HeliOffshore Study Tracks Pilots’ Eyes

By Staff Writer | March 1, 2016
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Airbus Helicopters donated H225 simulator time for the study.
Photo courtesy of HeliOffshore

The offshore helicopter industry’s latest safety effort includes collaborative research to enhance pilot performance in the cockpit by studying how aviators monitor instruments in flight.

HeliOffshore, the not-for-profit organization set up in 2014 to improve flight safety and advance technical competence globally in the offshore oil and gas support segment, has engaged U.K.-based operational safety, human performance and aerospace medicine consultancy Jarvis Bagshaw Ltd. to conduct that research.


The research began in January. The consultant said it involves tracking the eye movements of paired pilots performing a number of different monitored tasks in a helicopter simulator that “replicates a realistic workload” in visibility conditions that drive reliance on instruments “and immerses both crew members in duties.”

The pilots’ eye movements are tracked through glasses they don connected to a camera that illuminates their eyes with bursts of harmless infrared light. Varying amounts of infrared light reflects off different parts of the eye, which facilitates tracking that indicates which instruments are being monitored at specific periods of a flight.

More than 25 pilots from Bond Offshore, Bristow Group and CHC Helicopter participated in the first phase of observational study, according to Jarvis Bagshaw Ltd. Airbus Helicopters UK donated time in its Aberdeen, Scotland-based H225 simulator for that phase.

The results of the research will be used to “improve training and standard operating procedures, and give feedback to the manufacturers about the design of automation and cockpits,” said HeliOffshore’s operations director, Francois Lassale.

HeliOffshore plans to share de-identified research results at its annual conference in Prague in May.

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