Rick Adams looks at new rules on unusual attitude training for pilots and the simulator versus ‘real air’ debate
“An interesting thing about both the Colgan 3407 and Air France 447 events is that the pilots had been properly trained. They should have known what to do. But somehow they weren’t able to apply that when they got into an aircraft upset condition,” says Andrew McKechnie, Director of McKechnie Aviation, based near London’s Gatwick Airport.
A British Airways pilot for 17 years and former UK Civil Aviation Authority flight operations and training inspector, McKechnie more recently has been working with aircraft operators to help prepare them for new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations, which he helped craft as part of EASA’s rulemaking committee. The new rules came into force earlier this month and there are new proposed requirements for pilot training which may take effect in two years.
“I’m trying to help instructors get their pilots to the state where they not only know what to do but they’re actually able to apply that in a practical way,” he comments.
In early May, a modification to the EU Air Operations regulations kicked in for recurrent and conversion pilot training. Commercial operators in Europe, which also includes business aircraft charter operations, must now incorporate theoretical (classroom) and practical (simulator) training for upset prevention and recovery, in their pilot training.
Pilots do not need to have completed the training as yet; however, any training that takes place going forward should comply with the new requirements. ”The operators need to incorporate recovery training into their three-year recurrent training cycle. An operator could choose to do that all in one detail or split the different exercises across different details over the three years,” McKechnie explained. The requirement also covers pilots who convert to a new aircraft type or new-hire pilots for a commercial operator.
McKechnie told EVA, “In some ways it’s easier for business jet operators and in some ways it’s harder. It’s the responsibility of the operator; the Aircraft Operator’s Certificate (AOC) holder has to make sure this is going into the training programme. Which is difficult because they don’t tend to have their own simulators.
“What makes it easier is that they go to the big training organisations like CAE or FlightSafety, and as long as those guys have incorporated routines for the new training, the operators should just have to update their manuals and get the approval.”
McKechnie says some operators started adapting to the new requirement six to nine months ago. “There are a few just dealing with it now. I suspect there may be several who haven’t yet realised what’s going on.”
No sim mods for now
The new EASA UPRT (upset prevention, recovery and training) rule does not dictate any modifications to existing flight simulators. Training can be done on a Level C or Level D full-flight simulator, or even a Level B if the operator “can show that all the characteristics of the simulator relevant to upset recovery training are equivalent to Level C or D,” notes McKechnie. “The emphasis is really on using the devices available at the moment and making sure that we deliver effective training in those devices.”
The focus first is on instructors being competent and current to deliver upset-oriented training. ”A big part of instructor training is to help them understand the limitations of doing this kind of training on a flight simulator. Flight simulators are not designed to get into extreme upset conditions. You’re going beyond the validated training envelope. So what we need to do in the simulator is to teach the correct recovery techniques rather than reproduce every possible upset scenario.”
“The simulator is just a training device; it doesn’t fly like the airplane at all times. Instructors also need to convey to the student the stuff that’s missing from the simulator. Part of that is psychological, the surprise and startle effect, the fear factor. But just as important are the physiological effects, things you can’t replicate in a simulator, the most important of those probably being g-loading. You can do recovery manoeuvres and if you’re sitting in a simulator you don’t feel any of that g-effect. We need to make sure crews understand that so that if you get into the same situation on the aircraft they’ll know what to expect.”
UPRT for all: 2018
The next step in EASA’s UPRT game plan is expected to take effect in April 2018. A Notice of Proposed Amendment (2015-13, Loss of control prevention and recovery training) issued last September intends to integrate upset prevention and recovery training into flight syllabi for aeroplane licensing training courses: Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), Private Pilot Licence (PPL), and Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) … as is already the case with the airline-focused Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL).
EASA stated: “The proposed training requirements aim to provide pilots with competencies to prevent upsets or to recover from developed upsets.”
“Upset prevention training and upset recovery training are quite different disciplines,” said McKechnie. “Most requirements for upset prevention training, I think, operators are doing already. It’s just a matter of going through their existing programs and making sure they are not missing anything, plugging any gaps.”
Upset recovery training, though, has not been previously mandated, though some operators have sent pilots to training programmes conducted by Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) or other UPRT specialists.
“The important thing in training is not only the techniques to recover from each scenario but to give the pilots a methodology, a means to work through so that once they’ve seen that there’s an upset they recognise the nature of the upset, they remember what they’re supposed to do to recover from it, and then they apply the recovery action rather than just grabbing the controls and doing something,” McKechnie explains.
Similar, but different
EASA’s proposed UPRT training closely follows the Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (Doc 10011) issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The manual was derived from years of subject expert discussions by the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE) and the Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training (LOCART) working group initiated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Where the EASA requirements currently diverge from the FAA’s UPRT training requirements – scheduled to take effect in 2019 (for Part 121 air carriers but not yet for bizjets) – is full-stall training in the flight simulator. EASA said “several EU Member States … expressed their interest in and support for introducing full-stall training,” so they are following such developments by aircraft manufacturers to provide validated data in support of such capability.
In all likelihood, since business aircraft training providers will be modifying flight simulators to address FAA requirements, full-stall exercises will become increasingly available, especially in new simulators and for more popular aircraft models.
For the ATPL training course, as well as the first aircraft type-rating, EASA is advocating upset recovery training in an aeroplane, though in a small aerobatic aircraft, not an airline transport. “For many student pilots this training is foreseen to provide them with increased resilience against the psychological and physiological effects often associated with aeroplane upset conditions, thereby enabling student pilots to better apply effective strategies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to recover from actual developed upsets.” However, the agency also cautions that manoeuvres with more than 90 degrees bank “may have an impact on the psychological health of certain student pilots. This in turn could lead to the discontinuation of their training.”
One veteran pilot posted in an online forum: “Let’s teach guys to recover from a scary semi-out-of-control situation … train the guys better in handling the aircraft the way it was designed to be flown, and well within design parameters, so that they don’t reach the edge of their own envelope, or the aircraft’s, but they know where both are. By having a better knowledge and experience of the aircraft envelope, you can be a true Pilot in Command and be more relaxed about recovery.”
A colleague responded: “Part of the problem is that teaching how to fly the aircraft as it was designed to be flown these days is precisely why the proposed amendment is necessary. Too little emphasis is placed on basic handling skills during initial training and a reliance on automatics has become increasingly necessary … whilst simultaneously training syllabi have been reduced in hours and content.”
Compared with typical stall or unusual attitude training conducted today, the EASA NPA covers considerably more ground. In addition to general and advanced aerodynamic characteristics, it addresses high and low altitudes, stick pusher activation and mach effects, g-awareness, instrument and automation failures, high bank angle recovery, a variety of nose-high and nose-low recoveries, as well as contributing factors of upsets (mechanical, pilot-induced, and environmental) and other knowledge.
Key BizAv UPRT players
Flightsafety International, the leading business aircraft training provider, was the first to introduce an FAA-approved expanded aerodynamic model for UPRT simulator training, now offered on a couple of Gulfstream devices. “There’s been some gnashing of teeth of people that have tried to recover from different scenarios in ways that they thought would work and when they ended up crashing the airplane because of it they say what’s wrong with this simulator, why did it do that?,” relates Dann Runik, Flightsafety Executive Director of Advanced Training Programs. *The answer is you exceeded the stall angle of attack and departed controlled flight. Really? So that’s what that feels like?
Thus far, Flightsafety does not believe there’s a need for in-aircraft upset recovery training. “We get to do those kinds of things now that you could never do in the real airplane. You get to do them low to the ground. As you see the ground coming up quickly at you, we can train to fight against that instinct to pull because that will only make the stall deeper and you’ve got to be able to learn to push the nose down, even with the ground coming up at you quickly, and then recover from that dive after you recover from the stall, so those low-altitude things are something you could never practice in the real airplane – it’d be way too dangerous,” Runik told EVA.
“Even in an aerobatic airplane you would never do stalls like that low to the ground. When you’re that high you don’t get any ground rush. You’re just recovering from a stall at altitude. You don’t see trees growing in size rapidly. And houses growing in size rapidly as you approach the ground.”
Montréal, Canada-headquartered CAE has developed instructor-driven scenarios. “We were the first company to include the upset recovery package inside the simulator,” claims Marc St-Hilaire, Vice President, Technology and Innovation. The EASA- and FAA-approved package comes on new CAE Series 7000XR Level D flight simulators and may become available as a retrofit for older devices.
Textron’s TRU Simulation + Training is incorporating full-stall training capability in multiple new flight simulators in development for Beechcraft models. New President and CEO Ian K Walsh said, “Our strategic focus in business aviation right now is to build the simulators that we need to support the current Textron OEM product lines. We already have some out there, and there are a lot of new opportunities because we are building new platforms.”
UPRT pioneer APS – which has trained more than 7,500 pilots – now offers training in four locations: its headquarters in Mesa, Arizona; the Dallas, Texas area; Breda airport, The Netherlands (between Amsterdam and Brussels); and at the Saudi Aviation Flight Academy, Riyadh. Insurers USAIG and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions both offer premium discounts or reimbursements to aviation departments which send pilots to APS’ in-aircraft training.
The NBAA Safety Committee, which has identified Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) as one of its top safety issues, recently selected APS President Paul BJ Ransbury to lead the LOC-I working group.