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Combating Loss of Control In-flight Through Overlay Training

Integrated Training Mediums

Whether it is a symphony playing seamlessly together, an athletic team working in unison, or the combination of flavors that harmoniously blend in your favorite meal, some of the finest things in life are the result of putting all the elements together in just the right way. This is the case with mitigation of Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) through Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), where coordinating different elements of training in the right manner produces the optimal outcome. 

What Do We Have to Work With?

First we need to understand what we are trying to accomplish through the three training components available: academics, on-aircraft training, and flight simulation. Each of these three training elements has unique advantages, but also limitations in addressing the multiple challenges pilots face in an upset. The goal is to overlay these various training elements in a manner that maximizes the platform advantages and minimizes the limitations. This integration of mediums gives pilots the optimal and most comprehensive training to correctly respond to an escalating or developed aircraft upset event.

Because it is neither safe nor efficient to take transport category aircraft to the regions of the aerodynamic envelope where pilots must go in order to practice skills required for resiliency in a crisis, these three channels of training must be superimposed in a manner that helps pilots develop the capabilities they must have in a time-critical, life threatening situation. It is through the correct introduction and handling of these key ingredients that pilots receive the most robust and lasting UPRT.

A Building Block Approach

The order of application of these elements is paramount. Just as any building must be built on a solid foundation, academics create the framework of understanding necessary for applied learning. This is essential in UPRT because current pilot licensing training does not require full explanation or understanding of the differences in aircraft behavior or handling characteristics outside of the normal envelope. Without this awareness, pilots perceive events and apply inputs appropriate to the normal aerodynamic envelope where they regularly fly. Unfortunately, many of these normal and natural responses become high risk, or even catastrophic, when applied in the upset domain.

While this intellectual preparation can help pilots to understand differences in aerodynamics and required control inputs that most are not aware of, that information may not be accessible when needed. When confronted with a potentially deadly aircraft upset pilots do not get smarter. Even simple information can become lost in a furious grasp for survival. The academic groundwork that has been laid is to help them understand the practical application they must pursue, and that must be accomplished in an airplane.

Why not a simulator? Because simulators, even the latest enhanced envelope simulators, cannot replace all of the elements a pilot must face in the immediate moment of an airplane upset. While simulators are amazingly realistic in the normal envelope where they were designed to be used, the dynamic, complicated, and often chaotic aerodynamic plight that can confront pilots in an airplane upset are not adequately modeled. For those situations, hands-on practice in actual flight is needed.

The Missing Element

More than missing aerodynamics, the most important element missing in simulation is also what makes it so valuable – safety. Without the perception of risk or threat of physical consequences pilots train in flight simulators with impunity. This is an utterly different situation than the one they will face in flight. The mind works differently when threatened or terrified. Cognition is slowed and analytical thought is lost. Only what has been ingrained through committed and deliberate practice remains. As an industry we have trained so long and so exclusively through flight simulation that we no longer miss what has disappeared. These missing realities have become invisible.

Enter the Airplane

In the airplane, the actual aerodynamic principles can be witnessed and psychophysiological stumbling blocks can be confronted and tamed. Inappropriate control responses can be corrected, and revised inputs can be mastered. However, in order to see and practice these crucial skills, we must have a platform that can allow for this disciplined exercise in an environment that provides an appropriate margin of safety; where risks can be controlled.

Purpose Built Platform

The training aircraft must allow the ability to practice G management up to the limit load of the operational airplane with an adequate structural margin. The airplane must also allow aerodynamic lessons to be learned in full without the risk of an unrecoverable situation. It is for these reasons that a transport category aircraft, which cannot provide the necessary margins of safety against either of these threats, is of limited training value. An all-attitude capable aircraft, certified and rated for training in the upset domain provides far superior ability to provide the lessons necessary for pilots to see and defeat the upset challenges they could face.

Into the Sim

Once these essential elements have been trained, the simulator can be used to practice acquired skills in a crew environment and at altitudes and in weather conditions that would be unsafe in the real world. The transferability of techniques learned in flight can be practiced with the limited visibility, reduced control response, and higher control forces of the operational aircraft. Today’s simulator enhancements provide Instructor Operating Station (IOS) improvements, and recording and display capabilities that make the UPRT task more effective and analytic.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

Putting all of these various elements of overlay training together, in the right order, in the right amounts to achieve the desired result, is both an art and a science. It is borne of experience, effort, and the caring and concern of trained, focused, and dedicated UPRT instructors who have the right ingredients in the right measure for the optimal development of life-saving skills. Overlay training is just one aspect of an upset training program that integrates critical components of effective UPRT. The Six Critical UPRT Implementation Factors for effective UPRT are represented in the graphic model of the Every Pilot In Control Solution Standard™ (EPIC-S2™). For more information, please see the interactive EPIC-S2 Upset Prevention and Recovery Training model here

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