Date of Award

Fall 2004

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Shawn Doherty, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dahai Liu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard P. Anderson, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of crosswind and turbulence on mental workload and pilot tracking performance. Based on previous research, it was believed that as the amount of crosswind and turbulence is increased, mental workload would increase and tracking performance would decrease. The objective was to estimate the impact that crosswind and turbulence, of varying degrees, had on performance and workload. Fifteen full time college student volunteers served as experimental participants in a simulated horizontal and vertical tracking task. Each participant flew twelve instrument approaches, experiencing a different crosswind and turbulence combination during each approach. Flight performance and workload were measured using time within standard (TWS) and NASA Task Load Index (TLX) scores, respectively. The most detrimental effect on tracking performance was expected when participants were exposed to both crosswind and turbulence as the pilot had to divert attention between maintaining control of the airplane, establishing and maintaining a crab angle, and correcting for the aircraft being displaced off course in a continuous basis. The results of this study suggest that the impact of crosswind on tracking performance is small and probably not of practical concern. Similarly, the results did not find that crosswind statistically increased mental workload. However, as the turbulence level was increased, observed tracking performance decreased and workload scores increased. The results of the study failed to find a statistically significant interaction between the crosswind and turbulence factors for either the performance or workload data.