View Full Version : Flying with blind people
10th Jun 2012, 12:34
As you know, I'm involved with a charity that offers experience flights for sick and handicapped children in the Netherlands.
We have recently gotten a request to fly with two children, aged 10 and 13, that are 100% blind.
Now we can just take them on a normal flight, but for sightseeing you need, well, sight. Duh. And if they want to actually control the airplane they also need sight, to see the horizon and/or the instruments.
So we were discussing whether a regular air experience flight makes sense for these kids, as the sensation will not be much different from being a passenger in a car.
One potential alternative we are now discussing is to take these kids on an aerobatics flight. Let them experience weightlessness, high Gs and negative Gs. All within reasonable limits of course.
On the other hand, we don't know if blind people are more or less prone to motion sickness, compared to "normal" people. On the one hand, they can't see (or maybe visualize) what's coming. On the other hand, their brains receive less conflicting messages.
Does anybody on here have experience with blind people as passengers, either on a regular or aerobatics flight? Any other things we should keep in mind?
10th Jun 2012, 12:52
Its simple just ask them what they would like.
I have had blind trial flights. You just talk them through it just like when you let a blind person have a shot of a car (not on the public road I might add) I even let a blind person drive a 45 ton lorry and reverse it into a garage.
In my experence blind 10 and 13 years olds are little buggers just like sighted kids and enjoy the same stuff.
One thing you can do though thats slightly different is to let them run there hands over everything including the engine. Don't worry about sharp bits just tell them they are coming up to a sharp bit and put there hands gently on it.
As for on the controls not a problem just do a running commentry and don't be tempted to cover the controls because they will know.
With the older ones I have done Effects of controls and they loved it.
10th Jun 2012, 13:28
Yeah, my idea was to first sit them down, together with their parents of course, give them a reasonable sized model aircraft in their hands, and let them feel the movements I intend to make, with running commentary on how this is going to feel.
Then take them to the aircraft and just let them feel it all over. Including sitting in the LHS temporarily so they can feel all the clocks, switches and such.
In flight they would be RHS with their hands loosely on the controls so that they can feel me through. Running commentary of course, particularly before doing an aeros maneuver.
In fact, with most of my "seeing" aerobatics passengers I get them to fly a loop. Even the non-pilots. Simply by showing them the proper stick positions, and then letting them move the stick to that exact position by themselves. Most are able to achieve a decent loop on the second or third try. In a loop you are almost flying blind anyway, since you see nothing but blue sky (unless you look sideways, which I discourage in my passengers as it can accelerate the onset of motion sickness) so that should not be too different for people that are actually blind. In fact, they may be better at it. (Just need to remember to tell them when we're all the way round, so that they can release the stick in time.)
(And I'll put a GoPro in the back so that the parents can see what it was all about, afterwards...)
10th Jun 2012, 13:53
Stick them in the left hand seat get them start the engine.
let them fly it.
Just treat them as any other 10-13 year old.
I wouldn't do loops, most kids that age are more than happy with some gentle bunts and a steep turn or two. Its the letting them fly the thing that will be a buzz.
Do the take off and then start pattering left hand down a bit, gentle pressure back etc and then once you up then get explain what the controls do including a good boot of rudder. Then see what they want to do, if they want some bunts do one or two and then let them do one or two. If they don't and just want to fly around with you saying left a bit right abit etc then do that.
10th Jun 2012, 14:10
Very commendable. There is a video I on youtube remeber watching a few years ago about a blinded soilder who was taken for a trial flight out of Liverpool. Might be useful for you:
Granada Reports Merseyflight Fly's for Hero's! - YouTube
10th Jun 2012, 14:11
Agree with much that has been said, interestingly, I took two ladies in their 60s who had been blind from birth and until they felt the shape of the aircraft their description of how they thought it looked was much like most peoples thoughts of how a UFO looks.
10th Jun 2012, 14:20
Stick them in the left hand seat
Unfortunately I'm not checked out to fly RHS. Otherwise, good ideas.
And yes, of course I'm not going to do advanced aeros from the start. We'll start with a few gentle steep turns, maybe a zero-G pushover and slowly build until they indicate they've had enough.
CS, great video! Reminds me not to pamper these kids but treat them as normal.
10th Jun 2012, 14:24
I flew a trial lesson for a blind gentleman with BDFA. I was staggered just how much he could detect via physiological sensations and peripheral cues, and he made commendable effort S & L. Very heart warming for both of us and I would jump at the opportunity to do it again. The smile on his face was most rewarding. Hardest part was leaving him with his guide dog on the unknown territory of the platform of the local railway station. A memorable student.
10th Jun 2012, 23:35
My blind mate and tandem stoker loves flying and enjoyed being able to 'fly' from the RH seat (not with me). He can sense what manoeuvres are going on, and assures me that blind people don't get airsick, the theory being that airsickness is caused by disagreement between what you see and what your balance centre tells you is happening.
Genghis the Engineer
11th Jun 2012, 06:50
I had an interesting conversation once with a blind gent called Miles Hinton-Barber just as he was about to try and fly a microlight to Australia...
Miles Hilton-Barber - adventurer achievements (http://www.mileshilton-barber.com/adventurer.html)
I wonder if you contact him whether he'd be able to offer some free advice - he certainly seemed to understand how and why a blind person could enjoy flying.
11th Jun 2012, 08:10
Reminds me not to pamper these kids but treat them as normal.
They are just like any other kids ie little buggers when they are in the mood. Especially the ones that have grown up without sight. They are well in tune with not seeing and will do things that we would think were impossible.
11th Jun 2012, 10:03
I used to do disabled ski instructing - One of the parts of the training I had to do was to go skiing for a morning blindfolded to practice blind skiing, you'd be surprised how quickly your other senses become more sensitive to cope with the lack of vision. I'd imagine that flying in an aeroplane would be an exciting experience for a blind child, be it straight and level or aerobatic!
Genghis the Engineer
11th Jun 2012, 10:17
When not flying, I do a lot of martial arts - a lot of exercises often get practiced blindfolded, and it is impressive quite how much you can do with the other 20+ senses you have avaiable. I can conduct a reasonable knife fight (using magic markers!) blindfold, and in some techniques closing your eyes actually gives an advantage.
11th Jun 2012, 11:03
Actually (Engineer mode engaged)
Why doesn't someone fit one of the rate of climb beepy things you get in gliders to a weight shift. I reckon that would be way better than fixed wing for a blind person. Add in a speaking height for the last 10ft and it would be sorted. Might not make your money back but would be a good thing for the old website to advertise.
I was also thinking you could make an artifical horizon by using what for a better word "tit" to rest your palm on and the nipple would give the attitude slaved to an earth strapped giro. Then have selectors for the heading, track, alt on the fingers and also a speak heading/altitude when pressed button and then up down button on thumb to select what you want. Nice little engineering final year project that one.
Genghis the Engineer
11th Jun 2012, 11:07
I think that's roughly what Miles Hilton-Barber did for his flexwing flight to Oz.
11th Jun 2012, 11:13
Hadnt read your link until you wrote that.
All I can say is F' me.