Yet Another Airline Safety Suggestion:

I had thought, to combat spatial disorientation, of suggesting some sort of display that fills the entire windshield in the event of emergency.

Then I realized a much cheaper idea would be the distribution of some type of Google Glass display (Also known as The Vorta Headset from Deep Space Nine)* to give the pilot an artificial horizon display and any other info he’d like. Yes, I know all that should be available in the cockpit also, but this would be a redundant system and maybe preferable to looking at lots of different dials at once.

This isn’t something he’d wear all the time, just when he felt he needed it.

*And how about that. Star Trek predicts another piece of technology.

The idea is fine. As usual the thing that will stop it from happening is that the cost outweighs any safety benefit and I suspect it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Disorientation is a problem for VFR pilots who haven’t had instrument training who find themselves in the clouds, it isn’t a problem for instrument rated pilots. The solution for the VFR pilots is training and improved decision making rather than technology. Some airliners already have a heads up display but these are used more for instrument approaches in very low visibility and I gather they help with the transition from instrument to visual flight.

Other than the HUD, the primary flight display, or PFD, already has everything a pilot needs in one place. It is no longer a matter of looking at “lots of different dials at once”. Having said that, I fly aircraft with both a fairly comprehensive PFD displaying a horizon, vertical speed, and airspeed, and others that have pure analogue instruments. I find the biggest advantage in the more modern cockpit is the improved navigation display rather than any improvements to the artificial horizon / PFD. Having a top down picture of where you are relative to your flight planned track and waypoints is a great advantage over just having a course bar and distance to run to the next waypoint.

I think also that confusion about where you are laterally has caused more problems than which way is up. The first tends to result in you getting to low for where you are and hitting mountains that you didn’t realise were there. The latter problem is insignificant. I can’t think of any disorientation problems that have caused an airliner to crash, though I’m sure there have been. On the other hand I can think of many many crashes caused by the pilots getting confused about where they were laterally and descending too low.

If I recall correctly, there was one off the coast of South America at one point. It was at night, in a storm, and their instruments failed which is pretty much a worst-case type of scenario. Arguably, for France flight 447 they were in a storm at night and had conflicting instrument readings so it was at least a possible contributing factor.

Note that in both instances there were instrumentation problems - in which case the “google glass” display might not be functional, either.

I find that 10-20mg of Valium handles any issues I have in-flight…especially if I wash them down with a beverage or two. :smiley:

Me too.


Something about pilots making the worst passengers or something.

:smiley: :cool: :wink:

If whatever it is that feeds the primary flight displays fails, from where will this “Google Glass” device gets its info?

A HUD (wherein the display in projected onto the windshield) is the best possible solution to getting the pilot’s all the info they need without distracting them from the environment.

For pilots who cannot read instruments - where do these people come from? Straight in front of you is the horizon - now with blue for sky and brown for earth, with a little airplane located over them - and next to it is the altimeter, vertical speed (going up or down ? How fast?) airspeed (going to stall?) AND a backup-insrument showing if your wings are level (if they aren’t, you are in a spiral).
The classic for “continued VFR into Instrument Meteorological Conditions” is “Count down from 8 - that’s when, on average, you will auger in”.
The wing is off-level, the vertical speed is 500+ down, the altimeter in unwinding - and all of this info is 12" from your nose. How they do this…
If there are still instructors who cover the instruments and never let the student even see them (I’m told this was once not unknown), they need to be shot. Never sign off for solo anyone who does not immediately see that deadly pattern.

The reason it happens - without your eyes, you do not know if you are level or in a constant circle - the pressure on your butt is the same - gravity feels exactly the same as centripetal force.

Damifino - certainly not from anything near modern training methods. Heck, even most ultralight pilots I’ve known knew how to read basic instruments.

^ This.

When was that ever common?

Just like to add that I read this while sitting in the pilot’s seat of a new 737 in Boeing Renton plant. This plane has a heads up display unit installed but it does not project onto the windshield. There is a flip down screen made of clear lexan.

The AH-64 helicopter has had such a glasses-like tactical display for decades.

The still-in-prototype-stage Lockheed F-35 has no HUD. Instead all the info is projected onto the inside surface of the pilot’s helmet visor.

A real problem with this technology is now you’re trying to display info stabilized in space (e.g. the horizon line) which needs to move on your display surface not only due to relative motion between the real world and the aircraft, but also due to relative motion between the aircraft and the pilot’s head.

It is very difficult to accurately sense the orientation of the pilot’s head to fractions of a degree and then update the displays quickly enough to not have frame lag.

A massive cost overrun and delay in the F-35 came from the helmet system manufacturer underestimating this problem and being unable to solve it despite investing many cubic megadollars. A new contractor has been selected and the problem is being solved now. But the helmets are gonna be like $50K each. Plus $100K of sensor electronics in the airplane to drive them.

IOW, this is not something we’re gonna see in Cessnas any time soon.

I have no idea - I played with flight training in the 90’s. I went through a couple of instructors - one wanted to put me under the hood after 10 hours, another insisted that I just look outside. I got the impression that she (NOT a professional CFI by a very long shot) would cover the instruments until such time as SHE thought the student was proficient enough to be allowed to divert eyes from the windshield.

Her last day was when she couldn’t put my Yankee down near the center of the runway.
The “Grummans” use differential braking for steering.

I got sick of having everyone I encountered stick their hands in my pocket, sold the plane and life has been a downhill slide since.

On the plus side, it kept me from spending any more on a Glasair kit - I was around for the time they started flying the Christian fish on their ads and publications. Got a newsletter with a note from the President saying "Perhaps you’ve noticed that we display… this is simply about what we believe, and not what you do or should believe - you can believe whatever you want, and we can still do business. It’s just that we are holier than you, that is all.

Now you know why they went belly-up so quickly after plugging along for 15 years as the market passed them.

I think the concept of training with instruments covered is that some students spend way too much time concentrating on the instruments when what they really need to be doing is looking outside. You’ve got a lovely big horizon out the window, use that. Set an attitude to achieve what you want (straight and level, 30º bank turn, climb, descent etc) and then check with your instruments to see that you have it right. Don’t set what you want using the instruments alone. That is a really bad habit for a new pilot and sometimes the only way to fix it is to cover the damn things up. Most of them are totally unnecessary for VFR flying.

I was once the judge/safety pilot for an aero club competition where pilots had to fly a take-off, circuit, touch and go, second circuit, and landing all with the instruments covered in a way that I could see them and they couldn’t. My job was to make sure they didn’t prang and also score them on how accurately they achieved their nominated speed and altitude etc. Most of them were really good. Within a few knots of nominated speed and 50’ of nominated altitude. All just by looking out the window and setting known attitude and power combinations.

Flying high performance aircraft is a bit different. At high airspeeds a very small change in attitude will result in a large change in vertical speed. For this reason as you start flying airliners and the like it becomes more and more important to accurately set attitude with the artificial horizon even on a clear day (assuming you are manually flying.)

Obviously when flying in cloud it is also important to use the artificial horizon as it is the only one you have. But in GA aeroplanes on a nice day use the great big horizon you’ve got out the window.

I once took a German airline pilot flying in a Tiger Moth. After we landed he remarked on the lack of an artificial horizon and said “how do you set your attitude when you don’t have an AH?” I pointed to the line in the distance where sky meets ground and told him I used that. I think he’d been flying jets for so long that he’d forgotten how simple flying can be.

I was a real SOB back when I was an instructor.

It is my opinion that if you trained in a C-150 or similar, that if you could not land at night with a complete electrical failure, I would not sign you off. ( it is much easier in the older models with manual flaps. )

Anyway, that style & size of aircraft talks to you constantly and if you can land without instruments in the day time, including loss of flaps, then you should be able to do it at night. Had a small field close that had aircraft controllable runway lights & if there was enough moon, they had to do it without runway lights before we were through.

Obviously I did not do this to low time students but by 60 hrs or if working on a commercial or instrument ( different ratings back then & taught that way ) You would be able to do it if I was your instructor. I had a few other things I would teach but that was a long time ago when pilots were responsible & had to be able to do it without aids that could fail & occasionally did…

First time I ran into a PVT pilot, that not only did not have sectionals or Wacs, on board & could not use them if he had them, he could only navigate with his GPS, & was signed off for his license, well, I lost faith in the training system.

Anytime it is bigger than you are used to, not only must you* always remember to fly the airplane**, you must never forget about the effects of more mass.*

My point is exactly the bit about 8 seconds to impact.

I don’t remember which magazine, but it was re an study in the UK.
They took college student with 0 exposure, put them in a simulator, and trained them until they were proficient with stick and rudder.
Then one day, they had them flying along, and did the white-out.
Every last one augered in, average time was 8 seconds.

There is absolutely no excuse for anyone who can manage a take-off to NOT know:
Transponder codes
the 6-pack in front of them.

As stated I had an AA1-A “Yankee” (yes, the -A had a different marketing name). This one had an O290 in place of the original O235, and it moved. It also, like all AA1’s is fatal if spun - 1 360 degree rotation, and it cannot be recovered. There is a famous letter from NASA to the FAA about this. The AA1 was originally the BD-1 - yes, THAT BD, and was not originally designed for certification.
Not only did the thing want to climb (it needed to be nose-down to maintain level flight), but it a damned better be in coordinated flight. I little more precision that your high-wing Cessna or PA28.

Yes, I had a CFI put it into a spin. My foot was on the petal before his.

You’re beginning to see why I left aviation.

How many “continued VFR into (IFR conditions” + “fatal” are going to need to show up before everybody knows at least enough to keep it straight and level while declaring an emergency and requesting vectors?
And turn on carb heat if still using 1930’s technology firewall forward.

When instrument ratings are mandatory. :dubious:

But then you still will get those who take an airplane into conditions that it / they can’t handle. :smack:

Ignorance is just a lack of specific knowledge.

Stupidity is an incurable condition. Unfortunately, stupid people can & do get pilot licenses. :cool:

The old 1930s Tiger Moth I used to fly had auto carb heat ;).

The issue is not knowing how to keep straight and level, it’s learning to override the sometimes intense feeling that you are banked when you aren’t. It’s learning to have faith in what the instruments are telling you.

There is a particular departure we do out of Sydney at night and every time I do it I get the leans, every time. It’s an odd combination of very gentle changes of bank angle and accelerating and climbing that leaves me with the distinct impression that we are turning when we aren’t. It doesn’t phase me because I know what to do about it, but someone with no pure instrument exposure (and being under the hood is not the same as you get glimpses of the world out your peripheral vision) could be more easily lead into compensating for a bank that doesn’t exist, which is the first step towards the classic spiral dive.

If you ever get back into it, find a good instructor, and don’t use your own aeroplane. The aeroplane you want to own is not normally a good aeroplane to train in. Use the flying school’s aeroplane and learn to fly it their way. Then get someone who knows your aeroplane to teach you the differences.

I’ve seen a few people get aeroplanes before their licence with the idea that they will save on training costs by learning in their own machine. It rarely works out because a Maule-235, Cessna 210, etc aren’t training machines. You also get into conflict because it’s your aeroplane and you may want it flown a certain way, meanwhile the instructor is used to teaching and operating a certain way and the two are likely incompatible. You need to be in a situation where the flying school and instructor have full authority and responsibility for the aircraft so you can focus solely on learning to fly without worrying about your plane.

The OPs idea sounds really terrible to me. In the case of a sudden emergency, when control of the plane and even the plane’s orientation may be undergoing very rapid change, seems the very worst possible tome to slap on sets of goggles that will take time to power up, and will in themselves be completely disorienting while the pilots’ vision adapts to the new view.

Maybe it would make more sense for VR goggles to be the norm, and only taken off if they fail. But I don’t know enough about how good the imaging is or how reliable technology is to know.

Why can’t the friggin’ GROUND school teach what those funny dials are - and then have the instructors mention "notice, while we’re just toolin’ along what those funny little planes are doing - now stick forward - what does the little plane directly in front of your nose do?

And, since T/C are almost always electric, have one with a power supply and let the students twist it around until they are comfortable trusting it.

The flaky CFI who couldn’t steer the thing had at least one point - if climbing, throttle is full forward. That alone should keep a few idiots alive long enough to figure out what to do next. You want to “straighten”? You’re turning? Full power!

For those who don’t understand why a constant turn ends with ground impact:
The wing produces lift PERPENDICULAR to the wing. Banking the wing causes a portion of that lift to be used to pull the plane to the side (and thus turn). That is lift which is no longer pointing up.
If you had throttle set to level before beginning the turn, you no longer have enough lift to support flight.

This, by the way, is what killed Buddy Holley, Richie Valens, and Big Bobber in that Iowa field. Yet another score for the V-tail Bonanza, btw. (yes, it was the horizon, not the tail that killed that plane).