By Dr. Sunjoo K. Advani
Dr. Sunjoo Advani is chairman of the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Evelopes (ICATEE) and member of the Flight Simulation Group of the Royal Aeronautical Society. His company, International Development of Technology, based in Breda, The Netherlands, is specialized in designing and integrating engineering and research simulators for flight, medical rehabilitation, and driving applications. His areas of work include training system specification, simulator motion and visual cueing, and human factors. Tel: +31 655 737 345; Email: email@example.com
[Editor’s Introduction: Dr. Advani was a speaker at the RAeS Annual International Flight Crew Training Conference in London during September 2011. Following his presentation, he and I discussed how becoming comfortable and competent controlling an aircraft really begins with the first flight. I mentioned that I vividly remember how uncomfortable I was as a very young student pilot when my instructor first said "we're going to practice stalls." At that point in my career, anything over 30 degrees of bank and 5 degrees nose up or down was something I considered an unusual attitude.
A few hundred hours later, the idea of max performing my aircraft by flying to the edge of a stall and even doing inverted vertical rejoins had become second nature. I flew a supersonic aircraft that had one very clear directive -- "if you enter a spin, eject" yet we routinely operated on the very edge of the envelope with our students.
How did my skills and confidence go from a basic fear of losing control to having the ability to operate comfortably in all attitudes of flight and a full range of speeds? In my case, it was accomplished through a series of well designed training exercises, each of which built on the previous lessons learned.
It has often been said that UPRT requires competent and experienced instructors but how do we get to that point? How do we break the current instructional bias towards teaching only what is required for a flight check? How do we get our young instructors to develop enough skill and confidence to actually teach their students the basics of flight control through their aircraft's entire envelope so that when the student moves on a foundation has been established?
Dr. Advani generously agreed to share with IAFTP members what the ICATEE is doing in this regard.]
Loss-of-Control In Flight (LOC-I) remains today the number-one cause of fatal commercial aviation accidents. Loss-of-Control is often the result of airplane upsets, such as stalls or over banking. These are areas of the flight regime that, if entered with today’s training, are likely to lead to unpredictable and fatal outcomes, even though the likelihood of getting into these flight conditions may very low. With current licensing training, pilots have limited competencies to recover from significant upsets.
As an industry concentrating on improving training, we ask ourselves, what could possibly be done to prevent the recurrence of such jet upset incidents? How can we teach proper avoidance strategies, and if necessary, recovery techniques? What constitutes effective upset prevention and recovery training?
The challenge is to find a common causal thread, and define an effective solution.
The Flight Simulation Group of the Royal Aeronautical Society agreed to look forward by creating the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE). It is now over seventy members strong, with airframe manufacturers, airlines, aviation authorities and safety boards, simulator manufacturers, training providers (including upset recovery specialists), research institutions, and pilot representatives.
An integrated approach to effective UPRT
ICATEE has concluded that the only way to defining training solutions is to first clearly delineate the training needs. The inflow of pilots with exposure to an all-attitude, all envelope flight environment is rapidly declining as the availability of airmen with prior military exposure or similar civilian experience is decreasing. Experience with high angles-of-attack, increased g-loading, rapid maneuvering and situations that could induce spatial disorientation can be of benefit to recovering from potential upsets in transport-category aircraft.
No “Silver Bullet” Solution
Today, we simply do not adequately train pilots consistently to recognize, avoid, prevent and recover from upsets . Practical test standards for stall training that have emphasized “minimum loss of altitude” (even when altitude loss is not a factor) may be leading to negative training transfer when recovering from these threats.
Upset prevention and recovery involves three distinct and critical levels of mitigation. First, there is awareness, which includes a thorough understanding of aerodynamics, and knowledge of airplane upset causes. Secondly, in the event a threat begins to emerge, the pilot must use recognition and avoidance techniques in order to stay clear of the threat, without further compounding the situation. However, distractions, failures, or other factors can still lead to an actual upset; hence, the final hope is to accomplish an effective recovery to bring the airplane back to a controlled state. In some situations with large transport aircraft, such as the incipient spin, or worse – a fully-developed spin, recovery may not even be possible, making recognition, avoidance and prevention the most critical training elements. To train all three, a combination of academics and practical skills development is essential.
For academics training, there exists today an industry-developed guide book called the Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid. Unfortunately, it is not commonly integrated into training, and its use is not mandated. Furthermore, this aid is limited to large (100-plus passenger) swept-wing jets, whereas these problems also occur in regional aircraft, including turboprops.
Practical Training in Airplanes and Simulators
Aerobatic-capable aircraft, or specially-configured aircraft, can teach maneuvering skills and exposure to an all-attitude all-envelope environment. Familiarization with the limit loads and general flight dynamics can be very effective. The transfer of these skill sets to the multi-crew, glass cockpit, automation-enhanced environment takes place outside the actual in-flight lesson through a process of “differences training”. Flight simulators and academics can act as the bridge between basic skills, and application in the type-specific environment.
Clearly, it is not practical to teach UPRT in actual transport aircraft. Simulators (the logical replacement) are limited to the data acquired from the actual test aircraft. They cannot replicate the forces (g-effects) encountered in upset conditions, nor can they easily generate the sudden startle effect that occurs when a pilot discovers there is little time to apply life-saving control actions. The NTSB has identified several aircraft upset accidents in which inappropriate use of the simulator, and lack of instructor knowledge could have contributed to resulting accidents.
What can we do in today’s simulators and training curricula to better manage UPRT issues? Many factors have to be considered . Current flight simulator data can lead the pilot into believing that the aircraft remains docile and controllable at all times, even when it may not be. Enhanced data (derived from actual aircraft, or simply “representative”) can help pilots in becoming aware that, while initiating recovery of a stall, a roll control reversal, for example, or other effects could be encountered. Experts in ICATEE also agree that enhancements, albeit not even type-specific, may be a major step forward. Fortunately, with the involvement of research organizations like NASA, UTIAS and several academic experts, we will have the advantage of being able to extend existing models, and carry out more detailed analyses before drawing final conclusions.
Why Train in the Stall Zone?
Proposed FAA rule changes will require pilots to train avoidance and recovery from stalls, and are intended to contribute significantly to reducing LOC-I accidents. As stated in USA Today (11 May 2011), when referring to the Colgan Air 3407 crash, pilots are currently trained to avoid entering a stall at all costs but are never shown how to recover once they have entered a stall. “One key to preventing such accidents in the future will be more realistic training in simulators,” according to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
Still, why would a pilot need training beyond the stall warning?. Several recent airplane accidents all occurred with the stick shaker activated, with plenty of opportunity to recover, and where timely stall intervention did not occur. Inattention, inadequate or improper use of automation were also cited as causal factors. Therefore, exposing pilots to the general nature of these conditions is absolutely essential.
The Psychology of Startle
What psychologists call “startle” can affect the pilot’s decision-making capabilities and narrow his/her reactions down to basic primal instincts; it is in these conditions that the rote learned or first-reflexes are applied. In some cases, the initial reaction has proven wrong, and the time available for corrective action is limited.
The Instructor’s Crucial Role
Currently, simulators provide limited feedback regarding the condition of the airplane close to or inside an upset condition. In today’s practice, trainees regularly exceed the aerodynamic, structural, or aeroelastic envelope, as this is not displayed in the simulator. Providing this important feedback to the pilot and instructor could be a straightforward enhancement.
ICATEE Industry Implementation
Through a comprehensive training needs analysis, ICATEE has been able to define the training objectives, needs and means. There is no one, single place or environment where complete upset prevention and recovery training can be conducted. Integration and standardization of multiple resources in a properly structured manner is the key. By properly integrating academics, aircraft training, and simulator training, commercial aviation will achieve the maximum reduction in LOC-I related accidents.
Integrated UPRT is being embraced by major airlines. Recently, KLM Flight Academy announced it has mandated a module of UPRT to participants in its airline transport pilot program, using academics and aerobatic-capable aircraft provided through Phoenix-based APS Emergency Maneuver Training. Both organizations are ICATEE members.
ICATEE plans to recommend enhancements to the simulator requirements in ICAO document 9625 when revised in 2012. ICATEE will also issue a Manual of Upset Prevention and Recovery Training to ICAO in the same year. Furthermore, ICATEE will release through the Royal Aeronautical Society a UPRT Research and Technical Report, describing the processes utilized in ICATEE to find suitable solutions, and how future research will be used to fine-tune such solutions.
What do you think?
1 Brooks, R.L., “Aerobatics Versus Upset Prevention and Recovery Training”. CAT Magazine, Halldale Media Group, Issue 2, 2011.
2 Advani, S.K., Schroeder, J.A., and Burks, B., “What Really Can Be Done in Simulation to Improve Upset Training?”. In Proc. of AIAA Modeling & Simulation Technologies Conference, Toronto, Aug. 2010, AIAA 2008-CP