Helicopter Training Next: Evaluation of a New Immersive Training Device
To improve training efficiency and meet pilot production goals within the US Air Force (USAF), a series of “Next” initiatives have been implemented to modernize and further develop learner-centered training at the point of need. Due to the success of the USAF’s recent Pilot Training Next (PTN) program, which focused on fixed-wing pilots as end-users, the Helicopter Training Next program is intended to build on PTN lessons learned and expand virtual reality (VR) based training to rotary-wing. The Immersive Training Device (ITD) is a key component facilitating this progress. The ITD leverages commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, such as VR headsets and PC HOTAS controls, to develop a low-cost pilot training device integrated with the latest commercially available flight simulation environments. A new ITD version has been configured to represent a helicopter cockpit regarding the seat, collective, cyclic, pedals, and virtual instrument and control displays. To effectively utilize the ITD for helicopter training, it is imperative to evaluate and understand how the characteristics of the ITD facilitate the acquisition or enhancement of knowledge, skills, and abilities. This presentation will focus on an effort to systematically evaluate all components of the ITD through the collection of usability and user experience data from helicopter instructor pilots regarding interaction with prototype versions of the ITD. A combination of data collection methodologies, such as questionnaires, think-aloud protocol, and interviews, was used to capture pilot feedback. Presented here will be the data collection approach taken, measures chosen and customized to meet specific research needs, statistical results, and how the feedback was transformed into recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the ITD for helicopter training.