Cockpit invention promises to boost pilot spatial awareness

goAn Australian pilot stands to revolutionise the global aviation industry with his world-first idea for a cockpit lighting system that could solve the problem of spatial disorientation.
Spatial disorientation involves pilots being unable to detect the position of their aircraft when they have no visual reference of the horizon, such as when flying in dark or cloudy conditions. It is believed to have contributed to accidents including Air France 447.
Russell Crane, a South Australian pilot and businessman, has received a provisional patent for the Green Orientation Light – or GO Light – a proposed system that some aviation safety experts have called “the most important Australian aviation invention since the black box”.
“The GO Light is a system of gyroscopically moving lights that will give pilots a constant reference point of the horizon in their peripheral vision, helping them stay continually aware of the plane’s attitude,” Crane said.
He said the idea was inspired by his experience of ‘how easily the human eyes and mind can be spatially confused’.
“Everyone has experienced spatial disorientation at some time or another. Think of when you’re in a car, stationary in traffic, and you get the feeling of backwards movement when the car next to you moves forward. That’s spatial disorientation,” Crane said.
Crane said spatial disorientation can occur in mere seconds when a pilot looks away from the horizon, for example, to consult a map.
“Presently, to verify orientation when there are no visual cues, the pilot has to focus on their small attitude indicator (AI) instrument. However, this verification requires the pilot to recognise that they may be disorientated and actively focus their attention on the AI,” he said.
“Many spatial disorientation-related accidents occur when the pilot does not even realise they are disoriented, such as in cloud or at night.
“The GO Light mitigates unrecognised spatial disorientation and allows pilots more freedom to concentrate on their other instruments whilst maintaining an almost subconscious and accurate awareness of their attitude.”
If implemented by a manufacturer, the GO Light would be the first attitude indication instrument to provide a full illumination function that would bathe the cockpit in a field of light visible to pilots at all times.
The system’s design also includes an additional feature in which external lights on the fuselage would be replaced with pivoting lights to replicate the in-cockpit system outside the aircraft.
AvLaw International chairman Ron Bartsch – a former airline safety manager and current UNSW aviation lecturer – said that spatial disorientation was thought to be a contributing factor in up to 32 per cent of aviation accidents.
“A solution to spatial disorientation is like the elusive Holy Grail of aviation safety,” Bartsch said.
“The GO Light takes the concept of the AI and turns it into a constant part of the pilot’s subconscious perception.
“If this concept can be taken forward and commercialised, it could be
Watch The Animation Here