ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg (right) prepares Christopher A. Hart, FAA assistant administrator for system safety, for the spatial disorientation experiment he is about to fly.
ASF researcher Kathleen Roy briefs FAA's Christopher A. Hart on ASF's spatial disorientation. Polarized material has been placed over the windows and in the view-limiting hood to completely block any view outside the aircraft.
The FAA today got a left-seat look at AOPA Air Safety Foundation spatial disorientation research now nearing completion. Christopher A. Hart, FAA assistant administrator for system safety, flew a specially equipped Bonanza from AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland.
"This makes you think," Hart said upon returning from the flight that featured a pressure system failure in simulated instrument conditions. (Bonanzas use a pressure system, rather than vacuum, to power gyro instruments.)
"The hardware generally works so well that it's difficult to stay prepared for a gyro failure. I applaud the study and efforts of the foundation to educate pilots." The Bonanza was specially instrumented with a GPS flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, and video camera that documented every test flight.
Hart has flown more than 2,200 hours in the past 30 years—about 100 hours in Bonanzas—and never experienced a failure while on the gauges.
ASF is set to publish its final report after two years of research examining every aspect of the potentially deadly affects of spatial disorientation. Research looked at the role played by weather briefers, aircraft systems, pilots, air traffic controllers, and more that lead up to spatial disorientation. ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg reviewed preliminary findings in the February issue of AOPA Pilot magazine.
The project was prompted by three high-profile fatal accidents, including John F. Kennedy Jr., related to likely cases of spatial disorientation. The research was sponsored, in part, by the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI).
But even as the research was under way, the foundation rolled out seminars and literature to support an awareness campaign. Check the Air Safety Foundation's Web page for more information.