Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Pilot Perception Problems

PostedJanuary 14, 2005

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Humans aren't designed to fly, so pilots must often learn to trust aircraft instruments more than their own senses.  The visual references that usually tell us up from down, can also confuse when land is distant.  And if pilots can't see well, like in night or fog, their dominant sense of orientation comes from motion of fluids in their ears.  Charles Lessard, a biomedical engineer at Texas A&M, says flight recorder data can be used to understand precisely how those fluids might have sloshed around a pilot's ears just before a crash, and give a clearer picture of how doomed pilots lose control.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP Radio.