Aviation Computer Games for Crew Resource Management (CRM) Skills Training

Computer games have the capacity to engage the player, are inexpensive, and are readily available. These three qualities suggest possible value as a training medium, even though existing aviation game software has not been designed specifically for training or crew interactions. Reactions of pilots participating in this research indicated that the use of computer games with carefully designed scenarios can be an acceptable means of training CRM skills. Aircrews seemed to appreciate the training value of the system and became engaged in its scenarios. Acceptance was found by aviators of all experience levels.

There are two issues of immediate concern for the use of this system: the generalizability of the system to other aviation communities and the comparability of the system with operational-flight trainers. Some preliminary data that address these issues were collected from a group of military helicopter pilots. The hardware used was as described above (except for the use of joysticks instead of yokes) and the software program used was an off-the-shelf helicopter simulation, GUNSHIP. Twelve crews consisting of pilot and copilot flew two similar mission scenarios, one on the tabletop system and the other in an operational flight trainer with visuals and a 6 degree-of-motion system. Reactions of the subjects to the two scenarios were collected. Their responses were positive and were similar for the two different simulators. The helicopter pilots indicated that training on the tabletop system was acceptable, appropriate for training CRM skills, and challenging. Nonetheless, given the small number of aircrews, these data should only be considered preliminary, and future research must continue to address the issue of simulator comparability. Specifically, such research needs to focus on the generalizability of CRM skills across various levels of simulator fidelity.

Wilhelm reported reactions of airline crews to full-mission simulator scenarios and noted that aircrews rated the realism of the scenarios very highly. Although the crews in the research reported here were not asked to respond to a specific question about realism, a short interview was conducted following the scenarios. A review of these data showed that participants characteristically commented about the realism of both scenarios, when realism was measure based on the type of problem presented, on calls of controlling agencies, on flight progress, and on the behavior that the scenario elicited. Furthermore, it was observed that perceived realism did not vary as a function of aviation experience.