THE PROBLEM

 

Spatial disorientation can happen in all types of aircraft and to both experienced and inexperienced pilots. Those who believe it only happens to inexperienced pilots or in only light aircrafts, should think again!


"It is vitally important that pilots are aware that SD happens to normal pilots. It can affect any pilot, anytime, anywhere, in any aircraft, on any flight, ..." 

Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Dr David G. Newman 2007

"There is no specific training for countermeasures to Type I spatial disorientation..." 

Source:  NATO Report RTO-TR-HFM-118, pp1.1, JUNE 2007


“The United States (US) Navy has reported that during the period 1980 to 1989, some 112 major aircraft accidents involved SD of the crew ..”  

Source:  Bellenkes, Bason, & Yacavone, 1992


"During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, 81 percent of U.S. Army aviation nighttime accidents were ascribed to SD."  

Source:  ARMY AEROMEDICAL RESEARCH LAB FORT RUCKER AL, JAN 2000


“The US Air Force, for the same period, reported that SD led to 270 major aircraft mishaps” 

Source: Holland, 1992


“Another US Air Force study found that single-pilot aircraft might be more at risk from SD, and that a third of F-15 and F- 16 crashes were attributable to SD” 

Source:  Gillingham, 1992


“A similar study also showed that Royal Netherlands Air Force pilots in the F-16 experienced 73 per cent more SD than in other types of fighter aircraft” 

Source:  Holland & Freeman, 1995


“A US Air Force study, looking at F-16 Class A accidents during the years 1975 to 1993, found that 7.5 per cent of those accidents were due to SD.” 

Source:  Knapp & Johnson, 1996


“The most recent US Air Force study examined SD across 15 years of accident data, and found that SD accounted for 11 per cent of US Air Force accidents and 69 per cent of accident fatalities during the period 1990 to 2004” 

Source:  Lyons et al., 2006


“In the United Kingdom (UK) Army, one study suggested that 21 per cent of their accidents were attributable to SD.”

Source: Vyrnwy-Jones, 1985


“In a US study examining disorientation in general aviation, the authors attributed 15.6 per cent of major accidents...” 

Source:  Kirkham, Collins, Grape, Simpson, & Wallace, 1978


“It has been reported that for a given pilot, the career incidence of SD is in the order of 90 to 100 per cent.” 

Source:  Braithwaite et al., 1998b; Clark, 1971; Eastwood & Berry, 1960; Edgington & Box, 1982; Patterson, Cacioppo, Gallimore, Hinman, & Nalepka, 1997; Singh & Navathe, 1994; Tormes & Guedry, 1974


"From the RAF and USAF SD mishaps about 80% are Type I, i.e. unrecognized spatial disorientation." 

Source:  NATO Report RTO-TR-HFM-118, pp1.1, JUNE 2007


“Experience does not protect a pilot from SD...” 

Source:  Holmes et al., 2003


“It is not the junior pilot who gets disorientated - some studies show that the more at risk pilot is a highly proficient one...

Source:  Lyons, Ercoline, Freeman, & Gillingham, 1994

“The occurrence of several major accidents involving flight crew spatial disorientation in large commercial airplanes in the last decade marks spatial disorientation as a phenomenon that deserves the attention of the international aviation safety community.”
Source:
  Spatial Disorientation Accidents in Large Commercial Airplanes:  Case Studies and Countermeasures  William J Bramble, Jr  U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

 “Over the last decade, large commercial aircraft have been involved in a number of catastrophic accidents that bear the hallmarks of flight crew spatial disorientation.”  
Source:  Spatial Disorientation Accidents in Large Commercial Airplanes:  Case Studies and Countermeasures  William J Bramble, Jr  U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

 “The flying pilot was unaware of the initial deviations, and became confused when alerted to the change.  While confused, the flying pilot was slow to make needed corrections and made inappropriate control inputs.  In each of the episodes that resulted in an accident, the captain served as the flying pilot.” 
Source:  Spatial Disorientation Accidents in Large Commercial Airplanes:  Case Studies and Countermeasures  William J Bramble, Jr  U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

 Spatial disorientation is an especially insidious form of subtle incapacitation.  The affected crewmember will remain alert and may even respond verbally to observations and challenges but is unable to properly control the airplane for a period of time.  A spatially disoriented pilot may even begin to make appropriate corrections, but then resume inappropriate control inputs.”
Source:  Spatial Disorientation Accidents in Large Commercial Airplanes:  Case Studies and Countermeasures  William J Bramble, Jr  U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

“Although such errors occur less frequently among highly experienced pilots, experience does not provide complete protection against this type of error.  Even highly trained military fighter pilots make roll reversal errors in the laboratory.” 
Source:  Multisensory enhancement of command displays for unusual attitude recovery.  International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 18, 255-67  C. D. Wickens, R. L. Small, T. Andre, T. Bagnall and C. Brenaman (2008)

“The fight against spatial disorientation-related accidents is an important frontier in the aviation industry’s ongoing efforts to improve flight safety.” 
Source:
  Spatial Disorientation Accidents in Large Commercial Airplanes:  Case Studies and Countermeasures  William J Bramble, Jr  U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

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