Thursday the 17th of March 2016 – Lise Mégret began a doctoral thesis in cognitive psychology three years ago and successfully completed it last February. Using the ALSIM G-Sim generic flight simulator installed at The University of Evry, she studied the role of emotions in pilot’s management of dynamic and risk situations: Do they affect pilot competence or can they be beneficial? ALSIM, also very interested in this area of research through the development of its simulators, financially supported Lise’s thesis.

Passionate about flying, Lise (now Doctor Lise Mégret) was interested in pilot training design using “weak signals”. She explains in Innovation Review: “cognitive psychology is interesting because it allows us to discover a lot about learning but this information is then rarely transmitted externally, we now have an opportunity to do so.”

Dr Mégret developed a flight simulator scenario using a “weak signal”, in this case a progressive fuel leak, and equipped each test-subject pilot with a heart rate monitor and a camera installed facing them. It was then discovered that the pilots who had most success with this test were those that experienced the strongest emotions. According to these results, surprisingly, emotions are better counselors than would normally be expected.

Another interesting conclusion: test subject’s performances were not influenced so much by their individual number of accumulated flying hours, but rather with the type of aviation they practiced. In fact, Instructors were seen to be better at managing these situations than PPL or CPL holders, having more flight hours. “It confirms also what we previously thought about pilot training: that pilots should be even more trained and confronted with different types of situations for maximal performance”, explains Thierry LEBOURQUE, ALSIM’s head of R&D. He also added, “Beyond pilot experience, we can help them to get to know themselves better and better correct their shortcomings when faced with stressful unusual situations, in which they must make important decisions.”

Dr Mégret’s work will help ALSIM in developing new scenario design tools to enable students to sufficiently immerse themselves and provide them with experiences in simulators that are more powerful than the regular procedures sessions they are used to. The company hopes to propose an integrated system for their simulators in the future that will execute these training scenarios without requiring the instructor’s intervention. After this set of pre-written scenarios has been completed, ALSIM also intends to later offer a scenario-editor to allow customers program their own.

Finally, these results all align naturally with the current tendency to expand flight simulator training with realistic situations using scenario-based sessions, in order to better confront students with credible situations they might encounter during their life as a pilot.