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posted by LaminatorX on Monday December 08 2014, @09:49AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the don't-you-run dept.

Spatial disorientation (SD) is the leading aeromedical cause of Class A mishaps not only throughout DoD aviation, but in commercial flying as well including problems coping with the Black Hole Illusion, or BHI – when a pilot on a nighttime runway approach in a poorly lit area perceives he is higher than he should be and descends to a lower approach. So what causes this visual illusion? Perception scientists don’t exactly know for sure. There is disagreement as to the exact cause and probably no one theory alone fully explains the phenomenon. Across the services, SD related mishaps result in average annual losses of 25 lives and $400 million in aircraft. Now Bryant Jordan reports from Defense Tech that researchers have developed new simulation and training programs to help all Defense Department pilots avoid BHI and another potentially fatal spatial misperception. The unit tested a team of 38 pilots in day– and nighttime simulation landings, finding that they all flew near perfect approaching in the daylight. But 92 percent made “significantly low BHI approaches” in the nighttime simulation, the report said. On average, they were 148 feet too low when 1.5 nautical miles from the runaway, it said. “If unlit high terrain or obstacles are near the approach path the results can be fatal,” says Henry P. Williams, a researcher with the Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton. After BHI training pilots were, on average, just three feet too low at the same distance from the runway.

Another spatial disorientation problem tackled in the same study was Control Reversal Error, or CRE, which occurs when pilots lose visuals on a lead aircraft while making turns – as will happen flying into clouds. When that happens pilots swap over to instrument control to recover from the turn, but in nearly a quarter of the cases pilots turned in the wrong direction and steepened the angle of bank (PDF), researchers found. "This error can be extremely dangerous in actual instrument flight, leading to incapacitating [spatial disorientation] and a fatal departure from controlled flight."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @02:24PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @02:24PM (#123725)

    So in summary, they try to improve how pilots handle those situations by training in a simulator, simulating exactly those situations.

    I guess the actual news is that up to now they underestimated how widespread the problem is (at least that's the impression I get from the summary, although it's not explicitly stated).

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday December 08 2014, @06:08PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Monday December 08 2014, @06:08PM (#123801)

      > So what causes this visual illusion? Perception scientists don’t exactly know for sure.

      Without RTFAing, I'm guessing it might be hard to 2D simulate the exact 3D environment in which something happens when you don't quite know what's causing a visual miscue.

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Monday December 08 2014, @07:36PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 08 2014, @07:36PM (#123826) Journal

        I think its loss of horizon in night flying.

        My limited experience with this many years ago, suggests there are two things you need, one is the local ground plane, for which you have only the runway lights in rural locations with minimal street lights, and the second is the actual horizon.

        Without the horizon, and something to connect the local ground plane to that horizon, you end up with this smallish island of lighted ground plane and nothing to tie it to the land forms around you.

        I've actually seen this in rural small plane flying to rural airports (with lights) but never experienced it in urban/suburban airports where there is a larger ground plane.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 2) by Ryuugami on Monday December 08 2014, @02:49PM

    by Ryuugami (2925) on Monday December 08 2014, @02:49PM (#123734)

    Reading the title, I thought that "black hole illusion" is about that weird theory that the entire universe is a hologram projected from a 2d surface of the black hole (or something like that), and that new simulations showed that the theory was nonsense after all. Alas, no such luck.

    --
    If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @03:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @03:41PM (#123747)

      Indeed, came here expecting an update to the theory of black holes, left disappointed.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @06:02PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08 2014, @06:02PM (#123799)

        i guess we all fell for that black hole illusion

  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday December 08 2014, @07:33PM

    by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Monday December 08 2014, @07:33PM (#123825) Homepage
    Is that a euphemism for "crash"?
    --
    I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 1) by kpword on Tuesday December 09 2014, @03:05AM

    by kpword (677) on Tuesday December 09 2014, @03:05AM (#124031)

    Sounds like an ideal application for precision approach path indicators [faa.gov].