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What is Upset Prevention and Recovery Training?

What is Upset Prevention and Recovery Training?


There was a change (effective August of 2014) which changed the requirements for a pilot to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. After that date an ATP candidate had to take a new course of instruction called the ATP Certification Training Program (ATP-CTP).

In the details of the course provided in Advisory Circular 61-138 there is terminology that is used for the first time in an FAA requirement: Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). UPRT is now required in both the academic and simulator portions of the ATP-CTP. The reason for this is clear: Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) is currently the number one cause of fatalities in general aviation and worldwide commercial airline operations. The addition of a requirement for UPRT is an attempt to mitigate this threat.

AFigures for APS iPad Apps outlined in AC 61-138, the only practical skill development in the ATP-CTP requirement for UPRT is in a Full-Flight Simulator. There are significant dangerous outcomes that can come from the delivery of improper UPRT in the simulator environment, but no one is likely to be hurt in the simulator itself (although it has happened). The situation is vastly different, however, when it comes to the delivery of UPRT in an airplane. Before we examine that, let’s get clear on what exactly UPRT is, and how it differs from the way pilot training is conducted today.

Currently, the maximum bank angle required in civilian pilot training in the United States is 50° in a Steep Turn, although bank angles of up to 60° are permitted in a Steep Spiral. There is no precise definition for unusual attitudes which is the current requirement for training, although no attitudes beyond +30° of pitch or 60° of bank are required without a parachute. A pilot seeing a severely overbanked condition for the first time in an unexpected airplane upset will experience bewilderment, and rapidly lose confidence and situational awareness. The untrained pilot generally has no ability to analyze a situation that has never been seen, which is followed quickly by incapacitating fear. Now—amidst this mayhem—tried and true control inputs have a different result in this attitude. This does not predict a safe and effective recovery response.

UPRT is clearly described by its title: it is training that will help to prevent an airplane upset event, and recover safely if an upset is encountered. While there is some training which can be done towards prevention within today’s parachute-limited attitudes, it is not possible to teach recovery from an upset without first reaching an attitude that replicates an airplane upset. An airplane upset is defined by the FAA approved Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid as beyond +25° pitch (nose up), -10° (nose down) or over 45° of bank. If we compare the upset definition with the parachute-limited attitudes discussed before, we can see that there is only a 5° maneuvering margin in nose up pitch, a 20° margin in nose down pitch, and a 15° margin in bank. These airplane maneuvering margins are insufficient to achieve a reduction in the LOC-I rate that was the intent of the UPRT requirement.

For UPRT to be truly effective at mitigating LOC-I it must encompass attitudes which would not be prudent in a non-Aerobatic category aircraft. As in all other forms of flying, risk must be mitigated through all means possible. This includes an appropriate syllabus and qualified instructors along with an airplane which is appropriately certificated for the UPRT mission.


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