Simulator training improves pilots’ procedural memory and generalization of behavior in critical flight situations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Loss of control during flight represents one of the top ten leading causes of fatal
aviation accidents. The procedure for aircraft recovery consists of a series of
memory items and coordinated actions on the part of the pilot which should be
performed in a timely manner. The purpose of this study was to investigate the
effect of simulator training on pilots’ procedural memory and generalization of
behavior to a new situation. The simulator training effects were evaluated with 31
pilots assigned to either a training or a control group. Pilots from the training
group repeated the wording and practiced the procedure nine times in the flight
simulator. Pilots from the control group performed other flight tasks in the flight
simulator for the same amount of time. Results show that the pilots from the
training group recovered from the upset attitude, which was practiced in the flight
simulator, significantly better and faster than the control group. In addition, the
training group generalized the upset recovery procedure and applied it to a new
unusual attitude, performing faster than the control group. In conclusion, this study shows that pilots’ procedural memory can be improved by practicing in a flight simulator with sufficient psychological fidelity, and that the trained procedure can be generalized to a new critical flight situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-366
JournalCognition, Brain, Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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