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HAI@Work webinar highlights rare in-flight recovery that led to stronger training.

During an evening search-and-rescue mission in November 2019, HAI’s 2021 Salute to Excellence Pilot of the Year, US Coast Guard (USCG) LCDR Robert McCabe, and his pilot-in-command experienced potentially disastrous spatial disorientation.

After the sun set, a squall with sleet blew in, reducing visibility and raising the sea level. The low visibility, rough water, spotlights in flying sleet, and slow turns soon gave both pilots the leans. McCabe’s quick thinking helped the crew recover, and his report from the incident has since changed the USCG’s training for spatial disorientation and inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC).

During the HAI@Work webinar on May 20, McCabe discussed the incident in detail. Despite his more than 2,000 hours of flight time, he still fell victim to spatial disorientation, highlighting how anyone can encounter the situation, regardless of skill or experience. He shared with attendees the wisdom he gained from that mission a year and a half ago.

“Train hard,” McCabe advised as a key takeaway. “It’s really incumbent on us to train in preparation for an event like this. I was training in hovering on instruments all the time, but despite all that, I found it incredibly difficult to ignore my vestibular cues. Despite all the bells and whistles on the aircraft, the most important thing for me was knowing how to communicate about disorientation, relying on instrument skills, and following that training.”

Tony Carvalhais of the USCG’s Safety Assurance and Risk Reduction Division then gave attendees an information-rich spatial disorientation avoidance lesson. USCG CDR Ben Walton then shared how the Coast Guard used the information from McCabe’s incident to make key improvements to the service branch’s training and procedures regarding IIMC and spatial disorientation.

The webinar included deep insight into:

  • The physiological causes of spatial disorientation
  • Mitigations and countermeasures to combat spatial disorientation
  • Training and procedures that help reduce the number of accidents caused by spatial disorientation.

To learn more about the 2019 incident and subsequent lessons learned that influenced how USCG pilots are trained today, watch the video of the webinar in its entirety.

Please join us at 4 pm eastern (UTC-4) on May 27 for another HAI@Work webinar, “Why You Should Consider Adding Drones to Your Fleet.” A panel of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and helicopter operators will discuss how bringing a drone into their fleets has expanded their operations. They’ll also cover pitfalls to avoid and what to consider when adding a drone to your operation.

Author

  • Jen Boyer is a 20-year journalism and public relations professional in the aviation industry, having worked for flight schools, OEMs, and operators. She holds a rotorcraft commercial instrument license with CFI and CFII ratings. Jen now runs her own public relations and communications firm.

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer

Jen Boyer is a 20-year journalism and public relations professional in the aviation industry, having worked for flight schools, OEMs, and operators. She holds a rotorcraft commercial instrument license with CFI and CFII ratings. Jen now runs her own public relations and communications firm.

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