Cognitive Workload: A Flying Training Performance Forecaster

Result Analysis

Based on the NASA TLX scores, the results of this study determined that those students who completed the course had a higher cognitive workload than those who did not.

Quantitative Result

Based on TLX Subscale Scores of 25 Student Pilots:

  • 5 who completed, and
  • 20 who did not complete.

Table 1: TLX Subscale Scores of Successful/Unsuccessful Course Completion:

Complete Incomplete
Mental Demand 18 12.4
Physical Demand 6 8.2
Temporal Demand 17.5 8.6
Individual Performance 3 9.8
Emotional Demand (Effort) 19 15
Frustration 8 5
  • The difference between the scores, of students who completed the course and those who did not, are most significant in the the Mental Demand, Temporal Demand and Individual Performance factors.
  • Slight differences in the Effort and Frustration factors of both groups of students hint at the emotional impact of flying training.


Research approach

  • Using the NASA Task Load Index’s (TLX) six subscales to quantify cognitive workload of student pilots


  • 25 students from the Honolulu Community College (HCC) as part of their credit for college


  • The study was carried out within a civilian training environment and could vary if applied in a military training environment; in view of the more rigorous selection processes for military flying

Data analysis

  • Cognitive workload was determined using the NASA TLX’s 6 subscales of Mental Demand, Physical Demand, Temporal Demand, Individual Performance, Emotional Demand and Frustration
  • The results for each subscale were grouped to compare students who had successfully completed the course against students who did not complete the flying course

Generalization potential

  • The student pilots were undertaking the course as part of their college credit so the motivation for completing the course might differ from a student pilot aiming for a professional licence
  • Nevertheless, the results that higher mental workloads were seen across those who passed suggest the applicability of the link between cognitive workloads and flying training performance


Tilton, N.F., & Miller, R.M. (2009) Cognitive Workload as a Predictor of Student Pilot Performance. In D. Harris, (Ed.), Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics (pp. 600-605). Heidelberg, Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Want to know more?

NASA TLX More Information on the NASA Total Load Index

TLX Form An Example of a TLX Scale to capture quantitative data

Authors / Editors



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