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South Korean KF-16D crashed due to vertigo

September 12, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The RoKAF releases the accident report regarding the KF-16D that crash in the Yellow Sea on 20 July 2007. The fatal crash has been attributed to spatial disorientation or commonly known as pilots' vertigo.

According to experts, vertigo is one of the most difficult areas to train for. And as one officer involved with flight safety was quoted in an earlier article: "There are two types of pilots: those who have had vertigo and those who are going to get it."

Genetically speaking, humans are designed to maintain spatial orientation on the ground. The three-dimensional environment of flight is unfamiliar to the human body, creating sensory conflicts and illusions that make spatial orientation difficult, and sometimes impossible to achieve. Statistics show that between 5 to 10% of all general aviation accidents can be attributed to spatial disorientation, 90% of which are fatal.

The Korean pilot was on a training exercise. While the first three of four practice runs went normal, the pilot reached a vertigo condition during the fourth stage, entering the clouds in an inverted position, descending rapidly.

According to the report, the aircraft and engine seemed to have functioned normal.

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