FAASTeam Lead Representative and CFI Michael Lessard of Sullivan, Maine, has received a grant from the Wolf Aviation Fund to build a Spatial Disorientation Awareness Training Device. These devices, typically known as “Barany Chairs” or “Vertigo Chairs,” are effective devices to expose subjects to the physical effects of spatial disorientation, as they would be encountered by a pilot in flight. The device effectively causes the vestibular system to respond to changes in direction and acceleration, and produces a substantially accurate physical condition to demonstrate, in real time, the debilitating effects of spatial disorientation in flight, Lessard explained.
Spatial disorientation is defined as a loss of positional or situational awareness with regards to the flight attitude of the aircraft in relationship to the horizon. This type of accident scenario is significant as it occurs in approximately 76% of single engine weather related accidents involving both instrument rated and non-instrument rated pilots, and represents a 90% fatality rate in those occurrences. Historically, there have been few resources and opportunities for pilots to participate in recurrent spatial disorientation training, he said.
Expected benefits of the project are to provide opportunities for pilots and students to experience these effects in a safe and controlled environment. There is a substantial value in this experience, as it is the only method to demonstrate the magnitude of debilitation that occurs to the pilot, he said, adding it effectively proves that no one is exempt from spatial disorientation, and that encounters must be avoided through continual training and proper flying techniques. The spatial disorientation training experience will be made available to aviation training programs and schools, FAASTeam, and the aviation community as well as public schools, and medical/scientific communities.
Construction is expected to be complete by September. To keep tabs on the progress of the project, log on to WINGsReality.com.