Spacial disorientation

Matt13C

Well-Known Member
Spatial disorientation

I am a new IR student and yesterday was my first time in solid actual. Entered at 2000 after take off and broke out 300 feet above mins. Pretty much the same on the way back, broke out a little sooner.

The plane I was flying is slightly out of trim and has a right roll tendency. I made the mistake of leaning over to the right and looking down to grab an approach plate. I looked away to long and let off the slight left aileron and the plane started a gradual roll to the right. When I looked back up I had the feeling I was level but the plane was banked. When I leveled it out I felt like I was laying on my left side.

The feeling started to dissipate as the flight went on but my control of the plane was sub-par. I sort of snaked my way across the airway for a bit while I got over the feeling. When I took back off into the clouds the feeling was not there initially but then it came back. Again I had to put a good amount of effort into just keeping myself from following what my body was telling me.

Is this normal for a new IR student? I did some actual in PPL training but it was very light, in and out of puffy clouds. I have also spent about 10 hours under the hood and never had even a hint of that feeling. Is this just something as you spend more time in actual that you just get used to?
 

pwttogfk

Well-Known Member
When you start to get a good scan up and ignore your body's senses, it gets better. If you have M$FS at home, work on getting a good instrument scan--it helped me a lot when I was experiencing the same problem.
 

Xcaliber

El Chupacabra
I am a new IR student and yesterday was my first time in solid actual. Entered at 2000 after take off and broke out 300 feet above mins. Pretty much the same on the way back, broke out a little sooner.

The plane I was flying is slightly out of trim and has a right roll tendency. I made the mistake of leaning over to the right and looking down to grab an approach plate. I looked away to long and let off the slight left aileron and the plane started a gradual roll to the right. When I looked back up I had the feeling I was level but the plane was banked. When I leveled it out I felt like I was laying on my left side.

The feeling started to dissipate as the flight went on but my control of the plane was sub-par. I sort of snaked my way across the airway for a bit while I got over the feeling. When I took back off into the clouds the feeling was not there initially but then it came back. Again I had to put a good amount of effort into just keeping myself from following what my body was telling me.

Is this normal for a new IR student? I did some actual in PPL training but it was very light, in and out of puffy clouds. I have also spent about 10 hours under the hood and never had even a hint of that feeling. Is this just something as you spend more time in actual that you just get used to?
Good! Honestly, that's a great experience to have had, especially while you're a student. I bet your instructor was smiling with glee during that lesson (I would've been, as long as I knew what was going on in your head!). I don't think you'll ever "get used to" it, as most of the time, it doesn't happen, and when it does, it can be very distracting. However, as you progress in your training, you'll grow to trust your instruments and believe what they are telling you, making it easier for you to overcome what your body is telling you.
 

WacoFan

Bigly
NOBODY on this site is more spelling challenged than I...but since this is a "headline" on the homepage, perhaps the mods can change the title to "Spatial Disorientation". Again, not trying to be a wise-ass, just for housekeeping.
 

Matt13C

Well-Known Member
Re: Spatial disorientation

Good! Honestly, that's a great experience to have had, especially while you're a student. I bet your instructor was smiling with glee during that lesson (I would've been, as long as I knew what was going on in your head!). I don't think you'll ever "get used to" it, as most of the time, it doesn't happen, and when it does, it can be very distracting. However, as you progress in your training, you'll grow to trust your instruments and believe what they are telling you, making it easier for you to overcome what your body is telling you.
Yeah, I told him what I was feeling. He just kept telling me to trust the instruments.

It was a great experience and gave me confidence in the instruments when I came out with the runway in sight. Just not something I want to experience consistently.

NOBODY on this site is more spelling challenged than I...but since this is a "headline" on the homepage, perhaps the mods can change the title to "Spatial Disorientation". Again, not trying to be a wise-ass, just for housekeeping.

HA HA, that is just a terrible on my part.
 

meritflyer

Well-Known Member
SD isn't something that new IR pilots experience. Military, airline, CFI, cargo, and everyother group of pilots has lost experienced aviators to SD.

An autopilot can be a very valuable tool when flying in hard IMC, IMO.
 

meritflyer

Well-Known Member
It's a good tool not something to rely on. There are hard IFR days when it doesn't work in the 121 world.
Agreed.

I've done 121 trips with an AP MEL'd. The FD is still active though and provides plenty of flight guidance v. a traditional six pack not to mention it's a two crew environment.

For my level of comfort and personal minimums, I won't fly hard IFR single pilot without a functional autopilot. Does that mean I will use it the whole flight? No. But, if I am going to navigate airways and approaches, circumnavigate thunderstorms (Midwest in the Summer), be reading low altitude enroute charts, deal with ATC and so forth, I find it to be a very valuable piece of equipment.
 

BobDDuck

Island Bus Driver
Let me expand on that. I was typing on my Treo but since I've just discovered that PHL now has free wifi (anybody know when that happened) I'll go into a bit more depth.

An autopilot is a HUGE advantage to have. Heck, most trips I fly I spend very little time actually "flying" the plane and most of the time reading company approved reading material and pushing buttons to make the plane do what I want. In a smaller GA environment at AP can be very helpful too, especially when single pilot in and around weather.

My initial point was more along the lines that some people revert to the autopilot as a way to save themselves when stuff goes wrong. Sort of like the "autolevel" button on the new Cirrus. That's a great feature to have, and it may very well save some people's lives, but much like a flight director it's a crutch that only works when it is working.

As to the OP, that's great you've experienced SD in something of a controlled environment with an instructor in the other seat. Know what it feels like and that way you will (hopefully) know when it is happening to you again. And as others have said, the more your trust your scan the easier it will be to overcome the feeling.
 

Matt13C

Well-Known Member
Let me expand on that. I was typing on my Treo but since I've just discovered that PHL now has free wifi (anybody know when that happened) I'll go into a bit more depth.

An autopilot is a HUGE advantage to have. Heck, most trips I fly I spend very little time actually "flying" the plane and most of the time reading company approved reading material and pushing buttons to make the plane do what I want. In a smaller GA environment at AP can be very helpful too, especially when single pilot in and around weather.

My initial point was more along the lines that some people revert to the autopilot as a way to save themselves when stuff goes wrong. Sort of like the "autolevel" button on the new Cirrus. That's a great feature to have, and it may very well save some people's lives, but much like a flight director it's a crutch that only works when it is working.

As to the OP, that's great you've experienced SD in something of a controlled environment with an instructor in the other seat. Know what it feels like and that way you will (hopefully) know when it is happening to you again. And as others have said, the more your trust your scan the easier it will be to overcome the feeling.

Good info, thanks.

I have not flown an airplane with any sort of auto pilot yet. If I had a functioning one I think it would have helped the situation. It definitely gave me a new level of respect for freight guys who fly single pilot IFR without an auto pilot. I am sure with time I will learn to be more efficient but there is still so much to do on top of flying the plane.
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
Pretty common to get "the leans" while flying actual IFR, even if you don't gave the type of circumstances that led up to your episode (out of trim, etc).

The important part is that you are now able to take to heart the corner stone of instrument training -- for you to trust your instruments and not your butt.

It's when pilots follow those inner-ear sensations and ignore what the airplane is telling them that they plant themselves into the dirt.
 
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