Defeating Disorientation - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Defeating Disorientation

Spatial disorientation is one of the leading causes of aircraft mishaps in aviation. Now Sheppard Air Force Base is leading the country in new technology to conquer the concern.

 Spatial disorientation is when a pilot's perception of direction doesn't agree with reality. And in order to better prepare pilots they are simulating those disorienting factors in a safe, controlled environment.

 “When I say threats we always think of bad guys, but you know pilots are dealing with these threats on a daily basis,” said Major Eydin Hansen, Aerospace and Operational Physiologist at Sheppard Air Force Base. “If you're flying in the weather you may feel like you're spinning and turning but you may not be.”

It's all of those different scenarios that this technology simulates. While those students sit in the pilot seat and operate the equipment, instructors throw different obstacles in their path.

“We’ll be able to train them at night, prior to them going out, and teach them some of the hazards when flying at night time,” said Hansen.

It’s the student pilot’s job to keep the simulated aircraft in control while fighting the disorienting factors that occur along the way.

“You have to trust your instruments, and we even have some scenarios where we take their instruments away,” said Hansen.

The simulator provides pilots with a variety of experiences that are vastly different than aviation has ever used before.

For the past 100 years aviation has used the Barany chair to train pilots for spatial disorientation. However the Barany chair lacked many of the other factors pilots face as they fly. In the new simulation they’ve coupled the experience that you get from the chair with the new equipment in the flight simulator.

Moving forward, officials said it's the new technology that will help better prepare pilots and ultimately save lives.

“The beautiful thing about the Air Force, and the military in general, is that we are innovators,” said Hansen.

Sheppard Air Force Base received the equipment back in May, and during that time they’ve received amazing feedback from student pilots, according to Hansen.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6

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