GPWS activation, Atlas Air pilot’s illusion


The pilot flying the ill-fated Atlas Air B-767 was probably suffering from Somatogravic Illusion caused due to acceleration of the aircraft. The apparent pitch up experienced could have been as high as 80 degrees nose up. The pilot, therefore, pitched the nose down fearing an imminent stall.

The Captain, at a later state may have been pulling back on the control column as the co-pilot pushed forward. This caused a spilt elevator where left half moved up and right half moved down.

The net effect was that the aircraft continued to descend at a high rate.

The GPWS which activates warnings to alert the pilots of dangerous terrain did not activate. Could the activation of the warning pull out the copilot from the illusion?

Read the investigation process pertaining to the Honeywell Ground Proximity Warning System.

About Capt. Amit Singh

I think therefore I am Airlines Operations and Safety balance expert. A former head of operations/training and safety of successful LCC's in India. An experienced member of the startup teams of these airlines has hands-on experience in establishing airlines systems and processes.

2 Responses

  1. Vilas Shinde

    It would have been nice to have GPWS warning but there’s no guarantee that it would have prevented the catastrophy. The pilot flying the aircraft had proven record of substandard ability and by not following instruments disconnected himself from world of instrument reality and open to illusions. The Capt didn’t ensure that he had the controls without interference from copilot. So with so many faulty crew actions a warning by itself may not prevent the inevitable. In Frankfurt an Air India B747 aircaft had undershot the runway by 700mtrs despite the GPWS repeating the warning seven times.

  2. Here we get to know about could the gpws activation prevent atlas air pilots illusion. It helps us to decide that which one is best among its types. I enjoyed reading this article and would suggest others it as well. Thank you for this article! This is really very informative for us.

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