Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Pilot Goes Blind, But Lands Plane

  1. Nov 8, 2008 #1

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This is just amazing...WOW!! A pilot had a stroke during a flight, and suddenly went blind. Can you imagine losing your sight as you drove your car? This must be 100 times worse - yet he landed OK.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27600521/

    And how polite and British must he be, to keep apologizing...

     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2008 #2
    Find the BBC site, they have the audio up.
     
  4. Nov 8, 2008 #3

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Holy cow! I can't believe he was able to keep his wits about him and make it down safely.
     
  5. Nov 8, 2008 #4

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The 'keeping his wits about him' wouldn't necessarily apply to such an experienced pilot merely because of a loss of visibility. The shock of suddenly being blind would, of course, be daunting, but maybe not any worse in an aeroplane than on the ground. I know that if it happened to me, I'd feel a lot better in the air than on a highway (given the caveat there's someone there to advise me, as this man had). At least you know that all other traffic is kept away from you.
    For the actual touchdown, you can feel the ground-effect 'float' a few feet from the ground, which is used as a flare-time indicator more than visual input is.
    This is very difficult to explain to a groundhog (non-pilot :tongue:), especially since it's been over 30 years since I've flown. Perhaps Andre or Integral can put it into more understandable language.
    And please know that I am not in any way making this out to be a mundane situation. Two exceptional pilots worked as one to put that machine on the ground safely, and they both deserve praise.
     
  6. Nov 9, 2008 #5
    The amazing part is that your senses lie to you in an airplane. If you close your eyes and turn and bank and pitch up and down your body will think its moving in all sorts of funky directions. Oddly enough, if you move in very slow gentle turns your body wont even know its in a turn. It's called a 'death spiral', and it killed JFKjr. Its a slowwww gradual turn that eventually puts you in an upside down spiral and you dont even know it (in clouds). Then you die.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  7. Nov 9, 2008 #6

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Quite right. I even experience that in a car if I'm a passenger, and have my eyes closed. It is definitely a deadly effect. That's why one must always trust the instruments over one's own senses, if they conflict. In this case, however, the guide pilot was in effect replacing the instruments. The afflicted pilot was wise enough to trust in his instructions.
     
  8. Nov 9, 2008 #7
    Wow. How anti-Zen. But, I guess that's just how it is. The human body can't be expected to be able to be an accurate accelerometer, altimeter, and so on since it was never designed for things like that.

    Oh, did the assisting pilot on the ground say "Use The Force, Jim..."?
     
  9. Nov 9, 2008 #8

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The problem is that it is a very accurate accelerometer but you can't tell the difference between acceleration and gravity.
    So if you are banking, 'down' will feel outward and so if you believed the seat of your pants you would correct the wrong way.
    The artificial horizon in aircraft is a gyroscope that always stays in the same plane rather than a spirit level which measures acceleration as well as gravity.
     
  10. Nov 9, 2008 #9
    It's still an incredible story. Very cool. Also adding to the previous problems is the extra delay in the control loop for making corrections, as it will take several seconds before the verbal instructions for correcting deviations are being applied. You don't have that kind of time in a light aircraft in windy turbulent conditions. So it must have a smooth day.
     
  11. Nov 9, 2008 #10

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Good point about the time lag, Andre. It would be roughly analogous to trying to do real-time remote corrections to a Mars probe. Both of these guys would have to have been anticipating countless possible situations before they arose, to be ready with as close to an instantaneous response as circumstances allowed. Really, it was a remarkable endeavour.
     
  12. Nov 9, 2008 #11

    Borek

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Plus a truckload of luck. Incredible.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Pilot Goes Blind, But Lands Plane
Loading...