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ALPA Announces Resolution: Upset Recovery Training

31 August 2010: Bryan Burks, ALPA Training Council Vice Chairman, speaks on C-SPAN2 on the on-going advancements in upset prevention and recovery training in the commercial aviation industry. Development and research groups involved in loss of control in-flight mitigation efforts are addressed to include; the FAA Stall / Stick Pusher Working Group, CAST, EASA 60-Second Group and the RAeS ICATEE (International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes). Following the videos below, please take a moment to review the ALPA Resolution on Loss of Control In-Flight announced the next day on Wednesday, 1 September 2010.




Date: Wednesday, 1 September 2010


In-flight Loss of Control and Upset Recovery Training

Randy Helling, Vice-President-Finance/Treasurer
ALPA’s Human Factors and Training Group and the Training Council have identified In-Flight Loss of Control (ILOC) as a leading cause of accidents worldwide. The ILOC accident and incident rate has prompted efforts by industry to develop proposed mitigations to address this problem. The mitigations chosen include use of simulators, training devices and other appropriate training platforms, the application of new Upset Recovery Training (URT) methodologies, and enhanced emphasis on aerodynamic academics for pilots.
Several factors have been recognized as contributing to the rise in ILOC’s. One important fact is that the demographics of new airline pilots have changed steadily and dramatically over the past three decades; as a result, fewer pilots being hired by the airlines have been trained on how to recover from unusual attitudes and upsets. This is so because the number of pilots entering the airlines from the military has decreased significantly. Military pilots obtain significant exposure to abnormal flight environments, usually through training sorties in aerobatic-capable aircraft.  Civilian-trained pilots, conversely, may experience minimal exposure to unusual attitude training and little or no exposure to URT.
According to the “Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid” (URTA) an airplane upset is defined as:
An airplane in flight unintentionally exceeding the parameters normally experienced in line operations or training:

  • Pitch attitude greater than 25 degrees, nose up.
  • Pitch attitude greater than 10 degrees, nose down.
  • Bank angle greater than 45 degrees.
  • Within the above parameters, but flying at airspeeds inappropriate for the conditions.

Research on the performance of airline pilots in actual aircraft upsets shows that the encounter of an upset can induce an overwhelming sensory overload that often prevents a pilot from implementing appropriate control strategies.
The over-reliance on aircraft automation has also led to an insidious decrease in manual flying skills, which may relate to the difficulty pilots have recovering from an upset event. Although automation, used appropriately, has been a great enhancement to aviation safety, pilots still need to retain the necessary knowledge and skills to manually fly the aircraft. This skill set should be regularly exercised during normal flight operations, as appropriate, to ensure that pilots properly respond to abnormal or emergency situations. In addition, as automation often is employed at various levels in the interface between man and machine, pilots should be exposed to as many various levels of automation as possible during training.
One area under consideration regarding URT is how the FAA practical test standard for approach-to-stall recovery has historically emphasized minimal loss of altitude. Training to minimize altitude loss can lead to an inappropriate flight control response for an aircraft in an actual aerodynamic stall. Therefore, using this methodology for approach-to-stall recovery training can be classified as “negative” training. While airline pilots need to be trained to recognize and avoid the approach-to-stall condition, they also need to be trained how to appropriately recover from a full aerodynamic stall. This full-stall training should include exposure to all aircraft systems designed to warn of an impending stall and/or aid the pilots in recovering from a stall (i.e. stick shaker, stick pusher, speed tape and low-speed cues, AOA indicators, etc.).
Further, there has been too little emphasis in initial and recurrent airline pilot training on aerodynamic instruction. Pilots are generally not receiving sufficient academic training in the proper use of primary and secondary flight controls, the aerodynamics of high altitude flight and the aerodynamics of upset recovery specific to the type of aircraft the pilot flies. Too often, airlines incorrectly assume that pilots received this training before they were hired or that that they retain this knowledge received from prior employers or other training organizations. Airlines should implement an enhanced URT program to ensure that their pilots develop and retain the necessary knowledge of aerodynamics necessary to avoid, recognize and recover from upset events.
The use of Full Flight Simulators (FFS) for unusual attitude training and URT can be an effective tool. However, there are limitations to what can accurately be portrayed in a FFS. The URTA clearly presents how effective training can be accomplished through a combination of academics and appropriate use of FFS. Unfortunately, as this training is not mandated by the regulator, the use of the URTA has been rather limited for this purpose.
While most FFSs do not accurately replicate flight outside an aircraft’s normal envelope, including a full stall, it is still adequate for unusual attitudes and upset recovery training. To avoid negative training, pilots should be taught that the simulator does not represent the actual flight characteristics outside the normal envelope and that the purpose of the training is to become familiar with recovery techniques and aircraft systems.
The use of traditional maneuvers-based training to acquire the initial necessary knowledge and skill to avoid, recognize and recover from an in-flight upset is appropriate. However, once the initial knowledge and skill set is attained, instructors should endeavor to have the flight upset training event occur at an unexpected time so that the psychological aspects of the “startle factor” that relate to an actual aircraft upset can be replicated in the synthetic environment to the maximum extent possible.
Pilots would also benefit from the addition of flight instrumentation that allows the pilot to recognize and recover from upsets in the appropriate manner. For example, the addition of an Angle of Attack (AOA) indicator and a load meter in flight deck displays could be very beneficial to pilots in avoiding, recognizing and recovering an aircraft from an upset. Presently, most flight decks have no direct AOA indicator. In addition there is no load meter to help the pilot to maintain a recovery within the structural limits of the aircraft.
Finally, instructor pilots must have the knowledge and skills to provide realistic upset recovery training.
WHEREAS, ALPA’s Human Factors and Training Group and Training Council have identified In-Flight Loss of Control (ILOC) as one of the leading causes of aircraft accidents worldwide,
WHEREAS, the trend of ILOC is static or increasing in frequency,
WHEREAS, numerous international working groups and committees are currently addressing the need to enhance pilot training in the area of Upset Recovery Training, and
WHEREAS, enhanced and targeted Upset Recovery Training can improve the performance of pilots in avoiding, recognizing and recovering from aircraft upset events,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the ALPA Administrative Manual, Section 80, Part 5, be amended by adding new paragraph O., as follows:

In-Flight Loss of Control (ILOC) Training

ALPA supports the following ILOC training measures:

  1. Enhanced academic requirements for initial and recurrent pilot training on the aerodynamics of normal flight, approach to stall, impending stall, full stall and abnormal flight conditions, including the appropriate use of primary and secondary flight controls.
  2. The use of the highest fidelity Full Flight Simulators (FFS), including motion, for the purpose of training pilots in avoidance, recognition and recovery from unusual attitudes and upsets.
  3. Utilization of the industry-produced “Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid” as a validated and appropriate guide for upset recovery training and the use of FFS for this purpose.
  4. A requirement that all applicable aircraft systems be appropriately demonstrated in the specific type training for the purpose of upset recovery training. This includes training to recognize the first onset of a stall, through the development of a stall including use of stick shakers, stick pushers, other warning systems, and other aerodynamic situation indications.
  5. The implementation of enhanced training for instructors and evaluators on upset recovery training.
  6. Continued research into practical strategies to enhance pilot training in upset recoveries through improved training methodologies, hardware capabilities (i.e., AOA indicators, load meters) and training platforms (FFS, Flight Simulation Training Device, on-aircraft training). The outcome of such research should be specific and practical guidance to industry in preventing and mitigating the risks of ILOC through enhanced upset recovery training.

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