Article Critique: Spatial Disorientation and Depth Perception in Aviation

Article Critique: Spatial Disorientation and Depth Perception in Aviation

Article Summary

Commercial and military aircrafts have sophisticated controlling instruments, yetthe vision of pilots remains an essential element when controlling flights.Whether managing the aircraft during the daytime or at night, visual perception plays a crucial role in maintaining safety in aviation. The article by Stott (2013) discusses the concept of spatial disorientation in aviation as a result of depth perception.Depth perception is the ability of the pilot to judge distances. Exposure to bright light in airports or within the cockpit interferes with this ability, leading to accidents.An analysis of the research article on depth perception and flight disorientation that results from this illusion helps stakeholders think of its impact.Air accident investigators linking flight disorientations to accidents can use the information from this analysis to make informed decisions. Additionally, airstrip and airport designers can use the findings from this article to determine where to position airstrip lights to minimize possibilities of confusion from depth perception.

Critical Analysis of Stott’s Article

Spatial disorientation has a significant contribution to the causes of accidents in aviation. Throughout the history of aircraft, researchers have focused on developing mechanisms that make aircrafts secure. Unfortunately, air accidents are still claiming lives. Stott (2013) explores the question “Why do pilots become disoriented?” A response to this question draws the researcher to the origin of flight accidents and what can be done to minimize accidents related to disorientation.

Spatial disorientation arises from visual interference. According to Gibb, Ercoline, and Scharff (2011), researchers have found elements of poor depth perception in seventy percent of air crashes. Stott’s study (2013) further explains thatthe two factors responsible for visual disorientation are environmental forces and poor visual perception due to illusions. Environmental effects deceive the pilot to underestimate the distance of the object, leading to poor judgment of distance. Visual impairment from bright light (depth perception) magnifies the impact of disorientation by creating illusions that confuse the pilot, leading to misinterpretation of information (Nakagawara, Montgomery, & Wood, 2006). Stott (2013) states that eighty percent of information required to keep the aircraft in the air and land it safely is derived from vision. Pilots are supposed to maintain an active visual interpretation to control the flight.

Stott’s article contributes to the understanding of depth perception and spatial disorientation; the two primary causes of aircraft crashes.When airports are fitted with bright lights, reflections from light create illusions of objects, making it difficult for correct interpretation of information. A study by Clement et al. (2015) found that long duration of flight magnifies depth ambiguity for pilots.When aircrafts are flying high, pilots lose visual cues that could help in making decisions when controlling the plane.When operating the flight at night, sparkling light from starts create illusions that confuse the pilot on attitude and altitude (Newman, 2007). Chances of crashing the plane increase with the loss of visual cues and an increase in illusions from misleading objects.When this happens, the pilot should rely on airplane instruments.

Stott’s research article links air accidents to poor visual interpretation due to depth perception. When pilots are exposed to the long duration of bright light, they lose the ability to judge distance. The primary cause of bright lights may be natural forces in the sky or position of lights in the airport. Illusions from lights confuse the pilot’s ability to judge the location of the object and the altitude of the aircraft, increasing chances of crashing the plane. Pilots should develop confidence in flight instruments whenever they sense the presence of spatial disorientation or loss of depth perception when controlling the aircraft.


Clement et al. (2015).Long-duration spaceflight increases depth ambiguity of reversible perspective figures.PLOS, 10(7), 1-16. Retrieved from

Gibb, R., Ercoline, B., &Scharff, L. (2011).Spatial disorientation: Decades of pilot fatalities. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 82(7), 717-724.

Nakagawara, V., B., Montgomery, R., W., & Wood, J., K. (2006).Aircraft accidents and incidents associated with visual disturbances from bright lights during nighttime flight operations.Federal Aviation Administration, 1-6. Retrieved from

Newman, D. (2007).An overview of spatial disorientation as a factor in aviation accidents and incidents.Commonwealth Australia.Retrieved from

Stott, J., R. (2013).Orientation and disorientation in aviation.Extreme Physiology & Medicine, 2(2). Retrieved from

Do you need high quality Custom Essay Writing Services?

Custom Essay writing Service