Ergonomic issue in training aircraft.

Ergonomic in training aircraft

Fitzgerald (2004) interviewed pilots about flying training aircraft. It was clear that many pilots flying training aircraft experienced a numerous ergonomic difficulties. Thus, exploratory research was carried out to identify the numerous ergonomic issues that are encountered by pilots in training aircraft. Frequencies were calculated for the variables under study. For details of number of participants who are discomfort performing at least one function, neutral or comfortable executing function and comfortable on aircraft are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Frequency of variables for
different comfort level
participants results interpretation
27 discomfort performing at least 1 function most discomfort
6 neutral/ comfortable executing function neutral comfortable
18 comfortable executing function comfortable

Table 2 shows the percentage of participants who experienced discomfort performing at least one function in training aircraft. The most discomfort related to reaching the fuel selector and least discomfort to reaching the flap lever. This does highlights some design consideration as most aircraft flap levers are with in easy reach so that it can be activated in less time, especially as it us used during landing approach when pilots work load is high. Twenty seven participants reported some level of discomfort performing at least one function in aircraft. Out of them most difficulty was reaching fuel selector and least was using flap lever. See Table 2 for more details.

Table 2:Participants experiencing discomfort performing
at least 1 function in training aircraft (n=27)
comfort level in aircraft data % interpretation
Fuel selector valve 29 most discomfort
Manual gear mechanism 27 most discomfort
Air vents 22 most discomfort
Reaching gauge & seeing over panel 20 medium discomfort
Fully reflecting rudder 16 medium discomfort
Gear switch 10 medium discomfort
Reaching flap lever 8 least discomfort


Research approach

This research was an exploratory study. This was designed to obtain information from student pilots from Arizona State University flight program in regard to the ergonomics problems that they have experienced in their training aircraft.


Fifty-one students participated in the study. Twenty four percent of sample were flight instructors. Out of these 41% had Commercial Pilot License( CPL) and 57% had instrument rating. Private Pilot License (PPL) holders comprised of 84% of sample. The height of participants ranged from 60” ( 5’ 0”) to 79” ( 6’ 7”). Pilots from three aviation classes volunteered after being informed that a survey concerning training aircraft flight deck ergonomics was being carried out. Although, volunteers were selected, the size of the volunteer of population was not specified. As volunteers are self selected they may not be the representative of all student pilots and have different characteristics from non-volunteers.


Independent Variable (IV): (Comfortable in training aircraft)


  • Questionnaires were developed for the study. This was done after interviewing flight instructors and general aviation pilots to gain insight regarding ergonomic problems experienced in training aircraft.
  • Participants rated comfort level using a 5- point Likert scale ranging from “1, very uncomfortable” to “5, very comfortable” for various variables. These were for fully deflecting rudder, reaching flap lever, fuel selector valve, gear switch, manual gear mechanism, air vents, gauges on the opposite side of the cockpit and instrument panels. Additionally, an open-ended question was included and participants were requested to provide comments relating to other flight deck design issues they had experienced.
  • Also the devices pilot use to help compensate for their comfort were included. Participants responded about their uses of these items were asked to specify any other devices they use in an open-ended item.
  • Also respondents were requested to indicate their height, weight, range and licenses and rating held.


  • Questionnaire was given in class to be filled out and most of them were completed in five minutes.

Data analysis

  • Pearson product moment correlations were performed. Height and sighting over the instrument panel yeilded low positive relationship (r=.287) which was significant at .05 level.
  • Non- standard devices are utilized to compensate for ergonomic issues. Seat cushions are used by 16%. Four percent use back cushion and one person used seat belt extension.

Generalization & future research

  • Given the small sample size that was taken by convenience from one university in the United States, this cannot be generalised to other training institute. This is because of the different aircrafts used by different training organisations.
  • This result may be generalised to population of Arizona State University as all students would train on the same aircraft.
  • To understand the better of ergonomics issues in training aircraft, more aircraft ( low wing, high wing and two seat, 4 seat), age and various samples should be analysed.

1. Fitzgerald, C. P. (2004).Tapping diversity challenge in aviation. Burlington, USA. Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Want to know more? 

For more details see Ergonomization

For more details see Aspect Of Ergonomics

Wiki of Science Team (contributors to this page)
Authors / Editors

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