ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (02.22.06): False Climb, False Descent | Aero-News Network
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Wed, Feb 22, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (02.22.06): False Climb, False Descent


A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow them to soar magnificently through it.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips. Remember... when it comes to being good pilots, we're all in this together.

Aero-Tips 02.22.06

Recent mishap studies by the Flight Safety Foundation have cited a physiological hazard known as the false climb illusion. More scientifically labeled “Somatogravic Illusion,” it describes the result of fluid moving in a pilot’s inner ear when an aircraft accelerates. We sense this motion as a pitching movement upward—a “false climb.” If we can’t see outside the airplane (i.e., in instrument meteorological conditions, or IMC), this can cause us to want to push forward on the yoke to “recover” from the false climb.

The FSF report considers somatogravic illusion a contributor to accidents when a corporate jet begins a missed approach. Add power to a light jet and the aircraft will accelerate swiftly. It takes discipline and a good instrument scan to maintain the proper pitch attitude for climbout; distraction or undisciplined flying may prompt the pilot to fly the jet into the ground.

Prop Pilots

What about the vast majority of us who do not fly jets? Is somatogravic illusion a consideration? Without the huge reserve of power enjoyed by jet pilots, propeller airplanes will not accelerate as rapidly with power application at the missed approach point. Instead, it’s more likely the airspeed will decrease as we turn an approach into a climb in IMC. Fluid in our ears will slosh the other way, creating a false descent illusion. Without attention or discipline we’re tempted to pull up on the controls to correct for this “descent” close to the ground.

Ever wonder why so many propeller airplanes stall during a missed approach procedure? "False descent illusion" may be a major factor.

Aero-tip of the day: Plan for a stabilized approach trimmed for climb airspeed, crosschecked with a known target pitch attitude, to avoid the hazards of "false climb" and "false descent" cues during a missed approach.

FMI: Aero-Tips


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