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Pilot in Kobe Bryant Crash Violated Federal Standards, Likely Became Disoriented, NTSB Finds

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – Federal authorities reported Tuesday that the pilot was likely at fault for the January 2020 helicopter crash which killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. The pilot flew the helicopter through the clouds — in an apparent violation of federal standards — and likely became disoriented just before the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board found. (losangeles.cbslocal.com) Ещё...

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ADXbear
ADXbear 17
Nothing new here, for us, the pilots, reading and seeing the information we all knew that the pilot got disoriented. The "got to get there itis" is a very strong emotion coupled with friendship and poor preflight planning, it all spells doom.
redcataviation
Sidney Smith 12
Why is VFR into IFR conditions still such a massive problem? This pilot wasn't some low time
operator trying to get home, this was a big time helicopter with a guy that should have known better. All the resources available (including ground transportation)and this is the result.
devsfan
ken young 9
Yes, but really rich guy wants to entertain the guests. Since he pays the bills, its safety be damned and go!
srobak
srobak 5
loopgroup1
Craig Northacker 3
My father, a long time pilot/;flight engineer with Pan Am, often said the bottom of the Long Island Sound is littered with doctors flying expensive airplanes.
Viperguy46
Jesse Carroll 1
Don't forget Political figures also. Son of late President!
Just saying you are right!
antoniamurata
Tinky Murata 2
DonMc123
DON MCLAIN 1
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
Wasn't there something posted here that that particular aircraft required a copilot to properly fly IFR?
bbabis
bbabis 2
I believe helicopters in general need two ifr rated pilots or an autopilot and ifr rated pilot to fly ifr. This one was set up for ifr but was limited to vfr by its 135 certificate.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 2
IFR is not authorized under their operating specifications.
jhakunti
Jayden Hakunti 1
complacency. the more hours the better you are, as reinforced by the 1500 hr rule.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 2
If hours of experience were merely all it took then all those high time, heavy metal pilots should be the safest around. And, they almost always are when in the environment they normally fly under.

Now, take the same pilot who is geared toward a two-pilot operation with a constant interaction using challenge and comply checklists not to mention a second set of eyes confirming what the other says and sees. Then, put them in a single pilot, small aircraft (single or twin). Their workload seemingly increases drastically not only because so much is automated in the airliner but they have that second pilot to depend on for chores handled by the pilot not flying. They're doing it all.

I once watched a senior American captain who flew the 777 attempt to help me many years ago work through some procedures in a 182RG then we headed back. Like many students in that bird, they'll reduce power or add flaps and the horn is suddenly going off. Why? Because the gear isn't down. We were both listening to it while down to short final. Both complacency and incompetence easily happens when you get outside of your normal environment.

Also, there's the matter of calendar time it takes to complete that requirement. I got lucky. I flew so much night and cross country time on top of previous work as a traffic watch pilot, I knocked it out by the time I had accumulated just over 2500 total time. The average flight instructor is going to take closer to 3500-4000 hours. You get only so much night and cross country time during the average student and it doesn't change much with instrument and commercial students. So, instructors take longer to get there and they end up being stuck where they don't want to be or that's the case with more than a few. If you're unhappy with where you're stuck it's a good bet safety suffers.

The 1500 hour requirement congressional idiots threw in there did so based on nothing but ignorance. If it really mattered all that much they wouldn't have idiotic exemptions allowing lesser time for other factors like earning a four-year degree. Convince me some palms were not greased by a few aviation colleges to get that wording into the law. Good luck.

What should have happened was place higher standards on the 121 operators. Allow a limited time for commercial certificates to fly right seat, pick up experience and grow into CRM as well as learning procedures. All that is necessary whether you arrive with an ATP certificate or not.

If anything, require an ATP checkride by an outside party DPE or at a 142 school. But, at least they arrive with prior experience they've grown into and it's not shoved in by firehose.

Additionally, place limits on failures without additional rechecks by independent DPEs or a 142 school. There should be no more than one failure within a given period of time. Fail twice? You should be permanently disqualified from holding an ATP certificate. That's harsh but it makes more sense given the information learned from Colgan.

I wish I had knocked out my ATP ticket when I had the chance. I don't particularly need one but it's nice to have in your pocket. Thanks to the congressional idiots, it would cost me close to ten grand to fulfill the requirements. Previously, maybe a couple grand in flight time.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 0
Please tell us more about the "1500 hr rule." I've never heard about that "rule" and how it relates to complacency.

Best

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
Aviation Safety Consultant

(16,500 hour pilot)
talktalatka
F A 2
Maybe he meant “competency”??

Some folks here don’t read what they type before posting. It’s happened to me before.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 5
Something I used to tell flight students....

"Pilots almost always die because they did something stupid."

This was no different.
devsfan
ken young 3
The rules exist for the safety of everyone. The concept is very simple. However, that is in a perfect world.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 3
I don't think it takes perfection in order to follow procedures and abide by established standards.

He violated the most basic premise of VFR flight in and near IMC.

Never mind not a high percentage of commercial helicopter airman certificate holders do not hold instrument ratings. And, a very tiny percentage remain current, let alone proficient.

About one in five helicopter crashes are related to IMC. A third of them are fatal. And, that's just where it's followed the most... EMS operations. This doesn't even consider other commercial operations from Part 135 as well as Part 91, especially oil platform operations.
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
I thought I saw that this guy actually taught IFR...
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
Federal incident investigator here. (though retired) Also certified in investigating human causal factors.

I'm not passing judgement on this investigation, but just passing along broad concepts.

1. People mainly do what makes sense at the time. The key is often trying to develop evidence as to why an action that ended up bad seemed like the right thing to do.

2. There are two distinctly different types of difficult situations.

A. Complicated situations are foreseen. Plans and procedures can be proposed by subject matter experts, and a particular path forward chosen based on criteria. Example: designing a house.

B. Complex situations do not have procedures, and may not be able to be proceduralized. The path forward is something like troubleshooting. A steps is taken that is anticipated to stay within safe operating envelopes, the results are discerned, and a next step is taken. Example: rising a child.
bbabis
bbabis 7
After finally acknowledging his situation to himself, unable to see amongst high terrain, he tried to zoom climb for the tops and possibly safety. He came within 100 feet or so of making it before disorientation overtook him. IFR skills, if you don’t use them you lose them.
judgepate
RC Pate 3
Blaring glimpse of the obvious.

What is it about helicopter pilots that they do not engage stability systems and autopilots in low visibility/IFR conditions, like this guy?
phowry
Phil Howry 3
Flights into ("IMC") with fatal results, usually have funerals performed in ("CAVU") conditions.

Takeoffs are voluntary, landings are mandatory; this was a very sad and tragic event for all concerned.
watkinssusan
mary susan watkins 3
it is too bad the pilot ,as reported,was in a hurry to get mr bryant and his group to the basketball competition, which,had they driven instead (it was not that far a trip)they would have been late,but alive..when this happened the pilot was said to have been very responsible and qualified,but the company for which he worked did not provide the proper equipment on the helicopters for the type of weather he encountered..i do know if you have flown in or around the california coast you know about mountains and about fog..
bbabis
bbabis 4
I'm not sure what else the helicopter could have had for the mission. For a planned VFR trip, It was fully IFR equipped and It even had an autopilot that could have been engaged and completed the climb above the fog safely. Amazingly enough, I think the NTSB got this one right.
fwlarsen
Frederick Larsen 2
This is not true. The aircraft was fully equipped and 100% capable of flying in instrument conditions.
It was poor decision making
- not having an out planned if the conditions deteriorated
- continuing a flight that should have ended or re-routed
- flying into the clouds when he was not ready (or legal) to do so
- flying at 140 knots into the clouds instead of slowing down
- flying in a bank into the clouds
- not engaging the autopilot
- ultimately not trusting the instruments that were telling him he was turning left and descending even if his body and inner were telling him he was straight and level or turning the other way
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 2
"...the company for which he worked did not provide the proper equipment on the helicopters for the type of weather he encountered."

You know not of what you speak. Just for the record your aviation qualifications are what exactly?

Best

Capt. J Buck
ScottHickman
Scott Hickman 1
The NTSB could also have easily reported: "Sikorsky, the manufacturer of the helicopter, failed to provide the proper equipment on the helicopter for the type of terrain he encountered."
devsfan
ken young 0
Why on God's Green Earth would the NTSB find the Helicopter Manufacturer in any way liable for this event?
By the way, are you a "parachute attorney"?
ScottHickman
Scott Hickman 3
rollinstone
Gary Stone 2
Thanks, Scott. Yeah...like blaming gun manufacturers.
srobak
srobak 1
For the same reason the company would be for not putting in the same equipment the manufacturer didn't. Scott's point is that it's pretty ridiculous - in both cases.
ScottHickman
Scott Hickman 3
Thank you, you got it. Actually that particular S-76 was qualified for IFR flight, but only with TWO pilots, not one. The pilot flew VFR into IMC conditions, after circling first east of the crash hoping conditions would change. Then knowingly continued on. He made the decisions, not Kobe or anyone else.
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
Ah! I had asked above if I remembered correctly that this aircraft required a copilot for IFR. Yay! I remembered correctly!
redseaconsulting
Robert Mack 1
Ms. Watkins, I was asking about you in the comment section concerning "Delta CEO blasts Biden proposal ...domestic travelers." Glad to see you are here (was concerned about you)! I'm going to attempt to reinforce part of what you are saying: As for this article, sighhhhhh, in my 45-year career with most of the past 24 in the expat community operating as a lead captain, chief pilot, chief operating officer, etc. - I was at times probably a pain in the backside (not a micro-manager but certainly "hands-on" and protective of my friends/colleagues). If you, I, or our friends here had been with Island Helicopters the flags would have already been going up the afternoon prior through extended forecasts. We would have been monitoring late Saturday evening and up early that Sunday morning taking Zobayan out of the decision-making process for his benefit - interacting directly with the client. Love us for it / hate us for it / potentially losing a VIP's business over it - matters not to me - been there/done it but have never lost anybody. We would have prompted the company (and documented it as well) to provide whatever enhancements to the equipment possible. We would have prioritized training and incorporated a safety program elevating experience and competency for everyone - we would have been aware of Captain Zobayan's capabilities but also detected if he had ingratiated himself to be the client's preference to fly him. The NTSB report will reflect negatively on the pilot but sadly there is a human factors chain of misguidance, mismanagement, and culpability of many at the corporate level.
srobak
srobak 5
Let's not forget that both of the pilot and the company initially did not want to do the flight. And when they told that to Kobe - the response was a threat of loss of continued business. Read: cancel culture

Money is very often the driving factor and it is very sad that on both ends of the spectrum that it was used as leverage both from the receiving angle as well as the application angle. That being said - had the threat and leverage not been made, and if it was an average Joe like you or me... or if it was only the occasional charter customer who didn't have a long-standing high-dollar account history with celebrity status attached to it - this situation would have never happened.

This is the reality of the situation. Fame and money is often misperceived as power. And that directly breeds favoritism and corruption.

If this were my flight which I was paying for - it would have been refused and as much as I might have pissed and moaned about it, the engine would have never even been spun up. Every one of you reading this knows that.

While the spirit of "the pilot has the last word" is he nice one to have - in the end it's actually his boss that wields that control as then the pilots likelihood is at risk. And then the celebrity wields the control over the company because of the high dollar value attached to continuing contract.
fwlarsen
Frederick Larsen 2
Actually I don't know that that is true at all. I have not seen anything that indicates that.

In fact, the FAA hearing (and I heard a lot of the hearing) indicated that there was no indication that Bryant pressured the pilot. The pilot probably did feel pressured to complete the flight because they were so close.

And the pilot completed a risk assessment two hours before the flight and found it to be low risk. He should have redone it again right before the flight as the weather briefings and conditions had changed, though would still have met their limits for a flight. There was NO indication that the charter company even was involved in the decision to not fly.

So this is simply a false post in regards to the facts. The rest that you bring up certainly has some validity. But there is no indication that Kobe made the pilot take off when he shouldn't have.
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
"Let's not forget that both of the pilot and the company initially did not want to do the flight. And when they told that to Kobe - the response was a threat of loss of continued business. Read: cancel culture"

Cancel Culture is attempting to stop the spread of ideas, especially by shutting down or muting people's communications. Ostracism. It's not canceling a contract.
srobak
srobak 1
Livelihood. Sorry for typos. Phone thinks it's smarter than I am.
redcataviation
Sidney Smith 2
Every pilot should have the #@*% scared out of them becuase most everyone has marched into a similar predicament at one point. "It looks lousy down there," turn that thing around, make a localizer or ILS back at BUR or VNY, but live to fly (fight) again.
Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft, Cirrus etc., vs Earth, Earth wins every time.

The pilot didn't want to disappoint the customer, break company rules, bust FAA regs, BUT make sure you can show up at your own hearing.
wtwisniewski
wtwisniewski 2
Human factors psychology research does far too little studying "money" as factor in behavior. When the NTSB lists contributing factors in their reports, do they ever simply list "money"?

Hubris in the form of narcissism and irreverence seems to go hand in hand with wealth and fame. I think it is because of a disconnect with realities of survival. When you think you can buy your way out of any situation... Has anyone done a study of aircraft accident rates involving the 'rich and famous' compared to the rest?
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
Federal incident investigator here. (though retired) Also certified in investigating human causal factors.

Certainly money is a potential causal factor. A company takes shortcuts with their safety program because it's less costly. Quality control of raw materials are not properly verified. Manpower is stretched with overtime rather than hiring additional staff. Maintenance is delayed.

Every company says "Safety First!" But that's just not true. I investigated a muti-fatality incident at DuPont in La Porte TX where a freak cold snap in November caused freezing of sections of a plant that had never occurred previously. Wait a week for restart, and the weather warms up. The system thaws. Production resumes. DuPont chose to try to thaw the system during the cold snap, ending up opening lines that contained highly toxic chemicals. Four people died. Several others almost died. My conclusion? Money talks.
marcusangelus
Mark Jenkins 1
Safety is almost never an absolute - tradeoffs are almost always present. I worked as a urban/suburban local route bus driver (a long time ago) - safety was number one, and drivers were immediately terminated for an avoidable accident (regardless of amount of damage), not just an at fault accident. However, we were under pressure to maintain our schedule at the same time. A driver overly focused on safety while driving in rush hour traffic could end up slipping the schedule so much that the next bus would be immediately behind the cautious driver's bus. Drivers had to try to maintain the schedule but without dropping safety below the level that could result in an avoidable accident.

In these marginal conditions, policies and procedures that mandate safety practices are important; they remove the need to make a "judgement call". The person who follows the policies and procedures is (should be/must believe they are) protected from blame for economic consequences, which can relieve pressures that affect judgement. However, it is critical (and should be emphasized in training) that if conditions are marginal enough that a policy/procedure that eliminates judgement applies, then that policy/procedure should be scrupulously observed as the individual's ability to make judgement calls correctly is probably already significantly compromised.

I've read that there are lots of dead bodies at higher elevations on Mt. Everest because people made judgement calls when policy/procedure already said "no go"/"turn back".
johncfii40
John Galuski 2
redcataviation
Sidney Smith 2
Harry, Most autopilots won't fly you out of somewhere you don't want to be automatically. If they are set to a heading and attitude that takes you away from the problem, okay. But if it is not configured accurately, it can fly you into the side of a hill just as easily. You still have to know where you are so to speak. He may have had a GPS with terrain mapping and or a radar altimeter to indicate his height above the ground but the S-76 is fast and he may have tried to pop out on top to return to visual flight conditions. Make sense?
angusperkins
angus perkins 2
three words. Trust your instruments.
HarrisonV
Harry Venison 1
I'm asking this as a complete noob, so forgive my ignorance.

When you get disoriented in a plane in IFR or IMC, wouldn't it be best to throw the aircraft, (heli) immediately into auto pilot to get your bearings, and take a minute to assess your situation?

At least I think planes doesn't suffer from spatial disorientation.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 2
First, a tidbit of understanding....

"IFR" refers to the regulations you operate under with regard to the Federal Aviation Regulations.

"IMC" is Instrument Meteorological Conditions. You can also operate under IFR within VMC or Visible Meteorological Conditions. Anyone who operates in Class A airspace (18,000 to 60,000), IFR is mandatory but it can still be VMC.

Most autopilots have a dedicated button that will put you in a wings level attitude and sometimes also a level pitch attitude. Or, when you first activate an autopilot, it will initially hold you at level wings and pitch until its source of data is selected, be that the GPS or VOR.

If it's one that has a manual selector switch (usually a pretty old design) then you'd want that source to be directing level flight. The best to start out with is a heading mode.

Any time you're flying along, it's best to have the heading bug set to whatever heading you're actually flying. Then, when you activate the autopilot it will instantly follow that source.

If you activate it with the GPS being the source and there's already a flight plan it could potentially turn you as soon as you activate the autopilot if you're not already flying according to the loaded flight plan.

I hope that helps.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 2
"...Class A airspace (18,000 to 60,000)"

I think you meant to say Class A is 18,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) up to and including flight level (FL) 600. FL 600 may or may not be 60,000.
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 1
I was keeping it simple given there are fewer and fewer actual pilots on this site who understand the rules.
HarrisonV
Harry Venison 1
CampGirl
CampGirl 1
I know a commercial pilot who was fired decades ago for refusing to fly because the weather was below minimums everywhere and the flight was not safe. The guy who took the flight ran out of fuel trying to find a place to land. Fortunately, he was carrying cargo and not people. I was told the story to reinforce the fact that the pilot in command has sole responsibility for the safety of the flight. It is such a tragedy.
spdmrcht
Ron Lorenz 1
No doubt influenced by a Passenger!
loopgroup1
Craig Northacker 1
I am not a pilot but I absolutely enjoy the knowledge and wisdom of those that are. Thank you for sharing. I did, however, jump out of a bunch of planes Mid flight. Took me awhile to get used
To landing again.
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
"Wait! You're gonna try to hit this thing down on a strip of concrete? No thanks, buddy! I'll just get out here!"
wtwisniewski
wtwisniewski 1
How is this crash different from other VFR into IMC disasters? Are there different classes or values of the "souls" on board?
KennyFlys
Ken Lane 1
With regard to pilot responsibilities, there is no difference.

Either you're not trained and have no skill or you were trained and lack critical proficiency.
wtwisniewski
wtwisniewski 1
I am not talking about the pilot. My comment is about the unusual amount of news and discussion that did not happen with lots of previous VFR>IMC accidents. We usually don't even hear about them until someone does a statistical summary of accidents and deaths.
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
Yeah, well... Famous people are famous.

Ashley Judd trips on a log in the jungle while looking for monkeys, breaks her leg badly, almost loses the leg, and almost dies... It makes the news. I'm sure she wasn't the first.
craigbell1941
craigbell1941 1
Had this Hilo pilot never heard of IFH rules? I used them many times flying my Mooney from Las Vegas back to Fullerton in fog.
patpylot
patrick baker -4
instrument rated pilots do not become dioriented, thanks to their training and having passed an instrument flight test. This pilot that flew Kobe and others was an instrument rated pilot. His flight path suggests he did indeed lose his focus, then crashing. That day he was not a competent pilot with available flight conditions.
eichmat
Tim Eichman 3
"instrument rated pilots do not become dioriented, thanks to their training and having passed an instrument flight test": tell that the passengers and cabin crew of Air France Flight 447...

- Captain (PNF-Pilot Not Flying): 10,988 flying hours (6,258 as captain), with 1,700 in the Airbus A330
- FO (co-pilot in left seat/PNF): 6,547 flying hours with 4,479 hours in the A330 but was now in management and was on this flight to maintain his flying credentials
- FO ( co-pilot in right seat/PF): 2,936 flight hours, with 807 hours in the A330

Two IFR trained and certified pilots (sadly, the most experienced didn't get involved until it was too late to correct the situation) pancaked that aircraft into the ocean because they got "disoriented" and didn't understand why the instruments didn't match what their butts felt in the seat...

Same was most likely the case for this pilot: with no visible horizon, he apparently didn't recognize that the instruments were saying he was going down fast...he was probably too busy trying to see through soup...
rollinstone
Gary Stone 2
Exactly! I've even seen a pilot in command (Army) get vertigo in the simulator...12,000+ hours.
WeatherWise
WeatherWise 2
The helicopter company in question only flew VFR flights. They did not file IFR flight plans. He was VFR and flew into IFR conditions. He was flying by following freeways, not navaids.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 4
"he helicopter company in question only flew VFR flights. They did not file IFR flight plans"

Yes, thank you, I knew that. FAA records indicate that Island Express Helicopters holds a Part 135 operating certificate (number ISHA094F) for on-demand, VFR-only operations. No IFR operations.

That said, the pilot held both an Commercial Pilot Instrument-Helicopter certificate and rating and a Flight Instructor Certificate with an Instrument-Helicopter rating. To my knowledge the company did not have any prohibition against its pilots requesting or flying an SVFR clearance. That information should come out in the final NTSB report.

In reading the NTSB's preliminary accident report the pilot had requested a Special VFR (SVFR) clearance along a specific route and altitude. SVFR flights are subject to the FAA regulations FAR 91.157 which requires a flight visibility of 1 mile except for helicopters and the pilot must be appropriately certificated and rated in accordance FAR Part 61 (which he was.)

I don't believe that the NTSB has made a determination (nor will they be able to) as to what navaids may have been in use by the pilot. GPS, VORs, etc. Most of us (especially those of us who have actually flown a SVFR clearance) would guess that he was trying to maintain SVFR by flying along Highway 101 then Highway N1. Then got lost in the clouds, became spatially disoriented and flew into the ground. The pilot, although instrument qualified, may not have been current to fly IFR Under FAR part 61 and was unable to use his instruments to avoid a spatial disorientation situation.

My question is whether the pilot:

...experienced differences or discrepancies between visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive sensory inputs which resulted in a sensory mismatch that produced illusions and lead to spatial disorientation and uncontrolled flight into the terrain -or-

...flew “controlled flight into terrain” (CFIT) in which the helicopter flew under the control of the pilot into the ground These types of accidents almost always happens in dark of night or in cloudy weather. For CFIT to happen, the pilot has to be unaware (at least until the final moment) that the terrain is close enough to run into.

We may no more when the final NTSB report is issued. Of course the aircraft had no FDR or CVR so it will still be a guessing game as to what, exactly, happened.

Best
TorstenHoff
Torsten Hoff 0
He was IFR rated, but the helicopter was not even equipped for IFR.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 4
"...was not even equipped for IFR."

Not so. The helicopter was equipped with a four-axis automatic flight control system, electronic flight instrument system, radio altimeter, and ADS-B transponder. It was also equipped with a flight management system (FMS).

Based on the presccident pictures I've seen of the panel it was well equipped for IFR flight. Hard to say if the instruments were all airworthy and had current system checks. The NTSB final report should contain that info.
TorstenHoff
Torsten Hoff 1
I distinctly remember reading a report shortly after the accident that stated the helicopter in question was not IFR equipped. I have not read the NTSB report that was just released, however.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 3
The aircraft was IFR equipped but the operator (and the pilot) was not authorized to conduct IFR operations under its FAR 135 operations specifications. VFR only.

Best
redseaconsulting
Robert Mack 1
Have read all your comments - absolutely correct on all points!
SteveCutchen
Steve Cutchen 1
There was also something that the aircraft required a copilot to be properly flown by IFR.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 5
"...instrument rated pilots do not become dioriented, thanks to their training and having passed an instrument flight test."

You are absolutely wrong. An instrument rated pilot can become just as spatially disoriented as a non-instrument rated pilot. There have been a lot of studies to prove that. Studies by the FAA, NTSB, industry, military and others. An instrument rating is no guarantee of survival when instrument conditions (IMC) prevails.

For anyone who is interested here are couple of links to Spatial Disorientation information one by the FAA one by the AOPA. Both well written and easily understandable in layman's terms.

https://www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/pilotsafetybrochures/media/spatiald.pdf

https://www.aopa.org/-/media/Files/AOPA/Home/Membership/AOPA-Debonair-Sweepstakes-Choose-Your-Prizes/Previous-Sweepstakes/New-AOPA-Air-Safety-Foundation-Safety-Advisor-explores-pilot-spatial-disorientation/sa17.pdf

Best

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
Aviation Safety Consultant
Lib4ever
Maxwell Johnson 5
Anyone who asserts that IFR-rated pilots do not experience spatial disorientation thereby reveals that they are not instrument trained. Hop into a full motion sim or just fly a GA aircraft under the hood and see how long it takes for the instructor to have you completely disoriented. As others have pointed out, it is easy to lose the horizon on a dark night or a hazy day over water.

Max Johnson

Certified Cookie Baker
Certified Cookie Baker Instructor
Cookie-Baking Oven Maintenance Technician
Boy Scout Baking Merit Badge with Crossed Oven Mitts
Top Cookie Vendor at 1997 Stuber Forks, Iowa Carnival
2006 National Champion Raw Cookie Dough Eater (9.7kg in 11 minutes)
Vanilla Bean Growing Consultant

(Looking at you, Cap'n Buck)
Quirkyfrog
Robert Cowling 1
During my ground school, someone flippantly said that IFR is the best rating, you are able to avoid all problems. The instructor said that there are a lot of situations where even an IFR pilot can become disorientated. He said that the one thing that freaked him out to his core was flying over very smooth water on a cloudless night with no moon or ships to judge where you were. The entire sky is reflected back as if there is no horizon. For a VFR pilot, such conditions can be very challenging. He said, historically, there are quite a few crashes that have occurred in those conditions. I can imagine the problems. I happened to be anchored off Dominica on a clear cloudless night a few years before ground school, and looking out to the west, it literally looked like we were perched on a post in a sea of starts. More than a few people felt ill looking out that direction. They got something like vertigo, standing still, on a boat, in the water. Freaky feeling... Not knowing where you are, not being able to read the instruments takes skill, and some level of confidence. Knowing where you are in relation to hills and other obstructions in IFR conditions is obviously more complicated. Too many VFR only pilots stray into IFR conditions. AOPA, many years ago, had an article written by a pilot who just thought he was going to 'dip' into the clouds, and ended up getting horribly disorientated, and needed help to get back out. Panic would be hard to fight I'm sure. It can be very easy to become disorientated, no matter that type of pilot you are. That's why the instructor said we were going to be given 'IFR light' training. He felt that we needed to know some of the basics of IFR flight in the very real possibility we might find ourselves in an IFR or MVFR situation.
RetiredCaptain
Jasper Buck 5
"...flying over very smooth water on a cloudless night with no moon or ships to judge where you were...and there is no horizon."

Sounds like a John F Kennedy Jr. sort of flight doesn't it?

To that end your CFI is exactly right. Even an instrument rated pilot can become spatially disoriented. Go and take a ride in a Barany chair (named for Hungarian physiologist Robert Bárány) sometime. That will get your attention. As they used to tell us at the FAA acadmey it was a test to see if "you could keep your lunch down when going up." ;-)


Best

Quirkyfrog
Robert Cowling 3
OMG, No!!!

I've seen those, and the civilian version too. I got major vertigo doing somersaults while snorkeling off Rincon just before I was supposed to start spin/stalls. I thought that was a message. I did talk to an ENT surgeon recently to see what he thinks of 'desensitizing vertigo'. He urged caution. Some can do tons of somersaults, swings, etc, and get over it. Some have weeks of nausea and vomiting, and walking into walls, and it never goes away, and a really unfortunate number have life long vertigo symptoms that last the rest of their life. Some so bad, they are medicated constantly.

Those devices make me sick just looking at them. I was hoping to do a Navy Aviator experience, but even that's off the table. Damn the luck. My grand father had problems with vertigo, and, damn...

But, off Dominica, I was so surprised at people freaking out looking at the ocean. It was a beautiful night. I go there often in my dreams, and to stay sane this crazy year.
aurodoc
aurodoc 2
If any of you are skiers you might have experienced disorientation. I was skiing above tree line in Utah and came down into low clouds and I had no idea where I was and couldn't tell if I was moving or standing still. I got vertigo and sat down until I could figure out where I was. My guess this is the same experience one has with flying in low/no visibility.
loopgroup1
Craig Northacker 0
I ran a non-profit dedicated to military and veteran health issues. Exposures to the various toxic biological pathogens and chemical warfare agents, combinations of pesticides and certain vaccinations can bring on a number of as yet unexplained problems starting from chronic fatigue syndrome up to paralysis and death. In between there are a plethora of other options - not least of which is loss of direction and cognitive dissonance and imbalances which combined will make for a very unpleasant ride if they all come together in the perfect storm

Much of this started as researching Gulf War Illnesses to force the government to recognize them, but the field morphed into a much larger arena. There are virtually no tests for the underlying causes other than neurological psychologists. Nothing may show up on MRI's, CT Scans, etc, and unless the doc can see something to treat there is nothing they can do. I have too much personal experience in these areas. I went from being a very proficient grunt to losing direction if I spun around too quickly and then couldn't walk a straight line. Not a good combination.

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