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Flying
  • Pilot
  • Simulator
  • Skill
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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