Since the airplane and its instruments behave in the same way in or out of the overcast, it does not much matter where and when the plane so flown. What does matter is that your sensation of balance and direction varies according to whether you can or cannot see the horizon, and that you, yourself, can be the chief – or the least – cause of trouble when you are gluing through the overcast. When your eyes are open and you have visual contact with the ground, you will, under normal conditions, maintain your balance. But when you lose visual contact, your balance and your sense of direction become thoroughly mixed up. Try walking along the street blindfolded, and you will see how quickly loss of visual contact confuses your sense and balance. Try sitting blindfolded in a revolving chair and being spun around, and you will see how quickly you lose your sense of direction. If you are being spun around to the left, you will find, when the rotation stops, that you continue to spin – or so your senses say – to the right. This spinning sensation, whether you want to call it by its high-hat name of vertigo, or its plain name, dizziness causes conflicting sensations and false impressions of the rate and direction of rotation, On flights made without flight instruments, the human mechanism, confuse by dizziness tends to react incorrectly and to move the controls in the wrong direction.
The human ear consists of three main parts- the outer, the middle, and the inner air. It has been found that it is the inner ear, with its three semicircular canals, that has much to do with balance. The three semicircular canals lie in the distinct planes, and that toward the end of each canal is an expanded portion. This section of the canal contains hair cells. The semicircular canals, and the utricle, the membranous sax into which the canals open, are filled with a liquid. Any motion of this liquid moves the hair cells which in turn stimulate certain nerves, conveying the sensation of motion to the brain. Because each of the canals has its own distinct plane, the liquid in one canal can be set in motion while the liquid in the other two canal is inactive. If you spin around your chair, for example, the liquid iin the horizontal canal is set in motion and you get a sensation of horizontal movement. If you move in a vertical plane, liquid in one or both of the vertical canals is set in motion.
There are all sorts of theories and explanations for the wway in which the inner ear and the brain react to motion, but these theories are not important for our purpose. What is important is this: You cannot depend upon the evidence of your inner ear when you have no visual reference. In flying through the overcast, therefore, you must disregard your own sensation of motion and depend solely upon your instruments.
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