Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Richard Ranaudo

Committee Members

Richard Ranaudo, Uwe P. Solies, Frank G. Collins

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the suitability of using an existing 25-ft radius centrifuge as a dynamic flight simulator for “full mission” F/A-18 strike fighter mission training with respect to the representativeness of pilot-perceived motion and acceleration cues.

The methodology employed in this study consisted of analyzing F/A-18 mission tasks, collecting pilot opinion surveys of important sensory cues needed in simulator training, and conducting an analysis of human pilot perceptual problems caused by centrifuge motion constraints.

This study identified a number of issues indicating that a centrifuge-based flight simulator shows limited potential for use in “full mission” F/A-18 training scenarios. Specifically, there is a fundamental mismatch between the 6 degree-of-freedom mission-representative acceleration environment experienced in the aircraft and the 3 degree-of-freedom acceleration environment the centrifuge is able to provide. The centrifuge is not optimized for the typical acceleration environment experienced during F/A-18 missions and has significant limitations in “near one g” and “near zero g” flight conditions. Additionally, the centrifuge causes a variety of undesired, unrealistic, and debilitating vestibular artifacts that are not consistent with what a pilot experiences in the aircraft when performing the same mission task, degrading the effectiveness of training.

Despite its limited suitability as a “full mission” F/A-18 simulator, the centrifuge is an essential physiological training device, shows good potential as a part-task trainer for departure/spin training, and should continue to play a role in the F/A-18 training continuum.

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