Transfer of Skill Concepts in Upset Recovery Training
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Transfer of skill in upset recovery training is of critical importance. The intent of this report is to address several key issues associated with the process of developing skills pilots can use in a crisis to address statistically significant loss of control in-flight threats.
Clarifying the Intent of the Transfer of Skill Discussion
The core skill set necessary to recover any fixed wing aircraft is not predominantly type-specific (Annex E). Moreover, research and accident statistics repeatedly demonstrate these specialized ‘core skills’ to be absent in the typical commercial pilot (Annexes A, B & D).
Similar to an airline pilot becoming qualified in a specific model of airline, an A320 or B737 as examples, the typical pilot will participate in approximately 50 hours of simulator and IOE training over a period of 6 weeks to be deemed by the airline to be ‘safe’ to operate that particular aircraft type. In comparison to the minimum amount of flight experience necessary to be considered as an airline pilot candidate by the same airline (example: 3-years and 1500 hours), the type-specific training a pilot receives represents less than 5% of the pilot’s overall flight experience (Annex E).
In a very real sense, a quality upset recovery training solution must primarily provide the core elements of its training following methodology that will be fundamentally effective in all fixed wing aircraft. Of course, it is clear certain airplanes can have peculiarities and special considerations in relation to upset recovery techniques. At some point those differences need to be addressed in the full flight simulator such as during recurrent training. However, it is important to keep in mind, pilots participating in programs to develop core upset recovery skills are already rated in their aircraft making the argument for type-specific training even less dominant. Assuming a ‘core skills’ training program is designed to instill universally transferrable techniques, the training platform utilized to accomplish this task must primarily comply with fundamental principles of flight, be safe and be under the guidance of an expert instructor following a high-focused building-block curriculum.
In brief summary, ‘Transfer of Skill’ in upset recovery training can be more clearly defined as 95% Core Skill Development and 5% Type-Specific Differences Correlation. The latter seems to more directly relate to “Transfer of Skill” although it must be kept in mind the absence of ‘core skills training’ demands primary focus before pilots can benefit significantly from type-specific, or even category specific, training intended to transfer skills.
Giving Emphasis to Statistically Relevant Control Strategies
The subject of Transfer of Skill is rendered irrelevant if the industry does not clearly identify what control strategies must be instilled in pilots (Annex B). Current industry training practices have established Loss of Control In-Flight (LOC-I) as the leading cause of fatalities and hull losses in commercial aviation. By ICAO definition, LOC-I in combination with System/Component Failure – Non Powerplant (SCF-NP) demonstrate a severe deficiency in the established training requirements to prepare pilots to deal with loss of control situations (Annex B). A fundamental intervention in how pilots are trained to deal with upsets must occur.
Specifically, current training practices demonstrate deficient Primary Control Strategies to be directly responsible for a minimum of 77.9% of the LOC-I crashes (Annex B). Of less prominence, deficiency in Alternate Control Strategies account for a maximum of 22.1% of the overall LOC-I accidents. The training solution must address Primary and Alternate Control Strategies in proportion to their statistical significance. At the same time, the industry must be cautious of getting distracted. For example, other cause factors such as Icing (ICE) must be given priority in proportion to their statistical significance to LOC-I accident data. Although many pilots continue to believe ICE to be a primary cause factor in many LOC-I accidents, the statistical research presented by the Commercial Aviation Safety Team in July 2009 did not record an ICE accident in the past 10 years (Annex C). Nor did the same reporting agency track an ICE incident in the July 2008 accident report. The absence of ICE-related LOC-I is a testament to the effectiveness of the modern flight training system. The ICE threat is already being mitigated.
Core Skill Development
The real issue is not primarily “transfer” of skill as long as the core skills are being developed comprehensively and generically. Pilots must be trained to have the crucial skills well-engrained to optimize their ability to immediately recognize, avoid and (if necessary) recover from a wide variety of airplane upsets. (Annex C)
Under the assumption core upset skills are in place at some point in the future, but without giving priority to other aspects of LOC-I training that are paramount, the LOC-I threat presents the pilots with a much more challenging problem than any other situation they will face in their career. Although imminent threats to safety can and do exist in airline operations, issues such as weather usually afford the pilot time to address the situation through diligent consideration of pertinent factors while consulting a variety of available resources based on years of flight experience and airmanship. In contrast, an airplane upset can propel the pilot into an immediately life-threatening situation with little time to react with the pilot having virtually no practical experience to fall back on. Compounded by psychological panic, diminished mental capacity and potentially incapacitating spatial disorientation, the loss of control in-flight environment is the most demanding time-critical situation a pilot will ever face. Flight skills in upset recovery training on their own will not save lives and aircraft. The human factor is a major contributing factor in effective LOC-I mitigation.
Furthermore, although given very little attention by the industry, the human factor is the most significant barrier to pilots being able to take effective recovery action once core upset recovery skills are established. The practical steps necessary to recover virtually every fixed wing aircraft are simple and straightforward. However, giving pilots the proper training to be able to access those same skills in a life-threatening situation, while simultaneously having the mental discipline to implement counter-intuitive recovery steps, must be considered to be a critical component of a training program intending to mitigate LOC-I. (Annex C)
Without a trained ability to take effective action in a crisis, no amount of study or practical training will have a lasting or consistent success rate. The discipline to function in such an environment is best developed by a pilot being forced to function within similar situations during training while implementing recovery strategies.
Skill Development Research by APS Emergency Maneuver Training
APS conducted a 3-month formal investigation starting in November 2007. The group of 115 pilots participating in the investigation was filtered to represent professional pilots flying high performance jet aircraft. The demographic of professional pilots evaluated is summarized as follows: (Annex D)
- 88.0 % had greater than 1500 hours of flight experience
- 91.6 % were between the ages of 25 and 59 years of age
- 51.4 % were certified flight instructors
- 81.3 % had less than 10 hours of aerobatic experience
In-Flight Performance Analysis
TRAINEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
TRAINEE’S ABILITY TO RECOVER
Upset Scenario Assessed*
Over-bank Nose Low Upset
Cross-Controlled Stall to Over-bank
Severe Wake Turbulence Encounter
Nose High Upset / Pitch Mis-Trim
Control Failure: Rudder Hard-Over
AVERAGE SUCCESS RATE
* Scenarios were selected to reflect challenging life-threatening conditions; typically flight attitudes beyond 60 degrees angle of bank and/or 30 degrees of pitch. (Note: Many more scenarios than those listed in this chart are taught during the course. These particular maneuvers are evaluated to give representative indications of training effectiveness.)
‡ Training course duration in the study averaged 2.5 days and 4.4 training missions per pilot.
‡ Retention of Skill: Recurrent participants demonstrated 76.4% retention of skill returning after an average of 19 months between Initial and Recurrent Training programs.
Participant Feedback: 100% of the 75 professional pilot participants indicated that the solution to dramatically reducing the risk of Loss-of-Control In-Flight must include specialized upset recovery training in real aircraft as provided by APS Emergency Maneuver Training. 61.8% of those votes indicated a full solution should also include extensively updated and redesigned simulator training profiles and curricula. (Annex D)
Training Devices in Upset Recovery Training
On-Aircraft Aerobatic Trainers
From our perspective at APS, the integration of on-aircraft trainers is critical to the full development of core upset recovery skills. With that said, we are not saying that a significant portion of a solution cannot be accomplished in a stand-alone full flight simulator under the guidance of expert upset recovery instructors. In either case, assuming the course’s academics, materials, techniques and instructors are delivering comprehensive and valid training (as is yet to be defined by the industry), then the specific training platform used is not really the core issue in developing a solution. If the flight training industry makes the decision not to use on-aircraft training devices, the primary resulting deficiencies will be g-cuing and a lack of practical pilot experience taking effective action in a real high-stress, physiologically challenging and potentially overwhelming environment. (Annex F)
Full Flight Simulators (FFS)
Although a Full Flight Simulator does not impart accurate spatial and loading cues to the pilot, the benefits of implementing the core upset recovery strategies on the pilot’s airplane type, or even a generic replica of their category of airplane (ie. glass cockpit multi-engine commercial jet) does have significant training value. Ideally, the full flight simulator is best suited to ‘differences training’ to address the 5 – 10% of Transfer of Skill that is type specific. The full flight simulator also represents the ideal platform for pilots to address Alternate Control Strategies in their specific aircraft type. FFS flight envelope enhancement would be a valuable upgrade. (Annex F)
In-Flight Simulators (IFS)
The concept of In-Flight Simulation is exciting. It is important to consider, like an on-aircraft trainer, an IFS is not a replica of the trainee’s aircraft, and the flight conditions and responses the IFS has to the various flight conditions presented remains unique to the in-flight simulator although it is programmed to mimic the handling qualities of a variety of aircraft that the trainee may or may not fly. In consideration of the demonstrated argument that more than 90% of upset recovery skill development is not type-specific, this percentage makes this particular type-specific fidelity limitation less important. It really comes down to how the aircraft is to be used in relation to upset recovery training skill development. If it is to be used as a stand-alone training device, then (in consideration of the current statistical threat) approximately 78% of the curriculum should be dedicated to Primary Control Strategies and approximately 22% dedicated to Alternate Control Strategies. What needs to be considered is whether or not the transferred skills to pilots utilizing such a device are equivalent to the skills imparted with the proper integrated use of on-aircraft aerobatic trainers and full flight simulators? (Annex F).
LOC-I Training Solution Model
Although initially impractical, all professional pilots need fully comprehensive upset recovery training utilizing readily available training resources. Standardizing academic curricula, comprehensively effective recovery techniques and acceptable combinations of training devices are necessary although these elements are likely the less challenging part of an industry solution. (Annex G)
The most challenging aspect of an LOC-I Training Solution Model hinges on the creation of instructors specially trained and possibly certified to deliver industry-compliant upset recovery training. Instructors must be fully trained to fly, instruct and keep current on the entire spectrum of primary and secondary control strategies. Standards-based monitoring, compliance and management of the worldwide upset recovery instructor cadre are some of the most critical aspects of an effective, safe and enduring industry solution.
In closing, approved upset recovery training devices must be capable of instilling the spectrum of upset recovery skills pertinent to the device’s intended use. Professional pilots should receive ‘core skills’ training in an aerobatic on-aircraft trainer delivered by upset recovery experts. Robust programs for airline pilots must focus on primary control strategy skill development and exposure to high stress situations while implementing counter-intuitive recovery strategies. Although FFS devices are an economical and readily available tool for airline pilots to receive comprehensive type-specific upset recovery ‘differences training’, on-aircraft training is indispensable.
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