William (Bill) R. Ercoline, Lt Col (retired), USAF, has an M.S. Engineering Physics degree from AFIT and has accumulate over 4,000 flight hours in a variety of military and general aviation aircraft. He has more than thirty years of research experience in the areas of human factors, spatial disorientation, flight symbology development, and general aviation psychology and physiology (human performance). He’s a former Associate Professor of Physics at the USAF Academy. He currently manages the operations of the San Antonio human centrifuge and altitude research chambers for the WYLE Science, Technology & Engineering Group at Brooks City-Base, TX (formerly Brooks AFB). His team of researchers and technicians provide life support equipment research, development, testing & evaluation and acceleration training to the Department of Defense and several commercial companies. He consults with USAF accident investigation boards if spatial disorientation issues are a factor, and he provides lectures for several of the USAFSAM education programs. He has published articles about the costs, causes and countermeasures of spatial disorientation, and co-edited and co-authored with Dr Fred Previc the textbook Spatial Disorientation in Aviation. Bill lectures internationally and has served on multi-service working groups and international organizations specializing in aircrew performance in high workload environments. He has also provided laser eye protection research support for the Directed Energy Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory. He has served as an Aerospace Medicine Association (AsMA) journal scientific paper reviewer and is a Fellow of the organization. He and his wife Kathy have been married for 46 years and they have two grown children and two granddaughters. Bill is honored to present The History of Instrument Flight to the attendees of The 18th International Symposium of Aviation Psychology.
The History of Instrument Flight is the story of how some of the early US pilots learned the importance of using flight instruments when flying in obscure visibility. The story encompasses the key players and the common misperceptions they had to overcome. It was a time when flying an airplane was considered more of a natural talent than one that should be learned through practice and improved flight information. Unfortunately, it took many lives and a lot of education to change these erroneous beliefs, and we owe much of our capability for safe flight today to these early pioneers. It is ironic that still today some of those early misperceptions resurface during accident investigations.