Accession Number:

ADP013851

Title:

USAF Spatial Disorientation Survey

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:

ROYAL AIR FORCE CENTRE OF AVIATION MEDICINE BEDFORDSHIRE (UNITED KINGDOM)

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2003-02-01

Pagination or Media Count:

13.0

Abstract:

A recent review of mishaps by the Air Force Safety Center AFSC determined that spatial disorientation SD was implicated in 20.2 of the Class A mishaps in the United States Air Force USAF between 1991 and 2000, at a cost of 1.4 billion and 60 lives. However, mishap data only provide limited information about the impact of SD on air operations and, as aircraft losses are relatively infrequent, do not allow detailed analysis of SD by aircraft type. A more thorough understanding of how SD affects aircrew in day- to-day flying would allow appropriate countermeasures to be developed to reduce its impact. A survey was conducted and distributed USAF-wide by flight safety officers. The survey collected data about the incidence of a wide range of SD illusions experienced in the respondents current aircraft type. Additional information about the most recent SD incident was also collected and analyzed. Data from 2582 completed surveys were analyzed, covering 2.17 million flying hours in 34 currently flown aircraft types. The top three causes of SD for each aircraft stream were Fast Jet FJ - the leans, atmospheric blending of earth and sky, and misjudged position in night formation trail Multi-Engine ME - black-hole approach, sloping horizon, and the leans Trainer TR - the leans, atmospheric blending of earth and sky, and Coriolis illusion and Rotary-Wing RW - undetected drift, misleading altitude cues, and brownoutwhiteout. The incidence and severity of SD were related to aircraft stream with FJ and RW pilots being affected most. Overall, 8 of surveyed pilots had experienced a severe episode of SD adversely affecting flight safety. Experienced aircrew, as well as those that had received previous in-flight training, reported more illusions suggesting that these factors helped with recognition of SD in flight. Despite being a regular topic at flight safety briefings, pilots still frequently experience SD sufficient to impair performance.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Stress Physiology

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE