Dark Night Take-off Accidents in Australia


Between January 1979 and May 1993, 35 aircraft accidents occurred in Australia during the take-off phase of flight at night. A primary factor in 15 of these accidents was considered to be some form of visual or sensory illusion, or spatial disorientation.

Investigation files from the 15 accidents were reviewed in an attempt to identify common elements in which spatial disorientation, or a visual or sensory
illusion, was thought to be a contributing factor. Data were gathered on pilot characteristics, such as experience and age, as well as on operational information, such as aerodrome type and weather. Relevant regulations pertaining to the operation of aircraft at night and training for night operations were analysed.

The report concludes that the type of pilot training or pilot qualification did not appear to be a common factor in the accidents under consideration. Pilot
experience also did not appear to be a factor in the accidents. The absence of adverse weather may be significant in the onset of illusions. Furthermore, it was considered that the absence of both ground lighting and a horizon was paramount in the development of the accidents, while the combination of a
limited horizon with no adverse weather was the most probable condition under which illusions were likely to develop.

Type: Research and Analysis Report
Publication date: 21 April 1995
ISSN: 0 642 22640 7
Last update 07 April 2014
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