Spatial Disorientation Training and Demonstrations


‘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 Motion, Attitude or Position (MAP).

Human beings have maps to correct orientation for many centuries. 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 SD categories:

  • Type 1 SD – UNRECOGNISED – instruments/normal – pilots flies into the ground/hill loss of situation awareness – fatal
  • Type 2 SD – RECOGNISED – pilot perceives problem but may be convinced the instruments are malfunctioning
  • Type 3 SD – INCAPACITATING – pilot has extreme sensation of movement and fails to regain orientation, using visual or instrument cues.

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 orientation of the aircraft and most of the time pilots are not aware of 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 by subject matter experts having a military and a commercial aviation background form the heartbeat of this training. All relevant illusions for fixed-wing pilots as well as helicopter pilots are available.

Subjects covered:

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

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 whether pilots are going through basic training or are at the refresher/recurrent training stage that ensures that the training scenarios are relevant.



Improves flight safety significantly

  • Accident data and incident reporting indicates that spatial disorientation and loss of situational awareness may have as high as 80 % pre-cursor and associated causal factors of most accidents.
  • The SD training at AMST is unique in that 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 ab-initio training.
  • Any training that can reduce the incidence of SD will have a beneficial impact on flight safety.

Feedback of students:

  • SD training as 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.



Customer base for AMST’s spatial disorientation training

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 – Austria Police

SDT – Austria 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.
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 startet to provide SDT on the AIRFOX ASD on a dry lease base to pilots of the civil and general aviation.
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