Fighter pilots' heart rate, heart rate variation and performance during an instrument flight rules proficiency test

Heikki Mansikka, Kai Virtanen, Don Harris, Petteri Simola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Increased task demand will increase the pilot mental workload (PMWL). When PMWL is increased, mental overload may occur resulting in degraded performance. During pilots' instrument flight rules (IFR) proficiency test, PMWL is typically not measured. Therefore, little is known about workload during the proficiency test and pilots' potential to cope with higher task demands than those experienced during the test. In this study, fighter pilots' performance and PMWL was measured during a real IFR proficiency test in an F/A-18 simulator. PMWL was measured using heart rate (HR) and heart rate variation (HRV). Performance was rated using Finnish Air Force's official rating scales. Results indicated that HR and HRV differentiate varying task demands in situations where variations in performance are insignificant. It was concluded that during a proficiency test, PMWL should be measured together with the task performance measurement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Early online date22 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016



  • Pilot mental workload
  • Heart rate
  • Pilot performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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