In documents ICAO has circulated, their recommendations call for the delivery of Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) to all pilots prior to Commercial Licensing. This training would take place “in actual flight” meaning in an all-attitude / all-envelope capable airplane rather than a simulator.
According to a ICAO document, the Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery, UPRT takes an integrated approach that identifies academic and practical training resources “to provide pilots with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to reduce the probability of an upset encounter and to maximize their ability to recover from such an event.”
Practical training resources include the use of airplanes and Flight Simulation Training Devices (FSTDs). It is the on-airplane experience, however, where theory truly becomes reality; where pilot stress levels can be manipulated to levels comparable to those of real-life upsets, but in a controlled learning environment where techniques can be perfected and the bonds to mental models for recovery can be cemented. It is the on-airplane component where pilots gain necessary confidence in the training methodology and where the recurrent training mindset is fostered.
The on-airplane component includes, among other things, intentional training operations near and above the critical AOA and to extreme bank angles not encountered during routine flight. Regardless of the airplane being used, the safe and legal delivery of UPRT requires due consideration of the training airplane’s approved operating limitations, design limits, and available margins of safety.
Here is a graph of pitch and roll attitudes that shows the minimum limit loads of the Normal, Utility, and Acrobatic Categories:
Note the “Rolling G” limitations. This is due to the fact that if you apply an asymmetric load, as in rolling and pulling at the same time, a common student error, reductions of up to one third of the structural load limits can be encountered.
There have been important conversations taking place regarding what aircraft should be used in the delivery of UPRT; specifically what category of certification. As obvious as the choice of an aircraft certified in the Acrobatic Category would seem, there are some that have argued that the lack of availability of Acrobatic Category aircraft in some parts of the world make the requirement to utilize an aerobatic aircraft for this type of training too limiting.
A parallel to this argument can be found with regard to a different type of training platform: Full Flight Simulators. Level C or Level D full motion flight simulators are required for the training and testing of all commercial airline pilots worldwide, with very few exceptions. These FSTDs can cost anywhere from 5 to 25 million US dollars. These flight simulators are not available in every country on the globe. It is very common for pilots to fly to wherever appropriate devices are located for annual or semi-annual recurrency training and checking.
Obviously, the capital outlay for an aerobatic aircraft at less than a half million US dollars is significantly less than a Full Flight Simulator, and they are much easier to move about!
Loss of Control-In flight (LOC-I) is the leading cause of fatalities in worldwide aviation. ICAO agrees that there are elements of training that must be experienced in flight since no simulator can replicate the necessary aerodynamics, let alone the emotional impact that UPRT in actual flight can deliver.
Someday, we will hopefully look back on a reduction of LOC-I accidents as a result of better training using all-attitude / all-envelope aircraft to deliver UPRT. Successful delivery of training in that environment calls for the use of aircraft certificated in the Acrobatic Category in order to maintain the appropriate margin of safety in the delivery of UPRT.