Upset Prevention & Recovery Training for Student Pilots

Upset Prevention & Recovery Training:  An Unique 3-D Experience

Hello, my name is Sylvie van Bommel.

Currently, I am student pilot pursuing a dream; the desire to get airborne by my own means! In a few weeks I hope to be the proud holder of my very own Private Pilot License. As I write this letter, I have flown approximately 55 hours and, without question, am an aviation rookie at best. I recently had the pleasure of received advanced flight training at the Aviation Performance Solutions’ (APS) training facility in the Netherlands in Europe.

Why Upset Prevention & Recovery Training as for me?

As a new pilot, it is clear that learning how to manage emotional and psychological responses are critical to safe piloting both now and in the future. The way we, as pilots, react to and handle the uncertainty of unusual and emergency situations that come our way in our aviation careers will have an enormous influence on the safety of each particular event’s outcome. For example, my flight training to date has prepared me for the basics of remaining safe as a private pilot. Unfortunately, the planes we fly in during ab-initio licensing training are not certified to experience fully developed airplane upset conditions beyond certain, angle of attack, pitch and bank limitations. Other than initial actions to prevent an airplane upset and a few template stall exercises, pilots can only perform advanced recovery techniques conceptually or on paper unless they seek out a specialty provider. This means that many aspects of aviation’s most lethal threat to air safety, loss of control in-flight (LOC-I), remain outside the experience, awareness and skills provided to us as private and professional pilots throughout our licensing training.

Life experience demonstrates that in times of intense emotion we don’t necessarily think clearly or take appropriate actions. Consider these observations:

▪                Selective attention – Under stressful situations, most people tend to narrow their focus and limit the number of cues they perceive, which results in the presence of an incomplete or unbalanced picture of what is actually going on. Acting on limited information can possibly worsen the situation especially in a counter-intuitive situation like many airplane upsets.

▪                Tunnel vision – Related to selective attention above, tunnel vision (or fixation) can occur, for example, when an instrument is not working correctly or recently failed. The distracted pilot tends to obsess about minute specifics at the expense of continuing to remain aware of the big picture.

▪                “Hair on fire” reactions – In the absence discipline and relevant experience, people tend to either freeze or panic in situations they seeming or actually require immediate action or in situations that develop quickly beyond their experience level.

The above cognitive and behavioral challenges can elevate the holistic thinking needed, as in an airplane upset situation, into a matter of life or death. Psychologically challenging conditions within a controlled and specialized training environment as provided by APS can bring the extreme and demanding nature of the conditions of a real-life upset closer to us, and can improve our ability to properly channel and control the energy of our emotional responses under pressure. Properly delivered UPRT can teach pilots how to react intelligently and effectively in an upset situation.

The Promise

APS Upset Prevention & Recovery Training covers the theory behind, and practical mitigation of, a wide diversity of unintended loss of control in flight conditions. Pilots with varying experience and certification levels learn how to safely recover from extreme flight attitudes thus preparing them for emergency flight condition situations associated with LOC-I. Some exercises during APS training in which the pilot learns to safely recover the aircraft are:  traditional power on/off stalls, advanced and uncoordinated stalls, incipient spins and spins, wake turbulence, rudder-, aileron-, elevator control failures and many more. A detailed listing of on-aircraft exercises is available on the APS Europe website at:

The Real Thing

Boy, this experience was an eye opener!

Signing-up was straight forward. When it came to the point of actually doing the training that was something very different! How intense and intimidating an upset situation feels in the real world despite being mentally and academically prepared for the anticipated experience! Imagine yourself upside down, with the horizon barely visible, all the while accelerating towards the ground and having the pressure on you, the pilot in training, to recover … how exhilarating!

I went through the course discovering the boundaries of the performance capabilities of the airplane I personally fly in as a private pilot (although we used the aerobatic-certified Slingsby T200 as a surrogate platform) and repeatedly practicing transferrable skills. After going through many unusual attitudes, emergency flight conditions and advanced stalls, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “What would I have done in a real world airplane upset if I had not had this specialized training?” There’s one thing I know for sure: I am a safer pilot now, having completed the course.

In Conclusion

The techniques, knowledge and skills taught by APS Europe gave me a better understanding of the unknown and improved my ability to handle the unexpected. The instructor’s ability to explain difficult aerodynamic principles, combined with a calm instructional manner airborne, gave me the knowledge and confidence to perform in extreme situations and to find the right balance between trusting the instruments, preventing a developing upset condition and how to apply ‘seat of the pants’ to determine my angle of attack and/or load factor, not ‘seat of the pants’ flight attitude.

Although I am a new pilot, it is my strong belief the program has something everybody to learn, no matter what level of flight experience, or type aircraft they fly … and it is exciting, joyful and rewarding to do!. As it has been said:

“Fore-warned is fore-armed!”

Sylvie van Bommel, Private Pilot