What is the Value of Spatial Disorientation Training for Military Pilots?

Research Paper Title

Spatial Disorientation Survey Among Military Pilots.


Spatial disorientation (SD) remains a significant cause of accidents and near accidents.

A variety of training methods have been used to assist pilots to anticipate the SD problem.

The value of such training in the prevention of disorientation has been difficult to assess.


To study transfer of SD awareness training, we related reported incidents to the content and frequency of SD awareness training received.

The questionnaire was completed by 368 out of 495 pilots; 189 currently flying fixed-wing, and 150 flying rotary-wing aircraft.

On average, their age was 38, and they had 2,466 flight hours on-type.


Respondents gave high ratings for the importance of SD training and their awareness of SD, the latter being one of the training objectives.

The amount of SD training received by respondents was positively correlated with ratings for appreciation and importance.

Self-rated awareness was positively correlated with the number of reported SD experiences.

Although the correlations were below 0.50, the results provide an indication that SD training is effective.

In total, respondents reported 5,773 SD experiences, 195 of them resulting in a serious risk for flight safety.

Narratives of these serious events show that, in many cases, pilots managed their SD by carefully checking the flight instruments, and also by good crew coordination.


The results of the survey provide some evidence, although based on subjective reports, for transfer of SD training.

The results of the SD experiences can be used to improve the SD training in terms of content and frequency


Pennings, H.J.M., Oprins, E.A.P.B., Wittenberg, H., Houben, M.M.J. & Groen, E.L. (2020) Spatial Disorientation Survey Among Military Pilots. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance. 91(1), pp.4-10. doi: 10.3357/AMHP.5446.2020.


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