Spatial disorientation-implicated accidents in Canadian forces, 1982-92.

Aviation, space, and environmental medicine

PubMedID: 7646410

Cheung B, Money K, Wright H, Bateman W. Spatial disorientation-implicated accidents in Canadian forces, 1982-92. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995;66(6):579-85.
In a recent survey of CF18 aircrew human factors, 44% of pilots reported experience with spatial disorientation (SD), of whom 10% had experienced more than 3 episodes. In order to investigate further, we have completed a retrospective study of SD-implicated category A accidents (where an aircraft is destroyed, declared missing, or damaged beyond economic repair) in the Canadian Forces (CF) during 1982-92. An overview of all SD occurrences (including accidents and incidents) across aircraft types is also presented. Information was gathered concerning the genesis and severity of disorientation so that research effort and pilot training could be appropriately implemented. Mishap investigation summaries involving category A accidents where SD was implicated were obtained from the CF Directorate of Flight Safety and reviewed. We also examined in detail the Board of Inquiry Reports of these accidents. The role of disorientation in these accidents was assessed. There were 62 category A accidents between 1982-92 and, in 14, SD had been assigned as a possible cause factor in the accident records. When divided into the categories of Recognized SD (RSD), Unrecognized SD (USD), and Incapacitating SD (ISD), all but two fell into the category of USD (the pilots were unaware of the disorientation). Of the SD accidents, 11 involved a total loss of 24 lives. The majority of the accidents happened during the day, and pilots' cumulative flying experience did not appear to be a significant factor. According to our assessment, there were two episodes of vestibular origin, involving the somatogravic illusion. Three episodes of disorientation occurred over frozen lakes, one over glassy water, and one over ocean.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)