My background is in safety and human factors in aviation. I had learnt a lot about the physiological and psychological characteristics of pilots and the importance of human-centred design in my previous classes, but this was only theoretical knowledge until I had the actual flight experience. Taking part in the flight experience at the Cranfield National Flying Laboratory Centre gave me a deeper understanding and reflection of what I had learnt and left an unforgettable impression on me.
On a sunny Tuesday, my classmates and I arrived at the Cranfield National Flying Laboratory Centre to meet our instructor for the day, Pete Hughes, who had prepared an informative pre-flight briefing for us in the morning. He explained the principles of flight once again using a model aircraft and explained the various projects we would be undertaking.
In the afternoon, Pete led me through a pre-flight check and we headed to runway 21 in the Slingsby T67, Pete patiently explaining the pilot’s procedures and answering my questions at every step of the way. In the air, Pete gave me plenty of time to manoeuvre the aircraft and to experience what it is like to be a pilot, giving me a deeper understanding of the principles of flying that I had learnt in class.
During the flight, I was impressed by the barrel rolls and loops in aerobatics, and the physiological overweight and weightlessness which made me realise the limits of human physiology and the importance of taking human physiology into account in the design of our aircraft. I was frightened when the intense overweight caused me to develop a slight blackout, but I also felt the importance of this flight experience for students in the field of aviation. In addition to this, I was able to experience flight manoeuvres with loss of vision, which proved to be a serious deficit in orientation judgement. This was a very interesting experiment and has given me more interest in my subsequent studies and research.
All in all, it was very rewarding for Cranfield to prepare this flight experience for the students which left me with many impressive moments and helped me to better understand the theoretical knowledge I had learnt, as well as being a very exciting and enjoyable experience.