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9 Optical Illusions Every Pilot Should Watch For

As a pilot, optical illusions can affect your ability to fly, putting your safety and that of your passengers at risk. Here are 9 optical illusions (mnemonic ICEFLAGS) you could experience as a pilot.I Inversion Illusion • This illusion was one of the first I experienced under the safety of my CFI's demonstration. This illusion is created by an abrupt change from a climb to straight and level flight creating the feeling that you are tumbling backward. It takes several minutes to readjust after experiencing and can cause you to lower the nose abruptly, which may intensify the illusion.C Coriolis Illusion • Pay extra attention when you are in a constant rate turn and changing a fuel selector or pick up a pencil as you may tilt your head downward. Due to the rapid head movement, it puts the inner ear fluid in motion in more than one semicircular canal. This motion of inner ear fluids can create an overwhelming sensation of rotating, turning, or accelerating along an entirely different axis. An attempt to stop the sensation by maneuvering the airplane to stimulate a feeling of bodily equilibrium may put it into a dangerous attitude.E Elevator Illusion • This feeling can be subtle or abrupt. It occurs when you catch an updraft, and your plane is accelerated vertically. Even though your plane is mostly straight and level, you feel like you need to push the nose forward, entering a dive attitude.F Flicker Vertigo • Be aware of slow-moving propellers during sunrise or sunset hours or when the sun is behind you reflecting off the propeller. You may likely experience the light reflecting off of the blades which may cause a flashing inside the flight deck that can blind your vision. This can also occur when your strobe lights are on and you are in the clouds.F False Horizon • The false horizon Illusion occurs when the natural horizon is obscured or not readily apparent. For example, when flying over a sloping cloud deck, you might try to align the aircraft with the cloud formation putting yourself in a critical attitude.L Leans • This occurs when an abrupt recovery or a rapid correction is made to a bank. If you make such a recovery, your semicircular canal senses a roll in the opposite direction. This may cause you to re-enter the original dangerous attitude. When you return the aircraft to a wings level coordination you will tend to lean in the direction of the incorrect bank until the semicircular canal fluid returns to normal.A Autokinesis • Have you ever wondered why nighttime scanning is different from your daytime scanning? Autokinesis will remind you if not. If you stare at a single point of light against a dark sky, such as a ground light or bright star, for more than a few seconds, the light can appear to move.G Graveyard Spin or Spiral • A loss of attitude in a prolonged constant-rate turn may be interpreted as a wings-level descent, which can lead you to increase elevator back pressure and tighten the turn increasing your altitude loss. A recovery to wings level may produce the illusion that the airplane is in a turn in the opposite direction, resulting in the re-entry of the spiral.S Somatogravic Illusion • A rapid acceleration can produce the illusion that you are in a nose-high attitude, even though you are still in straight and level flight. This may prompt you to lower the nose and enter a dive. A deceleration by rapidly retarding the throttles produces the opposite effect. You may think you are in a dive and raise the nose. If you raise the nose abruptly a stall may be produced.What should you rely on if you experience one of these illusions? Trust your instruments at all times. Your body or " how you feel" can be very misleading and even endangering. Never trust how your body feels in the event of disorientation. Crosscheck instrumentation and trust the indication.
Created 1 years 33 days ago
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