Flying Blindly

“Whenever we have a human limitation, the instruments don’t have any problem continuing to function” Flying Blindly

When it is impossible to rely on vision during a flight, air crews have to obtain the data from another source 85 years ago, the first instrumental flight was conducted. Today, as technological systems in aircrafts steadily advance, they work alongside the aircrews when the latter are unable to navigate the skies because of weather conditions

Shani Pomes and Noa Fenigstein

“A few years ago, we were dispatched early in the morning on a very foggy day. The control tower wouldn’t let us take off, but it was a matter of life-or-death”, says Major Uri, a Blackhawk pilot in the “Desert Birds” squadron. “We quickly rose above the fog and we flew to the site of the evacuation. The event was a car bomb at a checkpoint with soldiers. We weren’t able to see the evacuation site because of the weather”.

When it is impossible to rely on vision during a flight, air crews have to obtain the data from another source. “The instruments are the source”, adds Major Uri. “During that same event, we crossed referenced the flight data we obtained from the instruments with the map and we navigated ourselves without forward vision. We landed at the site of the evacuation only thanks to the instruments”.

Overcoming Human Limitations
An instrumental flight is a flight in which an aircrew member relies on aircraft systems. As the aircrew member faces the data and navigation systems in the cockpit, he does not look at his surroundings. “We use this flight method in situations that involve difficult weather”, explains Major M’, an F-16C/D pilot. “When there are strong winds, low visibility, rain or a haze. In a situation like this, a vehicle driving on the ground can slow down or stop, but a jet flying at 400kph can’t”.

The jets of the force are equipped with advanced systems, on which the pilot can rely in extreme situations like these. “The instruments are really reliable”, explains Major Uri. “Whenever we have a human limitation, the instruments don’t have any problem continuing to function. Nonetheless, on an instrumental flight, you are more alert and you check the instruments all the time in order to verify that the data is accurate and that there aren’t malfunctions”.

Life or Death
Another situation in which instruments work alongside an aircrew is vertigo, or loss of spatial orientation, a dangerous event that can lead to crashes. “Flying into a cloud, usually when it’s unavoidable, is the number one cause of vertigo”, says Major M. “Inside of the cloud you don’t see and you can’t sense if you are upside-down or not”.

The pilots of the force often use their senses, but when the body fails or when the elements make flying more difficult, the instruments will always be there for the pilots. “The instruments are not affected by physiology and so you can rely on them 100% when vertigo strikes”, Major M’ stresses. “Sometimes an instrumental flight might be a matter of life-or -death”.

 

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