Spatial Disorientation Training


‘To err is human’


Human beings make mistakes. That is a simple fact.

SD and misperception generally occurs when a pilot cannot correctly interpret an aircraft's attitude, altitude or airspeed – or in other words: Motion, Attitude or Position (MAP).

Aviation presents unique challenges whereby the earth or a specific point of interest in flight may become lost and perception does not match reality.

This presents the pilot with significant risks; you can mitigate these risks with training and raising the awareness of the responses of the human vestibular, proprioceptive and visual systems and their relationships.

Specific examples are:

  • Loss of horizon (visual – misperception)
  • Misperception of aircraft altitude (visual – misperception)
  • Pitch-up sensations after take-off (somatogravic – vestibular)
  • Misperception in the turn whilst IMC (somatogyral – vestibular)

The combination of visual-vestibular ‘confusion’ leads to SD. How quickly a pilot can interpret and correct an aircraft departure from normal flight depends on his/her experience.

There are three types of SD:

  • Type 1 SD – UNRECOGNISED: Pilot does not perceive any indication of SD, pilot flies into the ground / loss of situation awareness – fatal – with proper training the pilot will be aware of the SD situation.
  • Type 2 SD – RECOGNISED: Pilot perceives problem but may think that the instruments are malfunctioning – with proper training the pilot will trust the instruments and an incident can be avoided.
  • Type 3 SD – INCAPACITATING: Pilot has extreme sensation of movement and fails to regain orientation using visual or instrument cues – with proper training the pilot is less likely to be overwhelmed as the situation is familiar to him from the training demonstrations.

 Why do you need SD training?

  • SD is a risk for both, fixed wing and helicopters pilots. They must be aware of SD illusions
  • 20% of military mishaps due to SD and 90% of SD accidents are fatal
  • One of the keys to prevent SD accidents is education and to demonstrate SD illusions in a safe environment
  • Aircrew must experience, recognise and recover from SD phenomena during simulated flight and identify situations where SD is likely to happen and become aware of SD in real flight situations
  • The importance of SD training cannot be overemphasised because pilots are unaware of the orientation of the aircraft and most of the time pilots are not aware that they are experiencing SD
  • To avoid SD incidents by correctly referencing instruments and to learn measures to counteract SD


Mission based SD training

AMST offers a complete training solution based on many years of experience and courses specifically designed to meet the needs of discerning customers.

Courses developed specifically for fighter, helicopter and transport aircraft – specific topics for the military are based on STANAG 3114 (aeromedical training for aircrew) and STANAG 7147 which deals with the Night Vision Goggle (NVG) elements. They link to the Night Vision Training System (NVTS) and the advanced Integrated Night Vision Training System (INVTS) that extends the SD training into the operational arena.

Subjects included:

  • The vestibular system
  • Vision in flight
  • Thresholds of perception
  • Visual vestibular interactions
  • Accident prevention
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM)

The practical application of the above-mentioned topics ensures that students experience a broad spectrum of visual and vestibular illusions.

The ‘building-block’ approach ensures that pilots who are going through basic training and pilots at the refresher/recurrent training stage get training scenarios relevant for them.



Improves flight safety and operational capability

  • The SD training at AMST is unique in that it goes beyond ‘the basics’. Students receive comprehensive briefings and experience both passive and active (self-induced) illusions as directed by the instructor.
  • The linked mission based SD scenarios have proved to be a very effective method of conducting this very important aspect of aeromedical training.
  • Training that can reduce the incidence of SD will have a beneficial impact on flight safety.

Feedback of students:

  • SD training is endorsed by Swedish Research Institute as being very effective. This independent report was the result of an in-depth study using a tactile sensor to measure response by students.  It was found that repeated exposure to vestibular stimuli in certain circumstances reduced the susceptibility of the subject to the vestibular event
  • Positive feedback from a fighter pilot who experienced a visual-vestibular event whilst inverted in cloud reported that he was convinced he would have ejected had it not been for the SD training received at AMST – difficult to prove but an honest comment from an experienced aviator.



SDT – Venezuela

SDT – Venezuela

AMST provided SDT to the Venezuelian fixed wing and rotary wing pilots in the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012.
SDT – Austrian Police

SDT – Austrian Police

AMST provided SDT to the rotary wing pilots of the Austrian police in the years 2007 and 2012.
SDT – Sweden

SDT – Sweden

AMST provided SDT to the Swedish fixed wing and rotary wing pilots in the years 2007, 2008 and 2010.
SDT – Switzerland

SDT – Switzerland

AMST provided SDT to the Swiss fixed wing pilots in 2008.
SDT – Red Bull

SDT – Red Bull

AMST provided SDT to the Flying Bull's fixed wing pilots in 2008.
SDT – Austria

SDT – Austria

AMST provided SDT to Austro Control in 2008.
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SDT – Austria

SDT – Austria

AMST provided SDT to the Austrian fixed wing and rotary wing pilots of the Air Force in 2013.
SDT – AeronautX

SDT – AeronautX

In 2013, AeronautX started to provide SDT on the AIRFOX ASD on a dry lease base to pilots of the civil and general aviation.
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