Sunday, August 30, 2009

Coping with Spatial Disorientation

Pilots can take action to prevent illusions and their potentially disastrous consequences if they:

1. Understand the causes of these illusions and remain constantly alert for them.
2. Always obtain preflight weather briefings.
3. Do not continue flight into adverse weather conditions or into dusk or darkness unless proficient in the use of flight instruments.
4. Ensure that when outside visual references are used, they are reliable, fixed points on the Earth’s surface.
5. Avoid sudden head movement, particularly during takeoffs, turns, and approaches to landing.
6. Remember that illness, medication, alcohol, fatigue, sleep loss, and mild hypoxia is likely to increase susceptibility to spatial disorientation.
7. Most importantly, become proficient in the use of flight instruments and rely upon them.

The sensations, which lead to illusions during instrument flight conditions, are normal perceptions experienced by pilots. These undesirable sensations cannot be completely prevented, but through training and awareness, pilots can ignore or suppress them by developing absolute reliance on the flight instruments. As pilots gain proficiency in instrument flying, they become less susceptible to these illusions and their effects.

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