The effectiveness of stress training in performance enhancing in stressful flight

Christopher K. McClernon [1] carried out a research to investigate whether stress training during the learning of simulator-based flight skills improve the performance during real flying followed by the training.
This research used a compare group experiment. Two groups of participants with no previous flying experience were given the same simulator training but treatment group were given stress training. In the latter real flying , aircraft telemetry data were collected and performances were scored by certificated fight instructors and a query regarding the stress was also done verbally. The result showed that stress coping training in flight training improved performance in the stressful flying task.


1. Mean flight variability scores

In the figure that for all seven flight dimensions, the variance in performance was greater in the control than in the experimental group.F(1, 28) = 6.61, p < 0.05.

2. CFI Performance Evaluations

A t-test of the mean ratings determined no significant difference between the two CFIs’ evaluations(p > .05), thus, the scores of them are comparable, as listed below.

Illustration 1.Mean flight instructor performance evaluations over time
1 2 3 4 5 trend
Treatment group 6.6 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.6 increasing
Control group 5.1 5.7 6 5.9 6.1 increasing
Comparison treatment higher treatment higher treatment higher treatment higher treatment higher treatment higher

This part concluded that performance of the treatment group were constantly higher than the control group.

3. Subjective Stress Ratings

Illustration 2. Mean stress scores over time
1 2 3 4 5 trend
Treatment group 145 142 130 128 134 decreasing
Control group 144 143 125 135 120 decreasing
Comparison no significant difference between two groups

This part concluded that there are no difference between the stress rating of two groups.


Research approach

The study used a control group compare experiment to examine whether stress training improve performance in flight.


30 U.S.military personnel with no previous flying experience,( among which 26 are male,4 are female). They are all from the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, USA.


  1. participants were assigned at random to either a stress-trained treatment group or a control group, two groups are identical in ages.
  2. a 1-hr flight simulator training was given to all participants
  3. a 1-hr flight in an aircraft was performed when flight performance measures were obtained from aircraft telemetry data and certified flight instructor (CFI) performance evaluations. Stress was aslo measured using subjective stress ratings.


1. Performance variables:
Scores of Aircraft Telemetry Data of 7 dimensions
CFI Performance Evaluations score
2. Stress variables:
subjective stress score


Aircraft Telemetry Data which includes pitch, roll,pitch rate,roll rate, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration, normal acceleration
CFI Performance Evaluations score
Subjective stress score


1. Simulator Task training.
2. Stress training to the treatment group, while control continue simulator training.
3. Real flying task where participants were asked to do maneuvers.

Data analysis

1. Aircraft Telemetry Data were converted to a variability scores via the formula Z = (Vp – Mean Vs) / SDVs, with higher score indicating more variance, hence poorer performance.
2. CFI Performance Evaluations and Subjective Stress Ratings were given as score of comparing two groups

Generalization potential

1. This research confirmed that simulator-based stress training can benefit pilot performance.
2. Stress scores for both groups of participants during the transfer phase did not differ significantly on an overall level or in relation to time in flight, this outcome has potential important implications for insight into
the type of benefits acquired during training.
3. Because in the experiment, the mission is performed immediately after stress training, further study of retention characteristics of the stress coping training are needed.
4. Operational considerations for implementing stress training and when and how often such training should be implemented should be studied.

1. MCCLERNON Christopher K, Michael E MCCAULEY, Paul E O’CONNOR & Joel S WARM (2011). Stress Training Improves Performance During a Stressful Flight. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2011, volume 53, number 3, pages 207-218.

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