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CPL » Human Factors » Spatial Orientation

34.22 Spatial Orientation

34.22.2 Define spatial orientation.

Orientation is knowing which way is up and whether you are leaning sideways, backwards or forwards. 

The main organs which help us to keep our balance, orientation, and tell us if we are moving are those in the inner ear. 

These are the semi-circular canals and the vestibular sacs. 

Together these are called the vestibular systems.


34.22.4 Define disorientation.

The flying environment provides a high potential for conflict of orientation information to the brain.

Any change in aircraft attitudes, outside visibility, G forces and/or speed, can tax the human orientation system to its limit. At times, conditions encountered will exceed the limit. When this occurs, the pilot is said to be disorientated.

Pilots rely heavily on the earth's horizon for orientation. If the horizon is obscured or distorted, the pilot will lose a major reference point for orientation. This will then force the pilot to rely on other senses for orientation.  Flying by the seat of your pants is usually fatal.

We Use 3 Basic Systems for Orientation:


We rely heavily on our vision for orientation, about 80%.

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