Date of Award
Master of Science
George Masters, U. Peter Solies
The purpose of this paper is to document and study the evaluation performed to minimize the workload of the new EA-18G crew vehicle interface design prior to flight testing the aircraft system. The EA-18G concept was selected, from options presented in an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) commissioned by the United States Navy, to replace the aging EA-6B Prowler. As part of this analysis the Navy expressed concern of aircrew workload increasing due to the reduction of aircrew in the cockpit, from four to two.
The Boeing Avionics Integration Team, in St. Louis, Missouri, developed the design interface for the EA-18G through a series of Design Advisory Groups (DAGs) consisting of test and fleet aircrew from the F/A-18 and EA-6B communities. As the design of the crew vehicle interface was developed it was implemented in the Network Centric Operations Center (NCOC) 3 simulator for evaluation by aircrew. Four workload assessments were performed over a one year period, evaluating multiple operator tasks, during simulated missions in various areas of the world. The crew vehicle interface design was altered following each assessment, in order to enable the aircrew to perform the next set of simulated missions with increased system functionality and lower operator workload.
The design, as implemented in NCOC 3 for the fourth assessment, was not functional enough to allow the aircrew to truly evaluate the system for a valid workload. A fifth workload assessment was added to the program following an inconclusive evaluation at the fourth workload assessment. The design was finalized and the simulator was programmed to resemble the completed paper design. In addition to the finalized design, the Human Factors Engineering team, working with the Crew Vehicle Interface team, utilized a new method of flight testing to gather metrics, which the workload assessments could then be compared to during the final evaluation. This new method of Use Cases allowed the engineering team to evaluate the design based on aircrew designed metrics for different missions and task subsets.
In the opinion of this author, although the design of the EA-18G will reduce the number of aircrew in the cockpit, the design lends itself to a more user friendly and low workload interface. While simulation will never replace the true reactions and workload experienced by aircrew during real combat conditions, the implementation of advanced simulation techniques in this design has given the Navy insight into the crew vehicle interface performance of the EA-18G system earlier in the developmental cycle than ever before.
Bahner, Christopher Michael, "Evaluation of Tactical Aircrew Workload using Advanced Cockpit Simulation and its Impact on the Design of the EA-18G Aircraft. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2006.