This article highlights key concepts on upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) presented by subject matter experts during the 2021 UPRT Safety Summit for Professional Pilots Worldwide in October 2021. Presenters targeted airline UPRT programmes, approved training organisations for professional pilots, and general aviation operators. The event was organised by Aviation Performance Solutions (APS).
Regarding airline UPRT programmes, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Doc 10011, Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, recommends that regardless of an individual’s background, all instructors assigned to provide training in a UPRT programme should successfully complete a UPRT instructor qualification training course. Doc 10011 also states, “In UPRT, the safety implications and the consequences of applying poor instructional technique, or providing misleading information, are arguably more significant than in other areas of pilot training.”
Several conference presenters expressed concerns about current impediments and the near-term future of UPRT. Capt. Philip Adrian said, “Despite significant efforts, most of the focus of industry still is almost exclusively on [aeroplane upset] recovery training. It is, and remains, important — but it is not the only thing.
“The Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training (LOCART) Working Group incorporated prevention training for a reason, as it should be the basis of UPRT. We often unnecessarily train on over-capable equipment and at too high cost, especially after the licensing part (on-airplane). We wait for perfect technological solutions before we even start training.”
Adrian advised, in part:
- Focusing on the entirety of upset training, with prevention training taking a much larger role;
- Using training needs analysis (TNA) to drive the device requirements via the flight training simulation device (FSTD) capability signature (FCS); and,
- Using blended learning, matching learning objectives and competency achievement to training devices with task-to-tool analysis.
“In type rating training, the tool for UPRT needs to teach the candidates the signs and the type-specific characteristics of approaching an undesired aircraft state. The goal for the students is to learn that these are the first signs at which recovery takes place, rather than wait for a multitude of [signs.]”
General Aviation Concerns
Although typical airline UPRT programmes now adhere to the ICAO standard and recommended practices, general aviation (GA) operators have few to no official UPRT requirements. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and its global counterparts are pressing civil aviation authorities to create appropriate UPRT standards and guidance for GA. This could more effectively solve this industry segment’s risks of fatal loss of control–in flight (LOC-I) accidents.
NTSB Member Michael Graham said in his keynote address: “Although commercial airline accidents have become relatively rare in the United States, accidents involving LOC–I in general aviation — while trending downward — still occur at an unacceptable rate.”
U.S. GA pilot proficiency requirements are much less rigorous than those of airline pilots, in the NTSB’s experience. Graham added: “GA pilots are more likely to have longer intervals between training sessions and between flights. They typically only need to complete a flight review consisting of, at a minimum, one hour of ground training and one hour of flight training every 24 months. GA pilots almost exclusively maintain and improve their skills — and update their knowledge of new technologies — on their own. The conduct of safe flight depends more on the individual’s abilities and judgment than on robust training in emergency situations — potentially leaving them unprepared for situations that can lead to LOC-I.”
NTSB’s 2011–2020 aviation accident data analysis for the United States showed:
- LOC–I was the probable cause of more than 1,000 fatal accidents by grouping the following regulatory categories:
- 45 percent of fatal GA accidents resulted from pilots losing control of their aircraft in flight (i.e., LOC–I);
- 31 percent of fatal Part 135 accidents were attributed to LOC–I; and,
- One fatal fixed-wing Part 121 LOC–I accident occurred.
Although these accidents occur in all phases of flight, Graham cited approach to landing, maneuvering and initial climb as “statistically the deadliest phases of flight for LOC–I accidents.” Contributing factors include pilot distraction, surprise and startle; spatial disorientation; loss of situational awareness or weather awareness, including their inadvertent encounters with instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).
“The most common type of LOC–I is a stall, including post-stall spin, which can occur when the pilot allows the aircraft to enter a flight regime outside its normal flight envelope,” he said. “Stalls happen because a pilot lacks understanding about how a stall actually relates to exceeding a wing’s critical angle-of-attack [AOA], as opposed to the more common [incorrect] idea that ‘It’s just related to airspeed.’”
Among other tactics to prevent LOC-I accidents, the NTSB urges pilots to:
- Understand stall characteristics and warning signs of aeroplane upset, and be able to apply appropriate recovery techniques before stall onset;
- Realise that stall characteristics can vary with aircraft loading, and are usually worse at aft CG positions;
- Be aware that stall can occur at a lower angle of attack (AOA) in icing conditions;
- Manage distractions so that they do not interfere with situational awareness;
- Obtain training in emergency [aeroplane upset] response skills so it is more natural to apply those skills in an emergency situation; and,
- Consider installing new technology, such as an AOA indicator, which — when coupled with pilot understanding and training on how best to use it — can assist pilots during critical or high workload phases of flight.
Graham said the NTSB recently has “pushed hard” for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance GA pilot education on prevention of LOC-I and also to publicise stall recognition and recovery techniques implemented in airline operations.
“As early as back in 2017, with Advisory Circular (AC) 120-109A, we’ve been pretty successful in getting a lot of that education and training. … I would just recommend to operators out there that are from the Part 135 world, the Part 91K world and even the Part 91 world, to go through that AC and to add an AC in their own operation. That would help them out.”
In the same context, he said NTSB also highly recommends that Part 91 operators voluntarily “put together an effective SMS, engage all your employees, and start managing your risk more effectively” as already required for a Part 121, Part 135 or Part 91K operator. An official SMS should be down-scalable to Part 91 operations using the FAA’s existing expertise, he added.
UPRT Training Devices
Capt. Bryan Burks, Alaska Airlines, has found that when airlines understand the limitations of their full flight simulators (Level D) and fixed-base simulators (Level 6), and operate within their validated envelopes, they build a solid foundation for effective UPRT programmes. Burks offered the following advice for UPRT training:
- Eliminate negative training, which can occur if the airline uses the simulator inappropriately — particularly in UPRT-specific scenarios, such as a high altitude upset induced by a wake-vortex encounter;
- Begin the UPRT programme with current un-enhanced simulators. This is done by emphasising the tremendous capabilities of modern primary flight displays (PFDs) and all their dynamic cues that allow pilots to monitor the aeroplane’s energy state, flight path, high-speed and low-speed limits, trends, and an indirect angle-of-attack indicator.
- Emphasise the PFD and the flight control force feedback;
- Use the primary PFD in practical demonstrations on energy/flight path cues and encourage routine manual flying exercises at low and high altitudes;
- Establish clear training objectives regarding aerodynamic principles; and,
- Alaska Airlines considers the simulator to be the best training device to teach UPRT with practical demonstrations of critical aerodynamic principles. They have the fidelity of the PFDs and the force feedback from the aero model; pilots can see dynamically the effects of their flight control inputs. Burke added that he also is “a huge proponent of on-aircraft training.”
In the years after analyzing negative-training outcomes from its own design of the above wake-vortex upset scenario in 2011, Burks said, “We’ve been very worried and cautious about how we identify the appropriate training maneuvers … when it comes to UPRT.”
In 2012, the airline found that implementing high-altitude manual handling, aerodynamics and approach to stall had yielded the key lessons above. Another product of the experience is the UPRT core team concept — i.e., “enhanced UPRT” developers within the airline who are responsible for standardisation throughout this instructor group, including the inter-rater reliability of UPRT instructors.
One benefit attributed to UPRT is significant improvement in the rate of stall events during 2012–2019. Alaska Airlines has observed a steady decline in the low-speed precursor rate since 2012, he said. A flight data metric called airspeed low relative stall speed (1.1) Vs was reduced from about 14 stall events on approach per 10,000 flights to about less than two stall events on approach per 10,000 flights. The low-speed precursor rate is a flight data parameter defined as 1.1 times the minimum safe speed. “1.1 is valid regardless of the aircraft type, the configuration of the aircraft, the altitude or the weight,” Burks said.
After six unreliable-airspeed events occurred during 2017, Alaska Airlines added the following training to the UPRT programme’s multi-year cycles of continuing-qualification (CQ) maneuvers-based training (take-off followed by manually flying a complete traffic pattern with unreliable airspeed); demonstrations/videos in all phases of flight; and reinforcing scenario-based training, such as a programmed spot LOFT engine failure on takeoff at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) airport with unreliable airspeed caused by a bird strike and pitot-static system damage.
Pilot-reported incidents in line operations also are subjective/anecdotal evidence of positive UPRT influence. Burks said, “The most critical example of this is we actually had a real bad one up at Cordova Municipal Airport (CDV), Alaska, on an RNAV approach in the weather, in IMC, in turbulence close to the ground and terrain. It was a very confusing scenario because the pilots had simultaneous overspeed and stick shaker, and they were able to identify and run the appropriate memory items — which we call recall items — and effectively manage the event.
Capt. Clarke McNeace, vice president standards at APS, and Paul Ransbury, CEO at APS, presented their definition of critical features in corporate flight department UPRT, noting that most of their presentation also applies to airlines and to other types of general aviation.
McNeace said, “The line-up of UPRT providers across the industry is growing at a greater rate than ever before. While it’s exciting to see aviation embrace this important training, end users such as corporate flight departments must be cautious. Unlike airlines, progressive flight departments are correctly integrating live on-aircraft UPRT solutions. … While on-aircraft UPRT is essential, departments must careful not … to leave advanced simulation behind. … Generally speaking, UPRT limited to simulator-only or on-aircraft-onIy solutions, as two examples, leaves serious risk-mitigation gaps that are completely unnecessary in modern times.”
Ransbury said the APS Quantitative LOC-I Mitigation Criteria helps flight departments to analyze partial versus full LOC–I mitigation elements. The document ranks three UPRT elements as highest priority: human factors; all-attitude environment immersion and strategy application (i.e., resilience in crisis). G awareness and repetition to proficiency are second priority. The third priority comprises very low altitude upsets and all-weather upsets; crew resource management (CRM) and/or single-pilot resource management (SRM); and representative aircraft/simulator control feel and responses.
UPRT questions suggested for use by corporate aircraft operators require judging the relevance of several resources/platforms (academics, virtual reality, non-aerobatic piston aeroplane, non-aerobatic complex jet, rotational G device, class-specific simulator [fixed-base or full-motion], type-specific simulator (Level C, Level D, or extended envelope), aerobatic jet and aerobatic piston aeroplane. “These should be studied in reference to how the company operates, i.e., with multi-engine jet crews flying at high altitude; with single pilots flying a jet or turboprop at high altitude; or with single pilots flying piston airplanes only at low altitude,” Ransbury said.
McNeace explained eight critical elements of UPRT based on APS experience: the representative control feel and response of the platform; CRM/SRM (crew/single-pilot resource management); G awareness training; repetition of proficiency to ingrain skills; human factors (e.g., psychological and physiological issues that affect a pilot during an aeroplane upset event); all-attitude immersion to experience the airplane upset envelope; very low altitude scenarios and all-weather scenarios; and UPRT strategy application (immediately recalling a skill set during a life-threatening situation).
UPRT Instructor Qualifications
Capt. Brad Bennetts, wide-body senior first officer and instructor pilot for South African Airways and UPRT subject matter expert for Airbus, told the conference that startle-induced LOC-I accidents continue to increase, calling the recurrence of such accidents “staggering” in today’s commercial aviation industry.
“OEMs and regulators have now acknowledged the degradation of manual flying skills due to increased [reliance] on automation, yet many airlines discourage manual flying in daily operations. It is a fact that many commercial pilots do not possess the required skill sets to recover from an LOC-I situation in flight. Since LOC-I is still the biggest threat to aviation safety, we must fix this problem,” he said.
Designing the UPRT programme structure takes a coordinated effort between the operator and an aviation training organisation (ATO) that specializes in UPRT. “It should include consistent on-aeroplane and non-type-specific UPRT by the ATO, and type-specific UPRT of the ATO/operator,” Bennetts said. “Any UPRT programme to be built or designed also should be done in consultation with the OEM, to make sure that all their principles, operating procedures, etc. and that the technical design of the airplane is taken into account.”
He said UPRT instructors in airline programmes must meet clear expectations. “They should be assessed against standards for instructional technique and measurements of their skill sets in discipline, technical knowledge, insight and motor skills,” Bennetts said.
To become a subject matter expert in a UPRT instructors core group — i.e., one of the most qualified — pilots must have experience as a flight instructor; experience as an FSTD instructor; all-attitude flying experience, previous multi-crew experience and motivation to deliver UPRT.
Bennetts considers the following academics and training essential to membership in an instructors core group:
- Pre-studies of UPRT and academic instructor training;
- On-aeroplane UPRT (human factors skills);
- Flight simulation training device (FSTD) training for four or five days covering FSTD limitations (G-awareness); understanding the VTE; UPRT-related functions of the instructor operating station (IOS); motion capability; and conducting instructor-led exercises;
- On-aeroplane UPRT for the core group, covering the immersive experience; human factors; and trainees’ counter-intuitive behaviours.
- Standardisation of FSTD UPRT instructors — Initial standardisation validation and continuing standardisation; correct demonstration techniques; ability to distinguish between SOPs and recommended techniques; importance of adhering to validated scenarios; capabilities and limitations of FSTDs; understanding the missing critical human factors aspects.
- Academic training of UPRT instructors — This requires thorough understanding of environmental factors, aerodynamics, flight dynamics, aircraft performance, aircraft design principles, human factors, identification of possible gaps in the theoretical knowledge of the trainee pilots, and recommended practical training sequences in FSTDs (aircraft handling characteristics, upset recognition and recovery, stall, environmental factors, wake vortex, mechanical/system–induced factors and pilot-induced factors).
Chapter 5 of ICAO Doc 10011 and FAA AC 120-111 describe the training elements and subject areas of the instructor training to ensure accurate UPRT and how to minimise the risk of negative training. Bennetts said, “They state that on-airplane training for the group of instructors is not a requirement. It is, however, recommended to another core group to acquire first-hand experience of the critical human factors that are present during recovery from upsets.
“Repetition to proficiency in the UPRT simulator session should be long enough to allow for enough time for the crew to repeat the upset recovery strategy until they are proved proficient and, most importantly, confident. Giving pilots confidence is very important in helping them to cope with fear and startle in a real-life situation. The SMS, FOQA and LOSA data should be used subsequent to the training to monitor trends within the airline with regards to undesired aircraft states. It’s also important that the ATO responsible for the UPRT training carry out regular quality assurance checks which will help to monitor and correct any instructor drift.”
Captain John Cox, CEO at SOS, said that conducting safety audits of an airline, general aviation operator or other entity that has a UPRT programme involves specialised knowledge and considerations.
“First and foremost, the auditor has got to start with the academics — a good understanding of aerodynamics, the environment and the importance of both avoidance and recovery. … If you look even as recently as 2020, the industry lost a Boeing 737-500 to LOC–I. These accidents are preventable.”
Safety auditors constantly look for steps can they take to not only improve the client’s flight operation, but to make the organisation safer, to learn from the tragedies of the past, and to implement lessons into the flight operation, Cox said.
“Prevention of LOC–I is absolutely essential. But if auditors’ listen carefully, there are people who say the entire focus of UPRT should be on prevention,” he added. “Prevention is essential but recovery techniques are required because pilots are going to be in conditions where prevention is not enough.”
He said that clients telling the auditor about their LOC–I avoidance should be able to explain how they have prepared to select alternatives to any foreseeable course of action that could lead to a high-probability upset.
Once an upset occurs, UPRT assumes that a standardised recovery is ready, and auditors need to be in a position to assess that readiness. Cox said, “This is something that we, as auditors, would pick up on and that we look for. One of the big distinctions that we have to make is the organisation’s [grasp] of aerobatic training versus UPRT.
“When we look at the flight operations as an auditor, and their people say, ‘Oh, we’re doing upset recovery training. We go out and fly aerobatics.’ Those are two entirely different concepts,” he said.
Auditors look at UPRT aspects of a flight operation the same way as any operational audit. “As an IS-BAO auditor, what I look for in the operation is how it integrates with international standards and recommended practices. Do they implement them? That includes the documentation and the implementation. They have to have both,” Cox said. The checklist for auditing the UPRT aspect of an organisation also may cover:
- Documentation, such as the training table in a training manual or a flight operations manual, of initial and recurrent UPRT;
- Training syllabus that meets the needs of the individual operator with a UPRT programme;
- Details of all-simulator, on-airplane or hybrid use of training devices;
- Explanation of the training devices and UPRT instructor qualifications;
- Training records showing detailed accounting of training, including UPRT; and,
- Pilot interviews that confirm effective implementation of UPRT, briefings, etc.
“In conclusion, UPRT is an essential skill set for a professional pilot. It’s not needed very often. But when it is needed, it is a critical skill that needs to be executed with precision and with excellence,” Cox said.
Presentations in the 2021 UPRT Safety Summit for Professional Pilots Worldwide comprised:
- “Opening Remarks” by Michael Graham, NTSB Member.
- “Essential Stages of an Airline UPRT Instructor Training Programme” by Captain Brad Bennetts, wide-body senior first officer and instructor pilot for South African Airways, flying the Airbus 330/340, and UPRT subject matter expert for Airbus.
- “Task to Tool Approach for UPRT: Don’t Wait for Perfect When You Can Use Good Enough” by Captain Philip Adrian, CEO of MPS.
- “Critical Features in Corporate Flight Department UPRT” by Captain Clarke McNeace, vice president standards at APS, with Paul Ransbury, CEO of APS.
- “Safety Auditor’s Role Concerning UPRT to Address LOC-I” by Captain John M. Cox, CEO at Safety Operating System (SOS).
- “Integrating Simulators Into UPRT: Practical Demonstrations of Aerodynamic Principles” by Captain Bryan Burks, UPRT subject matter expert, Alaska Airlines.
- “Human Factors Aspects of UPRT: The Data” by Captain Janeen Adrion Kochan, Ph.D., CEO at Aviation Research, Training and Services.
- “LOC-I Bow Tie — Unraveling the Risk of Loss of Control–In Flight” by Sonnie G. Bates, CEO, Wyvern Ltd.
- “Role of Virtual Reality in UPRT” by Cody Louviere, founder of King Crow Studios, with Randall Brooks, vice president training at APS.
- Airplane Upset Prevention & Recovery Training Aid (AUPRTA) Revision 3, ICAO, February 1, 2017.
- “Basic Flying Skills and Upset Prevention and Recovery Training,” by Captain Xavier Lesceu of Airbus, ICAO UPRT Bangkok, April 18, 2017.
- “UPRT in FSTDs and Aeroplanes,” prepared by Captain Lou Németh, chief safety officer at CAE; presented by Henry Defalque, ICAO, ICAO Regional Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Workshop, December 19, 2016.
- “UPRT Provisions: What Do They Say?” presented by Henry Defalque, ICAO; ICAO Regional Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Workshop, December 19, 2016.
- Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, Doc 10011 AN/506, First Edition, ICAO, 2014.
- “Upset Prevention and Recovery Training,” Chapter 7, PANS-TRG (Doc 9868), ICAO, April 2014.
- “ACT ARC Recommendation 19-4 – Energy Management,” Air Carrier Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ACT ARC), FAA Flight Standards Service, November 14, 2019.
- “FSTD Evaluation and Qualification for Full Stall Training Tasks,” National Simulator Program FSTD Qualification Guidance Bulletin (NSB GB) 14–1, FAA Flight Standards Service, April 27, 2018. Working groups consulted by the FAA included the International Committee on Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE), the Industry Stall and Stick Pusher Working Group, the Stick Pusher and Adverse Weather Event Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (SPAW ARC), and the Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training (LOCART) Working Group.
- SE196: Airplane State Awareness — Effective Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, Revision 2.0, Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) Safety Enhancement (SE), September 17, 2018. Link to SE196 with Implementation Plan Revision 1.4 here.
- “Recommendation 16-9: Manual Flight Operations,” Air Carrier Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ACT ARC), FAA Flight Standards Service, October 30, 2017.
- “Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (Change 1),” Advisory Circular (AC) 120-111, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), January 4, 2017
- “Stall Prevention and Recovery Training (Change 1),” AC 120-109A, FAA, January 24, 2017.
- “Manual Flight Operations Proficiency,” Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 17007, FAA, May 4, 2017.
- “Academic Upset Prevention and Recovery Training – The Highlights,” Jeffery A. Schroeder, FAA, December 2016.