The Role of the United States Air Force Academy in the Spatial Disorientation Countermeasures Research Program
AIR FORCE ACADEMY COLORADO SPRINGS CO
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Spatial disorientation SD is a misperception of the attitude, position, or motion of an aircraft with respect to the ground or to other aircraft. SD continues to be a major contributor to Air Force mishaps, costing the Air Force 1.4 billion from 1992 2001. Twenty-eight aircraft were lost during this time, and the mishap rate due to SD remained relatively constant at 0.3 Class A mishaps per 100,000 hours flown. The Air Force Research Laboratory AFRL manages a spatial disorientation countermeasures research program. It involves technological countermeasures, education and training, and the development of a spatial disorientation retention device SORD. Researchers at the United States Air Force Academy USAFA have teamed with AFRL to help investigate the SD problem. USAFA is uniquely qualified to play an important role in researching the causes of and possible countermeasures to spatial disorientation. There is a large pool of potential subjects for research studies, including 4000 cadets and nearly 500 faculty and staff members. This subject pool contains a full range of flight backgrounds. Most lowerclassmen have little flight experience, while nearly 1000 develop some flying skills during the soaring program each year. Approximately 80 cadets take introductory flight training during their senior year, and dozens more obtain their private pilot s licenses on their own. Additionally, there are approximately 40 military officers at USAFA serving on the faculty with flying experience. A critical aspect of the SORD is the Spatial Orientation Model, or the Assessor. In order to appropriately model a pilot s spatial orientation, basic research must still be accomplished. Currently, cupulometry studies are being conducted to help characterize the time constants of the semi-circular canals.
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