An operationally-significant number of Griffon aircrew in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) develop chronic neck pain; however, it is unclear how this chronic pain affects their ability to accomplish their missions. Extant literature on pain and human performance has found that pain can negatively affect tasks constrained by short-term memory and attention switching. We sought to test whether pain has similar effects on personnel piloting helicopters in simulation. Twenty-three RCAF personnel flew a simulated Griffon helicopter through waypoints along a target path. We were particularly interested in the effects of three variables: a) the presence or absence of induced thermal pain, b) the presence or absence of a secondary engine monitoring task requiring sustained attention, and c) the experience level of the pilots. The results suggest that pain can interfere with flight performance, particularly for less experienced pilots engaged in multiple tasks over more extended time durations.
Dyre, B. P.,
Hollands, J. G.,
& Maceda, E.
(2019). Effect of Pain and Task Load on Flying Performance. 20th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 415-420.