Eyes on industry to keep helicopters on track

Photo: HeliOffshore

International helicopter safety association HeliOffshore is consulting with operators and training organisations about how to apply the results of its eye-tracking research.

The London-based organisation says that the research, developed by its member operators working with industry experts Jarvis Bagshaw, is designed to help flight crews make better and safer use of the advanced automation found in modern helicopters.

‘Using flight simulators, researchers have been able to track where pilots are looking during the various stages of a flight—in their roles as pilot flying and pilot monitoring, during coupled and uncoupled flight, during normal and non-normal operations,’ HeliOffshore’s website says.

Photo: Jarvis Bagshaw Ltd

‘These investigations have been supported by data gathered by anonymously surveying pilots to compare how crews believe they perform (in accordance with published operational procedures) with how they performed in the research scenarios. In particular, the research has yielded a better understanding of the pilot monitoring function, i.e. how they monitor cockpit instruments and displays.’

Airbus Helicopters and service provider Bristow Group have donated simulator time to the project. Researchers recorded pilot activity in instrument flying conditions, including navigating with instrument approach patterns while dealing with system degrades and malfunctions.

The pilots wore special eye-tracking glasses which, in conjunction with a camera and harmless infrared light bursts, showed how crews observe flight instruments and other cockpit displays together and independently as they perform prescribed and unprescribed procedures.

HeliOffshore’s Operations Director, Francois Lassale, said, ‘we will use the results to improve training and standard operating procedures, and give feedback to the manufacturers about the design of automation and cockpits.’

The results of the research will also be reviewed as part of a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) project to support the case for evidence-based training in the offshore helicopter sector.

HeliOffshore will conduct workshops later this year, feedback from which will be used to test training enhancement as the next phase of the research.