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Pilots' 'strange illusions' linked to fatal crashes    2007-12-03 07:39:01    

Melbourne, Dec 3 : There is a definite possibility that every pilot will lose all sense of direction, height and speed while flying at some point, says a report.
There is a definite possibility that every pilot will lose all sense of direction, height and speed while flying at some point, says a report.

According to a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), some pilots may even feel as though they are sitting on the wing watching themselves in the cockpit.

The report stated that between 90 to 100 per cent of aircraft pilots experienced 'spatial disorientation' (SD) - one of the most common factors in plane crashes.

Aviation medicine specialist Dr David Newman said pilots were commonly the victims of strange illusions that could be dangerous.

The report said that some of the most common illusions experienced by pilots included feeling as though the plane was falling when it was slowing down, a false sensation of the aircraft "rolling" and a sense that the plane was not turning when it actually was.

Newman said that there were much stranger illusions experienced by pilots.

"In some cases, pilots may feel that they are sitting out on the wing of their aircraft, watching themselves flying the aircraft," quoted him, as saying.

"The knife edge illusion gives the pilot a sensation that the aircraft is precariously positioned in space, and extremely sensitive to control inputs," he said.

"By contrast, the giant hand illusion gives the pilot the opposite sensation, that the aircraft is intolerable of control inputs and seemingly immovable in the air, as if held aloft by a giant hand," he added.

Newman said that the illusions often occurred when pilots were not busy flying the plane.

"While seemingly bizarre, these illusions are generally associated with high altitude flight where the pilot has a relatively low level workload.

"Under such 'fish-bowl' conditions, the brain can wander and generate these strange illusions," he said.

The report said that the pilots should be aware that they would experience SD sooner or later.

"If a pilot flies long enough as a career or even a hobby there is almost no chance that he or she will escape experiencing at least one episode of SD," the report said.

"Looked at another way, pilots can be considered to be in one of two groups: those who have been disorientated, and those who will be."

The ATSB report said that the pilots should take measures to reduce the impact of SD by flying when fit, not flying under the influence of alcohol or medication, increasing awareness of spatial disorientation illusions and planning for their possible appearance. (ANI)
© 2007 ANI

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