You might not have heard of spatial disorientation. It is an often occurring pilot error in flight that could lead to a deadly crash.
National Transportation Safety Board declared on Tuesday that Kobe Bryant’s helicopter that carried the star player and seven other passengers failed due to the pilot’s poor decisions. The failure rooted in the pilot’s decision caused him to spatially disorient, which led to the crash.
The crash took place in California last year, and after extensive research now a full report on the incident is surfaced by the NTSB on Tuesday.
The NTSB report states that the helicopter was making its way to a higher altitude when suddenly it took a left turn and rapidly descended towards the crash site.
This happened because the pilot faced spatial disorientation while falsely turning, which led to a rapid descend. For those of you who don’t know, spatial disorientation occurs when the pilot’s senses are tricked for several possible reasons, in this case being the false climb above the clouds.
Humans operate and go around regularly using their senses. However, in some situations, those senses are hindered greatly, leading to deadly accidents as a worst-case scenario, similar to what happened in Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash.
Effects Of Being Spatially Disoriented
When a person gets spatially disoriented, the neuro vestibular system called inner ears is off-kilter. This part of the ear informs our brain if we are stagnant at one position or moving. Noteworthy here is that these inner ears are not so good at telling us when there are minor changes in movement, leading to spatial disorientation.
Spatial disorientation often occurs when pilots operate in conditions that hinder their senses, the most common example being vision. In such cases, pilots are trained to go about with the available instruments to gain control rather than relying on their human senses.
“As the helicopter continued its steep descent, the pilot was either not referencing the helicopter’s instruments, or [was] having difficulty interpreting or believing them, due to the compelling vestibular illusions, and he did not successfully recover the helicopter,” Dr. Dujuan Sevillian stated in the NTSB’s video explaining the unfortunate crash.
This happens in conditions such as when the moon is not visible, and the pilot might be controlling the airplane or a helicopter in a completely wrong direction if not using the provisioned tools properly. However, sometimes pilots prefer to believe their human instincts more than relying on the machine, leading to a deadly crash as happened with the star basketball player’s helicopter a year ago.