The Turn: Elegant, Mysterious and Deceptive

The Turn is an incredibly compelling article about a procedure that seems routine to anyone who’s traveled by plane. But there is a great deal more that happens when a pilot executes a banked turn.

Pilot and writer William Langewiesche tackles a complex topic, but does so in a way that makes it easily understandable by the layman. There’s a mixture of science and aviation history here in the article as well, chronicling the shift from when pilots flew “by instinct,” and the gradual move towards instrumentation.

But during flight on black nights, or in clouds, the bank is imperceptible, and passengers are heedless. They may feel the odd lurch, but they have no way of guessing the airplane’s degree of bank. The inner ear, and with it the sense of balance, is neutralized by the motion of flight. The airplane could be momentarily upside down and passengers would not know.

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff here, about how our inner ears get tricked when we’re in planes… and the dangerous consequences that result from trusting “what we feel.”

[CC Image via Luis Faisco ]

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