In-flight Spatial Disorientation Induces Roll Reversal Errors when Using the Attitude Indicator

Annemarie Landman, Simon Davies, Eric L. Groen, Rene van Paassen, Nicholas Lawson, Adelbert W. Bronkhorst, Max Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


We hypothesized that an incorrect expectation due to spatial disorientation may induce roll reversal errors. To test this, an in-flight experiment was performed, in which forty non-pilots rolled wings level after receiving motion cues. A No-leans condition (subthreshold motion to a bank angle) was included, as well as a Leans-opposite condition (leans cues, opposite to the bank angle) and a Leans-level condition (leans cues, but level flight). The presence of leans cues led to an increase of the roll reversal error (RRE) rate by a factor of 2.6. There was no significant difference between the Leans-opposite and Leans-level condition. This suggests that the expectation strongly affects the occurrence of an RRE, and that people tend to base their responses on motion cues instead of on information on the AI. We conclude that expectation and spatial disorientation have a large effect on piloting errors and may cause hazardous aircraft upsets.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102905
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Ergonomics: human factors in technology and society
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Aviation
  • Displays
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Surprise
  • Upset recovery


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