Assessment of Real Data and Theoretical Issues in Extreme Aviation Environments

Terrence, P.I., Gilson, R.D., & Hancock, P.A. (2003). Assessment of real data and theoretical issues in extreme aviation environments. Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments7(2), 44-48.

We investigated performance in extreme aviation situations using data recorded from actual in-flight emergencies that resulted in an accident. Response times to such sounds as alarms, auditory cues, and critical verbal statements were extracted from cockpit voice recorder (CVR) transcripts. Preliminary screening identified 14 CVR transcripts which permitted response time evaluation. Results from these selections showed crew-member response times ranging from 1 second to 41 seconds, with a mean and standard deviation of 9.57 s and 10.56 s, respectively. Despite the evident problems of sample size resulting in a positive skewed distribution and the limitations on the inferences draw from these results, we contend that these data render insights into actual emergency response performance and point to valuable avenues for future exploration.

This paper examines performance in real-world emergencies which resulted in aviation accidents. Cockpit voice recorders (CVR) offer an objective performance measurement in these problematic circumstances. Response time measurements gleaned from these recordings differ markedly from laboratory-based reaction time (RT) measurements In complex tasks such as aviation, overall response time possesses an inherent decision-making component. In contrast, pure RT measurements focus on highly automated , almost reflexive, reactions to stimuli. Comparative control circumstances for emergencies are impossible and inferences from normative behavior are rarely applicable (see Hancock & Scallen, 1998). In order to better capture such crucial situations, the important first step is the formation of a descriptive database.

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