• Aircraft control forces and EMG activity in a C-130 Hercules during strength-critical maneuvers

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 2001-03-31)
      BACKGROUND: The force levels required to operate aircraft controls should be readily generated by pilots, without undue fatigue or exertion. However, maximum pilot applied forces, as specified in aircraft design standards, were empirically derived from the subjective comments of test pilots, and may not be applicable for the majority of pilots. Further, experienced RNZAF Hercules flying instructors have indicated that endurance and fatigue are problems for Hercules pilots. The aim of this study was to quantify aircraft control forces during emergency maneuvers in a Hercules aircraft and compare these forces with design standards. In addition, EMG data were recorded as an indicator of muscle fatigue during flight. METHODS: Six subjects were tested in a C-130 Hercules aircraft. The maneuvers performed were low-level dynamic flight, one engine-off straight-and-level flight, and a two-engines-off simulated approach. The variables recorded were pilot-applied forces and EMG activity. RESULTS: Left rudder pedal force and vastus lateralis activity were both significantly greater during engine-off maneuvers than during low-level dynamic flight (p < 0.05). Maximum aircraft control forces for all controls were within 10% of the design standards. The mean EMG activity across all muscles and maneuvers was 26% MVC, with a peak of 61% MVC in vastus lateralis during the two-engine-off approach. The median frequency of the vastus lateralis EMG signal decreased 13.0% and 16.0% for the one engine-off and two-engine-off maneuvers, respectively. CONCLUSION: The forces required to fly a Hercules aircraft during emergency maneuvers are similar to the aircraft design standards. However, the levels of vastus lateralis muscle activation observed during the engine-off maneuvers can be sustained for approximately 1 min only. Thus, if two engines fail more than 1 min before landing, pilots may have to alternate control of the aircraft to share the workload and enable the aircraft to land safely.
    • Aircraft control forces and EMG activity in a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter during emergency maneuvers

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 2000-08-31)
      BACKGROUND: Some air forces are concerned with the adequacy of existing pilot selection standards in respect to pilot strength. Some studies have provided evidence that a large number of pilots may not be able to match the control force levels specified in both military and civilian aircraft design standards. However, both sets of design standards have been based on the subjective comments of test pilots and may not, therefore, be applicable for the majority of pilots. The aim of this study was to quantify aircraft control forces during emergency maneuvers in an Iroquois helicopter and compare these forces with design standards. The examination of muscle activation patterns of pilots during maneuvers, when normalized, can provide additional information on the relative activation levels that pilots are using to produce the aircraft control forces. METHODS: Six pilots were tested in a UH-1 H Iroquois helicopter. The maneuvers were three engine-out landings and a hydraulics-off landing. The variables recorded were pilot applied forces and EMG activity. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to test for differences between maneuvers. RESULTS: The greatest cyclic and upward collective control forces were observed during constant attitude and variable flare engine-out landings. The greatest downward collective forces were observed during hydraulics-off landing. Greater levels of muscle activation were consistently observed during hydraulics-off landing than during the engine-out landings. Control forces consistently exceeded military design standards for cyclic and collective controls, however muscle activity levels were sub-maximal for all maneuvers. CONCLUSION: Comparisons between existing aircraft control-force design standards and pilot strength may overestimate the number of pilots who are able to produce sufficient force to fly the aircraft. Despite the high control forces observed, all pilots tested were able to successfully maneuver the helicopter without requiring a maximal muscular effort.
    • Aircraft control forces and EMG activity in a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter during routine maneuvers

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 2000-05-31)
      Flying a helicopter requires greater coordination than flying a fixed-wing aircraft, because the pilot is required to apply force simultaneously to three controls: the cyclic, collective, and pedals. There has been one study of pilot applied forces during helicopter flight, but this investigation did not examine muscle activity patterns. The aim of this study was to examine the muscle activation patterns and control forces of helicopter pilots during routine maneuvers. METHODS: Six pilots were tested in a UH-1 h Iroquois helicopter. The maneuvers involved hovering, winching, under-slung loads, a constant rate turn, and a high-speed valley turn. Variables recorded were pilot applied forces and electromyographic activity (EMG). Multivariate analysis of variance was used to test for differences between maneuvers. RESULTS: Significant differences between the maximum forces recorded from each control across all maneuvers were recorded (p < 0.05). The greatest pilot applied forces were recorded from the pedals. No muscles were activated more than 25% of a maximum voluntary contraction for any maneuver. The greatest magnitude of EMG activity was recorded from vastus lateralis during high-speed valley turns. There were significant differences between the EMG activity of left triceps, right triceps, and right deltoid for some maneuvers (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: The control forces required to fly a helicopter during routine maneuvers are small. The levels of muscle activation associated with pilot applied forces are also low, but are similar to those reported during routine maneuvers in a fast-jet flight simulator.
    • Aircraft control forces and EMG activity: comparison of novice and experienced pilots during simulated rolls, loops and turns

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 2000-08-31)
      BACKGROUND: Flying an aircraft requires a considerable degree of coordination, particularly during aerobatic activities such as rolls, loops and turns. Only one previous study has examined the magnitude of muscle activity required to fly an aircraft, and that was restricted to takeoff and landing maneuvers. The aim of this study was to examine the phasing of muscle activation and control forces of novice and experienced pilots during more complex simulated flight maneuvers. METHODS: There were 12 experienced and 9 novice pilots who were tested on an Aermacchi flight simulator while performing a randomized set of rolling, looping, and turning maneuvers. Four different runaway trim settings were used to increase the difficulty of the turns (elevator-up, elevator-down, aileron-left, and aileron-right). Variables recorded included aircraft attitude, pilot applied forces, and electromyographic (EMG) activity. Discriminant function analysis was used to distinguish between novice and experienced pilots. RESULTS: Over all maneuvers, 70% of pilots were correctly classified as novice or experienced. Better levels of classification were achieved when maneuvers were analyzed individually (67-91%), although the maneuvers that required the greatest force application, elevator-up turns, were unable to discriminate between novice and experienced pilots. There were no differences in the phasing of muscle activity between experienced and novice pilots. The only consistent difference in EMG activity between novice and experienced pilots was the reduced EMG activity in the wrist extensors of experienced pilots (p < 0.05). The increased wrist extensor activity of the novice pilots is indicative of a distal control strategy, whereby distal muscles with smaller motor units are used to perform a task that requires precise control. Muscle activity sensors could be used to detect the onset of high G maneuvers prior to any change in aircraft attitude and control G-suit inflation accordingly.
    • Aircraft control forces and EMG activity: comparison of novice and experienced pilots during simulated take-off and landing

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 1999-08-31)
      BACKGROUND: Flying an aircraft requires a considerable degree of coordination, particularly during activities such as takeoff and landing. No studies have examined the magnitude and phasing of muscle activity required to fly an aircraft. The aim of this study was to examine the muscle activation patterns and control forces of novice and experienced pilots during simulated flight. METHODS: Twelve experienced and nine novice pilots were tested on an Aermacchi flight simulator while performing a randomized set of take-off and landing maneuvers. Four different runaway trim settings were used to increase the difficulty of the landings (elevator-up, elevator-down, aileron-left, and aileron-right). Variables recorded included aircraft attitude, pilot applied forces, and electromyographic (EMG) activity. Discriminant function analysis was used to distinguish between novice and experienced pilots. RESULTS: Across all landings, wrist flexors and wrist extensors were the predominant muscles used, with EMG activity consistently around 20-30% maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). In respect to differences in EMG activity between novice and experienced pilots, novices had significantly more activity in wrist extensors during all landings. In contrast, experienced pilots had consistently more vastus lateralis activity for all landings than did novice pilots. Over all landings and take-off, 89.5% of pilots were correctly classified as novice or experienced. When the maneuvers were analyzed individually, normal, elevator-down, and aileron-left landings were the most accurate maneuvers for pilot prediction. EMG and force variables were more important than aircraft attitude in discriminating between novice and experienced pilots (83%, 79%, and 65%, respectively). CONCLUSION: The consistency of the finding that EMG activity and control forces are accurate discriminators of pilot experience is indicative of underlying differences in neuromuscular control strategies between novice and experienced pilots.
    • Aircraft control forces and EMG activity: Comparison of pilots before and after flying training

      Hewson, David; McNair, Peter J.; Marshall, R.N. (Aerospace Medical Association, 2001-05-31)
      BACKGROUND: Skilled performers in most motor tasks tend to require less force, muscle activity, and co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscles to complete tasks. There have been two previous studies on muscle activation patterns and applied forces of skilled and novice pilots, but no longitudinal measurements have been made. The aim of this study was to compare the muscle activation patterns of pilots who had recently completed pilot training with those of experienced pilots. A secondary aim of the study was to examine co-contraction of novice and experienced pilots. METHODS: Novice (n = 12) and experienced (n = 9) pilots were tested on an Aermacchi flight simulator. The novice pilots were tested before and after completing pilot training. Pilots performed a set of landings, rolls, and turns, which were administered in a random order. Variables recorded included aircraft attitude, pilot applied forces, and electromyographic (EMG) activity. Discriminant function analysis was used to classify pilots as novice or experienced. RESULTS: Muscle activation patterns of the novice pilots after completion of pilot training were similar to those of experienced pilots. Of the recently graduated pilots, 77% were classified as experienced using discriminant function analysis. The maneuver in which the recently graduated pilots most closely resembled experienced pilots was the left aileron roll. During this maneuver, experienced and recently graduated pilots showed lower levels of co-contraction than novice pilots (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: The similarities in some muscle activity patterns across qualified pilots, regardless of experience level, may be useful in initiating protective systems such as G-suit inflation.
    • The effect of aircraft control forces on pilot performance during instrument landings in a flight simulator

      Hewson, David; McNair, P.J.; Marshall, R.N.; Universite de Technologie de Troyes (Aerospace Medical Association, 2001-07-31)
      BACKGROUND: Pilots may have difficulty controlling aircraft at both high and low force levels due to larger variability in force production at these force levels. The aim of this study was to measure the force variability and landing performance of pilots during an instrument landing in a flight simulator. METHODS: There were 12 pilots who were tested while performing 5 instrument landings in a flight simulator, each of which required different control force inputs. Pilots can produce the least force when pushing the control column to the right, therefore the force levels for the landings were set relative to each pilot's maximum aileron-right force. The force levels for the landings were 90%, 60%, and 30% of maximal aileron-right force, normal force, and 25% of normal force. Variables recorded included electromyographic activity (EMG), aircraft control forces, aircraft attitude, perceived exertion and deviation from glide slope and heading. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to test for differences between landings. RESULTS: Pilots were least accurate in landing performance during the landing at 90% of maximal force (p < 0.05). There was also a trend toward decreased landing performance during the landing at 25% of normal force. Pilots were more variable in force production during the landings at 60% and 90% of maximal force (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Pilots are less accurate at performing instrument landings when control forces are high due to the increased variability of force production. The increase in variability at high force levels is most likely associated with motor unit recruitment, rather than rate coding. Aircraft designers need to consider the reduction in pilot performance at high force levels, as well as pilot strength limits when specifying new standards.