Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) potentially offer objective, continuous, and non-intrusive measures of human-operator's mental workload. Such measurement capability is attractive for workload assessment in complex laboratory simulations or safety-critical field testing. The present study compares mean HR and HRV data with self-reported subjective workload ratings collected during a high-fidelity human-in-the-loop simulation of airport ramp traffic control operations, which involve complex cognitive and coordination tasks. Mean HR was found to be weakly sensitive to the workload ratings, while HRV was not sensitive or even contradictory to the assumptions. Until more knowledge on stress response mechanisms of the autonomic nervous system is obtained, it is recommended that these cardiac-activity measures be used with other workload assessment tools, such as subjective measures.