In-flight Visual Illusions

In-flight Visual Illusions

Type of Illusion Explaination Example Reference
False Visual Reference This happens when a pilot uses a false visual reference to orientate the aircraft, because of the confusing ground and star light. This can commonly happen at night, or when flying over banks of cloud or water. a&l8.gif Image taken from [Aeromedical] on 25/08/09 and (CAA, 2009[5])
Runway Slope A runway slope can affect a pilots perception of how high they are when approaching to land. a&l3.jpg Image taken from [Aeromedical] on 24/08/09
Ground Slope When the ground before a runway is sloping, this can affect a pilots perception of how high they are when approaching to land. a&l4.jpg Image taken from [Aeromedical] on 24/08/09
Runway Width Runway width can lead a pilot to thinking they are either too high or too low if they are used to landing on another width. chapter_15_img_14.jpg Image taken from [American Flyers] 24/08/09
White-Out White-out occurs when clouds or snow blend the sky into the ground. It is hard if not impossible to see the horizon 180px-White-out_hg.jpg Image taken from [Wikipedia] 24/08/09
Blind Spots Due to the make up of the eye, a pilot will have a blind spot in each eye. If they focus on a particular area they may miss an aircraft approaching from another area. Practice on this image, focus on the cross and move your head forwards. At a certain point the aircraft on the right will disappear. Blind_Spot.gif Image taken from [AVIA 141] 24/08/09
Black Hole Effect This occurs at night when the area surrounding a runway has no lighting or visual cues. The pilot may think the aircraft is at a higher apprach and will tend to fly a lower than normal approach, causing the undershoot on landing. runway_light.jpg Image taken from [Orbiter] 24/08/09 and (CAA, 2009[5])
Autokinesis When looking at a fixed, single light source against a totally dark background, such as a star, the pilot may wrongly think the light is moving towards himself/herself and he/she is going to crash with another plane. (CAA, 2009[5])
1. Aeromedical : Aeromedical Spatial orientation and disorientation during flight: Illusions during the approach and landing. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: 24 August 2009
2. Wikipedia : Wikipedia White Out Retrieved from the World Wide Web: 24 August 2009
3. Orbiter : Orbiter Orbiter Updates Retrieved from the World Wide Web: 24 August 2009
4. American Flyers : American Flyers Pilots Handbook Retrieved from the World Wide Web 24 August 2009
5. Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand. (2009). Night VFR. New Zealand: New Zealand Government.

Want to know more?

Wikipedia - Optical Illusions
General Information about visual illusions
Wikipedia - Sensory Illusions
Information relating specifically to all types of illusions present in aviation.

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