Spatial disorientation

Spatial disorientation, spatial unawareness is the inability of a person to correctly determine his/her body position in space. This phenomenon refers especially to aircraft pilots and underwater divers, but can be also induced in normal conditions — chemically or physically (e.g. by blindfolding).

In aviation, the term means the inability to correctly interpret aircraft attitude, altitude or airspeed, in relation to the Earth or point of reference, especially after a reference point (e.g., the horizon) has been lost. Spatial disorientation is a condition in which an aircraft pilot’s perception of direction does not agree with reality. While it can be brought on by disturbances or disease within the vestibular system, it is more typically a temporary condition resulting from flight into poor weather conditions with low or no visibility. Under these conditions the pilot may be deprived of an external visual horizon, which is critical to maintaining a correct sense of up and down while flying.

A pilot who enters such conditions will quickly lose spatial orientation if there has been no training in flying with reference to instruments. Approximately 80% of the private pilots in the United States do not have an instrument rating, and therefore are prohibited from flying in conditions where instrument skills are required. Not all pilots abide by this rule and approximately 40% of the NTSB fatal general aviation accident reports list continuation of flight into conditions for which the pilot was not qualified as a cause.

Gulf Air – Airbus A320-212 (A40-EK) flight GF072

Gulf Air – Airbus A320-212 (A40-EK) flight GF072

GULF AIR flight GF072 crashed while on go-around in Bahrain international airport. On 23 August 2000, at about 1930 local time, Gulf Air flight GF-072, an Airbus A320-212, a Sultanate of Oman registered aircraft A40-EK, crashed at sea at about 3 miles north-east of...

Aviation accidents

An aviation accident is an incident in which an aircraft is damaged or destroyed as a result of a collision, fire, structural failure, or other event. Aviation accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including mechanical failure, pilot error, adverse weather conditions, and sabotage. Aviation accidents can result in fatalities, injuries, and damage to property. 

Aviation incidents

An aviation incident is an occurrence, other than an accident, that affects or could affect the safety of aircraft operations. Examples of aviation incidents include near collisions, runway incursions, and unruly passenger incidents.

Aviation serious incidents

A serious incident in aviation refers to an event that could have resulted in an accident or that had the potential to cause serious injury or death. Some examples of serious incidents in aviation include engine failure, in-flight fires, and loss of control of the aircraft.

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