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Visual Spatial Disorientation: Re-Visiting the Black Hole Illusion

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Major rept.

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Visual spatial disorientation SD is cited often as a contributor to aviation accidents. The black hole illusion BHI, a specific type of featureless terrain illusion, is a leading type of visual SD experienced by pilots. A BHI environment refers not to the landing runway but the environment surrounding the runway and the lack of ecological cues for a pilot to proceed visually. The problem is that pilots, despite the lack of visual cues, confidently proceed with a visual approach. The featureless landing environment may induce a pilot into feeling steep above the correct glide path and over-estimate their perceived angle of descent PAD to the runway. Consequently, a pilot may initiate an unnecessary and aggressive descent resulting in an approach angle far too shallow below the correct glide path to landing to guarantee obstacle clearance. This review addresses two questions. One, why do pilots over-estimate their PAD And two, if visual SD is such a well-researched and documented phenomenon, why does visual SD still continue to contribute to aviation accidents today Based on previous research, eight reasons are hypothesized as why a pilot over-estimates PAD. Also, a historical review of the BHI is presented as well as a discussion of past research and accident investigations that demonstrate inconsistencies regarding the state of the BHI.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Commercial and General Aviation
  • Anatomy and Physiology

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