Comment received regarding Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid – Revision 2 (AURTA Rev 2), versus Airplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Aid – Revision 3 (AUPRTA – Rev 3).
Situation: Feedback on the APS 737 MAX Loss of Control: Survivable Catastrophes Webinar
APS received pointed feedback on the webinar’s use of ‘Airplane Upset’ definition from the Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid – Revision 2 (AURTA Rev 2) and, while acknowledging its existence, not using the definition presented in the Airplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Aid – Revision 3 (AUPRTA Rev 3):
“I was disappointed by the introduction, focusing on the outdated AURTA Rev 2 and ignoring the focus on PREVENTION that is the core of AUPRTA rev3…One problem with the approach taken in the webinar is that it focused on recovery from the -10° pitch situation, whereas AUPRTA Rev 3 definition of UPSET would trigger action already when the aircraft gets out of trim through MCAS activation.”
Note: The following response has been revised somewhat compared to the actual response provided to ensure sufficient context and background are established for the general reader to gain maximum value from the insights shared.
Most importantly, thank you for the pointed and insightful feedback on this aspect of the APS 737 Max webinar. This is exactly the kind of engagement we hope to generate as the industry gets more involved in this highly specialized, and sometimes-complex, domain of modern Upset Prevention and Recovery Training.
First, our use of the ‘airplane upset’ definition from the Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid – Revision 2 (AURTA Rev 2) was intentional and necessary. Second, APS is fluent in the content, positioning, and relative value of the Airplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Aid – Revision 3 (AUPRTA Rev 3). For background and a deeper understanding of the APS perspective on these industry resources, please review the following white paper from 2017:
Many pilots are not familiar with the two references mentioned, yet these resources establish the foundation for modern Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). The first, as mentioned earlier, is the Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid – Revision 2 (AURTA Rev 2). Begun in 1996 and first published in 1998, it benefitted from the assistance of over 40 separate airline, regulatory, training, research, and pilot trade organizations. The final version (Revision 2 of this document) incorporating high altitude aerodynamic considerations, is the version currently recognized by the FAA and most other regulatory agencies and safety organizations.
Does AURTA Rev 2 Say Wait for Specific Pitch and Bank Parameters to Trigger Recovery Action?
No, it doesn’t. What is interesting is that AURTA Rev 2 is still the version of this document accepted by the FAA despite the publication of a follow-on document. The document including the ‘Revision 3’ terminology was retitled as the Airplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Aid (AUPRTA Rev 3), reflecting a greater emphasis on the mitigation of Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) through prevention while removing essential content. However, to your point on early action well before reaching the pitch and bank definitions of an upset, similar to AUPRTA Rev 3 you’ll find that AURTA Rev 2 specifically indicates that “it should be emphasized that recovery to a stabilized flight path should be initiated as soon as a developing upset condition is recognized” (AURTA Rev 2 – Section 2.2, Pg 2.1). It continues at the same reference “the amount and rate of control input to counter a developing upset must be proportional to the amount and rate of pitch, roll and/or yaw experienced. This preventive action (emphasis added) may alleviate what might have become a more serious event”.
AUPRTA Rev 3 was created largely to accomplish two things:
First, AUPRTA Rev 3 was to broaden the scope of aircraft addressed. AURTA Rev 2 only officially considers swept wing jets accommodating 100 passengers or more. AUPRTA Rev 3 also incorporated considerations for regional turboprops and smaller Regional Jets.
Second, an additional goal of AUPRTA Rev 3 was to streamline or distill important points into a more concise document due to the belief that the reference was not being utilized because it was simply too long for most to fully take in. While an understandable goal, unfortunately some very valuable information was left out that was not available in other locations. One possible reason for this regression was that AUPRTA Rev 3 was undertaken not by the broad coalition of industry stakeholders involved in the original effort as done in AURTA Rev 2 and all previous versions, but only by representatives of aircraft manufacturers. While they are clearly best at determining how their equipment should be technically operated, they did not represent the full range of academic, training, research and other interests participating in the earlier work. This helps to explain the decision by the FAA and those with justifiable concerns with AUPRTA Rev 3 what was unfortunately lost through the process of the most recent revision.
Going back to the accident analyses presented in the 737 Max webinar, after reviewing your question, Capt. David Carbaugh–the main presenter–commented that he could have referred to the “Pre-Existing Conditions” elements in this webinar as “Opportunities for Prevention”. While better energy management, systems knowledge, and proficiency could have saved these crews and their passengers, there was no defined moment when “Recover!” became evident in the crews minds until far too late. The combined human factors impact of continuous stick shaker activation, confusing/conflicting caution and warning messaging, and their mistrimmed aircraft conspired to progressively impair the crews as events unfolded. It is at times like these that the greater upset definition specificity provided by Rev 2 provides a more robust threshold for action.
From the vantage point of APS’ delivery of fully-comprehensive integrated UPRT to more pilots than any other training provider in the world, while AUPRTA Rev 3 incorporates recent advances such as Threat and Error Management and the consequent emphasis on prevention, there are many safety-critical aspects and invaluable information from AURTA Rev 2 that were lost. Again, the APS White Paper Comparing Industry Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aids comprehensively addresses these issues.
Without robust UPRT, full understanding of the 6 Essential Considerations in All Upset Recoveries that must be managed in an upset is incomplete. Additionally missing in AUPRTA Rev 3 is the full appreciation of the human factors impacts of upset events that are absent from flight simulation. This allows for the prevalence of gaps in pilot competencies in the upset domain, rather than the resilience necessary for success in crisis.
Many real world considerations involved in upset prevention versus upset recovery will be discussed by the scenario described in our next webinar, Airbus A340 Severe Overspeed and Stall Recovery. In this high altitude upset which occurred over the Swiss Alps, the importance of the more robust definition of an ‘airplane upset’ per AURTA Rev 2 is again demonstrated to be superior and essential to effective UPRT implementation in line operations.
Every pilot specially at an airline level is trained to prevent upsets and to mitigate the prior or leading factors. I however relate to the approach made by APS in that the B 737 Max 8 upsets were without warning therefore there was a startle factor involved. There were really no impending alerts or prior warnings to crew that could clue them of the upcoming event. The reaction here must be then of correction and recovery from the Upset rather than prevention.
Therefore crew response should have been more aggressive in dealing with the resulting upsets seeing that the crew was no longer in the startle mode once the first upsets were experienced.
Hi Capt. Mc kie – Thank you for your ‘on target’ comments related to addressing upset events related to these industry resources. While there were opportunities for prevention in the 737Max events, a definitive parameter-defined cue, as a final layer of redundancy as addressed by the AURTA – Revision 2, to initiate pro-active recovery would have been beneficial to contributing to a positive outcome. These events were devastating tragedies indeed. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families. Again, thank you for your comments, sir.
I agree with the APS position on reliance on AURTA Revision 2 as the primary and comprehensive resource on UPRT. It is what we utilize for our UPRT flight training resource at the major airline I fly for. Indeed, Prevention is the emphasis, yet robust energy and flight path monitoring by both pilots, combined with formal requirements to announce “upset” in a timely fashion are necessary elements to overcome the “startle effect” and to begin the transition to recovery.
Hi Bryan – Thank you so much for leaving your expert thoughts on these important resources and their effective use across the industry. You are right on target, indeed!