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Elite Upset Training Instructors: 3 Required Elements for Safe and Effective UPRT Instruction

Who Is My UPRT Instructor?

Mitigating the number one fatal risk to every pilot on every flight, Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I), is critically important to the aviation industry and can be accomplished through Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). This training involves integrated academics, on-aircraft practice, and simulation where necessary, all facilitated by an advanced UPRT instructor. So, if you are sitting in the cockpit of a plane practicing advanced maneuvers that you are not experienced with, who will you need in the cockpit with you?

You need an instructor who is specifically qualified in the maneuvers you will be practicing, and you need an instructor who is comfortable in the all-attitude domain you will be flying in. You need an instructor who not only knows every nuance of the upset recovery maneuvers to be flown and the associated aerodynamics, but also has extensive experience in foreseeing and preventing potential errors, the experience to critique performance to perfect correct technique, and the ability to safely recover from any conceivable student responses. You need an instructor who can efficiently and effectively communicate correct technical principles and explain the transfer of these advanced skills to your aircraft in a manner that complies with proven industry best practices.

Your Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) instructor is the most critical factor to your training experience on every level. Your instructor has the greatest control over your safety; over how effectively you learn critical, lifesaving skills; and on your overall enjoyment of the course — because UPRT done properly will likely be one of the best training experiences of your career. Aviation regulatory authorities have given serious emphasis and issued sound warnings on the importance of a qualified instructor in delivering this transformative experience.

From FAA Advisory Circular on UPRT ( AC 120-111) :

“The key to effective UPRT is the instructor. The safety implications and consequences of applying poor instructional technique, or providing misleading information, are more significant in UPRT compared with some other areas of pilot training. Therefore, an essential component in the effective delivery of UPRT is a properly trained and qualified instructor who possesses sound academic and operational knowledge.”

And the ICAO Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (ICAO Doc 10011) warns:

“In UPRT the safety implications and the consequences of applying poor instructional technique or providing misleading information are arguably more significant than in some other areas of pilot training. Hence, an essential component in the effective delivery of UPRT is a properly trained and qualified instructor who possesses sound theoretical and operational knowledge relevant to the UPRT content.”

The good news is that a well qualified UPRT instructor has a life-saving impact on the aviation industry, and every pilot who finishes training under such an instructor will be a better, safer, more competent, and more confident pilot. With the right instructor, UPRT can provide a transformative learning experience in a pilot’s career development.

Here are the critical considerations in ensuring a UPRT instructor has the experience and expertise to make that outcome a reality:

Extensive Experience in All-Attitude and Normal Flight Operations

UPRT instructors must have a depth and breadth of career experience to give them knowledge that can only be obtained through years of practice and preparation. UPRT instructors should have all attitude experience as well as military flying experience or time flying large transport category aircraft in order to prepare them to teach UPRT in different domains and addressing various aircraft types.

Although instructors may be experienced in both normal flight operations and even all-attitude flight operations, UPRT, by definition, encompasses much that has not previously been included in standard flight training operations. Standard best practices, proper aeronautical decision making, and compliance with effective crew resource management procedures certainly go a long way towards reducing airplane upsets. These elements all help with the “P” in UPRT that speaks to the importance of effort and awareness in the avoidance of an in-flight upset event. In other words, “Upset Prevention” and normal line training are focused on helping pilots remain within the normal operating envelope.

On the other hand, “Upset Recovery” focuses on helping pilots return safely and effectively to the normal operating envelope if they encounter an airplane upset event. These two approaches complement each other by creating a robust system of redundancy or resiliency that maximizes both prevention, and if necessary, recovery. In other words, learning recovery techniques makes UPRT instructors and their students even better at preventing an upset in the first place. In order to become proficient in teaching advanced prevention and recovery, instructors cannot rely on their career experience alone, but must learn specialized UPRT knowledge and skills incorporating the best practices to teach these concepts, skills and strategies to other pilots.

Standardized UPRT Instructor Training Adhering to Industry Best Practices

Regardless of an individual’s background, all instructors assigned to provide training in a UPRT program should successfully complete a UPRT instructor qualification training course. The ICAO Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, Doc 10011 provides a non-exhaustive list of training elements appropriate for a UPRT instructor’s preparation for participation in delivering a UPRT program. Both initial qualification and recurrent training curriculum for UPRT instructors should address all these elements, as a minimum, to ensure that the instructor assigned to UPRT acquires and maintains the required UPRT knowledge levels and skill sets.


Elite UPRT instructors need specialization in numerous topics that are less essential during normal flight operations. Subjects such as human factors impacts, motion cueing, strategy-based crisis management, commercial airplane performance characteristics, transfer of skills, simplified instruction of complex concepts, and cross-aircraft transfer of UPRT skills and knowledge all take on greater importance when dealing with the upset domain.

One thing that becomes apparent when training instructors to deliver UPRT is the significant time required, even for instructors with considerable background and experience in the normal domain. A major reason for this is that the topic-specific expertise required for the delivery of comprehensive and effective UPRT includes information and skills not regularly used in the scope of normal line operations. This requires specialized training to instill a critical new and separate skill set for UPRT instructors. Additionally, training for UPRT instructors must be standardized to ensure fully qualified instructors, avoid negative training, and prevent instructor drift.

Ongoing Qualification and Development

As with any industry professional, and especially those whose jobs affect the safety of others, UPRT instructors must have a rigorous continuing education program that ensures instructors retain critical skills and proficiencies and stay on the cutting edge of industry developments. Third party, objective tests provide an excellent opportunity to check the skills of instructors and provide proof that a training company is adhering to best practices and ensuring standardized instruction by well-trained advanced instructors.

One example of third party accreditation is the Master Certified Flight Instructor – Aerobatics (MCFI-A) designation, an FAA-recognized national accreditation from Master Instructors. To achieve the MCFI-A designation, an instructor must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to excellence, professional growth, and service to the aviation community and must pass a rigorous evaluation by a peer board of review. Maintaining this accreditation demonstrates a commitment to keeping advanced piloting skills to the highest standards.

Safety organizations such as IS-BAO can also provide a check and balance to UPRT providers. These organizations help a company ensure safety standards followed by instructors meet the highest levels and are being followed consistently.


Because the skill sets required for teaching effective UPRT are different from operating in the normal envelope, properly trained, qualified, instructors following a consistent, standardized approach are the most essential element for success in the quest to mitigate LOC-I.

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