Flying Blind - Spatial Disorientation
How about that for a snappy title to grab your attention?
No? OK, here’s what I’m talking about. Spatial disorientation can occur in pilots who’ve not been trained to fly-by-the-instruments. On entering dense cloud, they lose visual cues as to which direction is "up", and in just a few minutes end up in the "graveyard spiral". In most cases, death follows soon after through either structural failure of the airframe, or coalescing with the ground.
It’s for this reason that aircraft are fitted with artificial horizon instruments, so the pilot can use this to correct errors in perception. These vary in complexity from "simple" gyroscopic devices to computer controlled ones that link into head-up displays like the one I see in my head when I ride.
This is very handy for keeping me upright.
Except tonight it didn’t seem to be working, so I had to rely on the visual horizon to tell me which was was "up" and which direction was "forward".
My route home took me along a stretch of road that’s unlit and has trees growing on either side. After the sodium glare of the streetlights, it was DARK . Couple this with a stream of oncoming traffic for the first couple of hundred yards and my night vision was totally shot. My front light (a Blackburn Quadrant from a few years ago) is fantastic in town, but in the deep dark wood, it just can’t cut the mustard.
So I was rolling along a dead straight road at about 20mph and more or less blind. Eeek!
I tried to stay focused on the few streetlights that I could see waaaay up ahead, but that meant I wasn’t watching the road for potholes, bumps, manhole covers, escaped big cats, vehicle debris, etc. Every time I tried to squint at the tiny dimly lit area of road ahead of me, I started to drift off course - toward the hedges or the centre of the road. Not so good.
The only option was to slow it right down and just keep flying ’till I got back to the bright lights.
I wonder if it’s too late to ask Santa for a nice new instrument panel for my various bikes?