One night just over ten years ago my brain played a trick on me.
I was cruising along in a Beech 1900 over Western Africa. The weather was poor. Outside the front window haze rushed by in the deepest gloom. I was hand flying that bird and staring down the six pack of instruments, daring them to move.
The inner ear is a funny thing. And that night, it conspired with my brain to make me think I was about to die. Slowly I felt my body turning. I knew the symptoms. I was entering into classic vertigo. I ignored my gut which said that any minute now the contents of the cockpit were going to fly across the cabin to my right. That’s where down was, my brain said. Straight out the right hand side window.
I casually informed my captain that I was fighting vertigo, and kept my eyes frozen to the instruments, fighting to believe them.
After a while, the feeling passed. I continued on the flight, and we safely landed in Dakar. This kind of disorientation is not unusual, but it can be very deadly.
When it happened to me, I was lucky enough to have another pilot flying with me and recent training to help me fight the feeling. Not everyone is so lucky.
Fred Zanegood wrote about a similar experience he had as a new pilot. As I read through the article, I was reminded of that dark night so many years ago. I’m glad I took the right steps in my situation, though I probably should have handed control over until I was no longer disoriented. It’s a lesson to think about for me this evening.
Have a read through Fred’s article, and remember to always take that choice of extra caution. It could save your life.