A New Approach to Spatial Disorientation Training

Rotor Safety Challenge (RSC)
Operations, Pilot, Safety
Instructor: Tom Zeidlik and Wes Van Dell, University of North Dakota

In this session, we’ll discuss the difficulty of marrying the visual to the vestibular systems when it comes to spatial disorientation training. Traditionally, anyone could be placed in a simulator and shown degraded visual environments or placed under a hood in the aircraft to disrupt their vestibular system. Both approaches, however, rely on only one sense at a time. The real magic happens when both senses are active and the pilot feels true spatial disorientation and is trained to recognize and recover in a safe environment. We’ll examine how the instructors began to solve this issue with a simple Barany chair and, through the years, have transitioned through other devices to land on the most advanced trainer available—one made specifically for training in spatial disorientation.

Instructor Bio

Tom Zeidlik is director of aerospace physiology at the University of North Dakota. He has been involved in commercial aviation since 1995 and has worked in emergency medicine since 2003. Tom has contributed to six FAA-funded research efforts spanning the past 20 years.

Wes Van Dell is the chief flight instructor for the helicopter program at the University of North Dakota. He has been flying for more than 20 years and instructing for the past 15. Wes is an FAA designated pilot examiner and a member of the US Helicopter Safety Team.

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