The place for technical discussions about GA and flying.
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By joeycessna
Hi, I am a retired mechanical Engineer based in Galway, Ireland. Held a PPL since late seventies. With the advent of TAA "glass cockpit" aircraft, is pilot spatial disorientation still the insidious killer? Around fifteen years ago, I designed and reduced to practice a device that could prevent a pilot becoming disorientated in IMC, or help him/her regain control during disorientation. I didn't pursue the development of the device as I presumed the avionics technology advancement at the time would resolve the problem. What I am really asking is, has SD ever been successfully solved? Thanks, joe
By riverrock
I'm not sure if a electronic horizon would be a huge amount different to an analogue one - in an upset, needing to trust instruments rather than your stomach.
My IMC flying is v. limited (I did the IMC course training a few years ago, but didn't sit the test) - in training you're taught recovering from an upset with limited panel, so the same principle (of trust the instruments) applies to that too.

Is this a training device which makes you disorientated without having to turn an aircraft upside down (so may be useful for those schools training airline pilots upset recovery), or does it reduce disorientation so a useful flight tool?
By joeycessna
In my day, with training, practice, and total trust in the instruments (when working) to avoid SD was the norm and maybe still is. What I am asking though is; with the advent of modern technology (glass cockpit etc.), has spatial disorientation become a thing of the past and a rare occurrence? Put another way, could a pilot that inadvertently or otherwise strays into IMC, or one that loses his/her standard AH, maintain control of the aircraft? As I alluded to in my original post, I haven't kept abreast of modern technology.
By joeycessna
Re "is it an autopilot", The device has really nothing to do with the aircraft systems. All it does is allows the pilot's eyes to see the horizon in IMC therefore maintaining orientation.

It is also much less expensive than "pulling the big red handle" or the "state of the art" avionics . Costing around €200 it's affordable for GA but not intended for intentional VFR into IMC. The cost of certification by the FAA is another story.
By joeycessna
My apologies but how it works is a rather confidential and unimportant at this stage.

Determining if the need for it still exists is of concern to me, and that is why I am asking the question. As experienced aviators, I am hoping you guys can provide an answer.
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By VRB_20kt
Well. In essence unless one has some magic device built into the plane, the pilot has to work out the attitude of the plane - hopefully from the attitude indicator - and then apply corrective inputs in the right order - some combination of throttle, rudder, elevator and ailerons will get you out of most situations. Seeing the actual horizon wouldn’t necessarily improve matters if the pilot doesn’t know how to recover.
By joeycessna
Well I suppose not knowing how to recover control would also be true in VFR, e.g. stall, spin, etc. The idea behind my device is to prevent SD and control loss during inadvertent flight from VFR in IMC., and at the very least, keep the aircraft flying straight and level.

As I mentioned earlier, my not being familiar with the latest technology such as Garmin GNT650, Avidyne IFD, SkyDemon, etc , do these devices (whatever they are) provide a simple method, for say an inexperienced pilot to maintain control, or do they require intense training and practice similar to limited panel IMC training? Please excuse my ignorance.
By riverrock
A number of auto pilots have a level button which should return the aircraft to straight and level fight ("wing leveller").

There is also a system from Garmin which will auto-land your aircraft, including auto navigate to the nearest suitable airport
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By VRB_20kt
I believe that the problem for a non IR pilot getting into IMC is significantly about trusting the instruments over what the body is saying. Standard training includes upset recover.

I guess that if you invented something that made the pilot trust the correct reference over what s/he is feeling then that would improve matters.

As others have said, there are systems that can be built into the aircraft to restore erect flight but they are far from universal in GA. The electronic add-ons that you mention can include virtual imaging of the ground and I suppose that could help. In the end, in the absence of a built-in levelling gizmo, the pilot has to trust his instruments and use them exclusively in order to maintain safe flight.