Sunday, June 15, 2008

Vision Under Dim and Bright Illumination

Under conditions of dim illumination, aeronautical charts and aircraft instruments can become unreadable unless adequate cockpit lighting is available. In darkness, vision becomes more sensitive to light; this process is called dark adaptation. Although exposure to total darkness for at least 30 minutes is required for complete dark adaptation, a pilot can achieve a moderate degree of dark adaptation within 20 minutes under dim red cockpit lighting. Red light distorts colors, especially on aeronautical charts, and makes it very difficult for the eyes to focus on objects inside the aircraft. Pilots should use it only where optimum outside night vision capability is necessary. White cockpit lighting should be available when needed for map and instrument reading, especially under IMC conditions.

Dark adaptation is impaired by exposure to cabin pressure altitudes above 5,000 feet, carbon monoxide inhaled through smoking and from exhaust fumes, deficiency of Vitamin A in the diet, and by prolonged exposure to bright sunlight. Since any degree of dark adaptation is lost within a few seconds of viewing a bright light, pilots should close one eye when using a light to preserve some degree of night vision. During night flights in the vicinity of lightning, cockpit lights should be turned up to help prevent loss of night vision due to the bright flashes.

Dark adaptation: Physical and chemical adjustments of the eye that make vision possible in relative darkness.

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