TOPIC: How Does What You Learn at APS Apply to Your Aircraft?
Karl “Schlimmer” Schlimm
ATP, CFI, Multi IFR, 2 x MCFI-A
Former USAF F-16 Fighter Pilot & Instructor
Randy “Random” Brooks
ATP, CFI, Multi IFR, 3 x MCFI-A
Air Show Hall of Fame Inductee
One of the most frequently asked questions from pilots considering APS’s Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) course is, “How can training in a high-performance aircraft like the Extra 300L or the Marchetti S211 jet benefit me when I fly my aircraft?” They are perhaps aware the Extra 300L (or similar aircraft) has a phenomenal roll rate and G capability, that it has a stick versus a yoke, and there are undoubtedly other noteworthy differences from the aircraft they typically fly. How, then, can training in a high-performance aircraft possibly benefit the pilot of a business jet or other general aviation aircraft? What about pilots of multi-engine or airline aircraft?
In short, not only are the UPRT skills pilots learn in high-performance aircraft transferable to other types of swept-wing jet aircraft, there are also significant advantages to conducting UPRT in aerobatic aircraft. Only on-airplane UPRT platforms that adhere to the best practices and guidelines set forth by regulatory agencies such as ICAO (see ICAO UPRT Manual Doc 10011 in Section 126.96.36.199) should be used. The bottom line is preserving an appropriate margin of safety in the delivery of training.
Before we get to the advantages of an Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) program in an all-attitude capable jet or piston aircraft versus other airplane types, we’ll mention a few differences.
Differences Between All-Attitude Capable and Other Aircraft in UPRT:
Seating Position: The Extra 300L has tandem seating; you sit on the centerline of the aircraft. This does present slightly different visual cues than a side-by-side seating configuration.
Field of View: Because of the bubble canopy, the Extra 300L affords an excellent field of view. The pilot’s ability to look outside (and look for the horizon to maintain orientation) is not restricted by a cabin roof, structural supports, and other restrictions associated with most aircraft. It is therefore easier to look around and find the horizon. The benefit of this difference may not be immediately apparent, but the greater viewing angles help pilots to develop a more complete picture of the aircraft’s orientation in space. Once pilots have acquired this “big picture” it is easier for them to retain that perspective even when a larger expanse of the external horizon is impeded by a roof our other aircraft structure.
Stick vs. Yoke: Most transport or general aviation aircraft have a yoke. Although the principles of operation are the same, the stick of the Extra 300L will feel somewhat different than a yoke. Pilots, in general, find it easy to transition to a stick with just a few minutes of practice.
Position of the Controls: In the Extra 300L, the throttle is on the left side, and the stick is held with the right hand. Therefore, the pilot must get used to manipulating the throttle with the left hand, and the elevator and ailerons with the right hand. The transition is straight forward, and any confusion is usually ironed out after the first couple of warm up maneuvers on the first flight.
Handling Characteristics: The Extra 300L is a very responsive aircraft. That said, it is fairly easy to fly, and has no tricks up its sleeves. While the maximum roll rate is high, it doesn’t mean it must always be used. Smooth and moderate stick deflections restrict rolling inputs to that of the operational aircraft being trained for. Needless to say, full aileron deflection may be necessary in the aircraft that you typically fly.
G Capability: Many customers have concerns about the high-G capability of the Extra 300L. I’ll lay that concern to rest immediately by saying that all maneuvering demonstrated and practiced is performed only to the limit load factor of the aircraft that the student normally flies. If you fly a Cessna Citation, we’ll teach you to keep the G’s to 2.5. If you fly a Cessna 172, we will teach you recoveries under 3.8 G’s. One thing that is totally transferable between aircraft is the feeling of acceleration experienced by the pilot. While it isn’t a good idea to maneuver aircraft to their limit loads, the G capability of the Extra 300L allows pilots to practice G management up to their limit loading with a comfortable margin of safety.
Tail Dragger: The Extra 300L is a taildragger. The point of UPRT is not practicing takeoffs and landings. Being a taildragger makes no difference in the delivery of UPRT since it behaves like any other aircraft once airborne.
Advantages of Using All-Attitude Capable Aircraft in UPRT:
There are some differences with utilizing an aircraft such as the Extra 300L or the SIAI Marchetti S211 for UPRT, but what are the advantages?
We don’t have a choice! The use of a structurally sound all-attitude capable aircraft is essential to conduct UPRT to the comprehensive level that pilots need to acquire life-saving skills in an emergency upset event. While nearly any aircraft can safely recover from most unusual attitudes in the hands of a well trained pilot (that’s what the training is all about), it is neither legal nor advisable to purposefully fly a non-aerobatic aircraft in a manner that would be considered aerobatic maneuvering. The margin for error is slim. We must therefore use a structurally sound aerobatic aircraft with the aerodynamic capability to recover from any potential situation encountered in training.
Safe Environment: The Extra 300L in the hands of an experienced instructor provides an extremely safe environment to conduct UPRT. The high structural strength of the Extra 300L combined with its very forgiving nature and the fact that there are no prohibited maneuvers makes it a very safe UPRT platform. This allows the student a much larger margin for making mistakes and learning from them.
Skills Are Transferable: While saying that all airplanes fly the same is a gross oversimplification, it is true on a very fundamental level, and transferable skills are invaluable. The overall physics, energy management, and general aerodynamic considerations apply across a wide range of aircraft. At APS, we teach skills that are applicable across an extremely wide spectrum of fixed-wing aircraft. For instance, manipulating the throttle to adjust power works whether you must use your left or right hand. Pushing on the elevator control to move the elevator to the appropriate position applies whether you happen to be pushing a stick or a yoke. And rolling is intuitively obvious again, whether you must turn the yoke, or shove the stick to the side. Regardless of the subtle differences in how you get the controls to move, the strategic considerations and prioritization of inputs do not change in a fundamental sense.
Still, it is beneficial, when attending a UPRT course to give some thought to the differences between the Extra 300L and your aircraft. If there is specific guidance in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the airplane that you typically fly that would suggest a modified control application, then you should do so, and a properly qualified instructor pilot will teach you to do that.
Other Transferable Skills: Many of the advantages of completing a UPRT course are non-aircraft specific. In other words, they are directly transferable to any aircraft that you might fly.
Knowledge: A good UPRT course will vastly expand your awareness of how an airplane really flies. It offers a different perspective on the basic aerodynamics you may have already learned. Knowledge of the performance envelope of an aircraft, dynamics of turning flight, and of the aerodynamics of stalls and spins, etc., is essential regardless of the airplane you fly.
Situational Awareness: A solid UPRT program expands your awareness of what is going on around you. Skills aside, just having the opportunity to see a spin or inverted nose low unusual attitude will help prevent an undesired aircraft state from developing and reduce the chances that you might panic should you find yourself in an escalating attitude divergence or flight regime in your aircraft.
Orientation: An EMT course will teach you to maintain orientation. In other words, it will allow you to quickly ascertain you spatial relationship with the horizon. Always knowing whether you are nose high or nose low, right side up or upside down, is extremely important in making a timely and correct recovery from any attitude.
The Ability to Make Decisions in a High Pressure Environment: Normal flight regimes experienced during, say, a cross-country flight in your aircraft, afford you the luxury of extra time to make a decision. If the weather is bad at the destination airport, you normally have ample time to consider different courses of action. However, recovering from an unexpected aircraft upset does not allow ample time. A decision must be made and acted on expeditiously. Even though your instructor will ensure that maneuvers are performed at very safe altitudes, you know the aircraft is structurally capable, and the instructor is experienced, you can’t help but get a rush of adrenaline when nose low, near inverted with a windshield full of ground, and accelerating rapidly! The same sensations will occur in your aircraft! It is important to learn to think clearly, make correct decisions, and react quickly in such a high pressure environment.
Kinesthetic Feel: Developing a feel for what different G-forces feel like, and for G-onset rate (how quickly those forces build say, in a dive recovery) is critical in ensuring that you keep your aircraft within its structural limits. Also, developing a feel for when an airplane is not coordinated (when practicing skidded and slipping flight) is important, because recognition of such a condition in your airplane will help you to get back to coordinated flight.
Overcoming Spatial Disorientation: Practicing upset recoveries allows you to learn to trust your eyes (“visual dominance”) and not your vestibular cues (“vestibular suppression”). This takes practice.
Value: The advantages of using all-attitude capable aerobatic aircraft for upset training outweigh the limitations and provides more effective training and greater retention. It isn’t often that you can get a better experience for a lower cost, but this is the case with upset training. The cost to use this type of aircraft is less than using a business aircraft to do the job and in fact, the higher cost of training in a business aircraft can even result in higher risk training decisions. Because of the higher operating costs for business aircraft, some providers offer a UPRT program with less fights, which results in mere exposure to upset training rather than the optimal amount of hands-on experience necessary to truly ingrain the skills pilots will need to access in an in-flight upset event.
Use of Business Jets in UPRT
While it might seem that the similarities that a business jet UPRT platform might be advantageous to those flying corporate jet aircraft would be, there are two important considerations that reduce the effectiveness and safety of such a training aircraft. The first element concerns the effectiveness of training. In other words, how well can the business jet training platform impart the necessary skills required in an airplane upset?
Because a business jet used in UPRT will have limitations similar to any other certified multi-engine jet, it won’t be able to take you to the places in the envelope you truly need to go in UPRT to become familiar with aircraft behavior and characteristics outside of the normal envelope. With no certified recovery from cross-controlled stalls leading to spin entry, and no significantly improved structural margins over other aircraft, the business jet can’t demonstrate some of the very behaviors pilots need to be prepared for in an unanticipated upset event.
Unfortunately, the less comprehensive UPRT that the business jet platform allows comes at an elevated risk in comparison to the Extra 300L or SIAI Marchetti S-211 jet. The more restrictive structural and aerodynamic limits of the business jet, along with a lack of egress (bailout) capability, results in reduced margins of safety over the all-attitude capable Extra 300L and SIAI Marchetti S-211.
Tying it All Together
To summarize, practicing recoveries during a UPRT course allows you to correlate control inputs, visual cues (what the aircraft is doing in relation to the horizon), vestibular sensations (inner ear), kinesthetic sensations (“seat-of-the pants” feel), and aural cues (wind rush, engine sounds). This environment cannot be fully duplicated in a simulator.
We know there are some differences in conducting a UPRT program in a high-performance aircraft like the Extra 300L. There are control and handling differences between the Extra 300L and the aircraft you currently fly, which must be considered. But the advantages outweigh the limitations, and the skills apply to just about any airplane you could fly. In addition, there are plenty of non-aircraft related advantages in completing an UPRT program; such training is valuable to any pilot. For corporate and airline pilots, simulator training is essential, but UPRT is an essential complement to simulator training.
Hopefully, we’ve answered some of the questions you might have about the differences between the Extra 300L and your aircraft, and of how skills taught at APS are transferable to your aircraft. Just being armed with knowledge of these differences will make you better prepared to maximize the benefit of UPRT training.
What is your best defense in aircraft unusual attitude or upset conditions?
- First, attempt to avoid conditions that can induce unusual attitudes in the first place! Steer clear of thunderstorms and wake turbulence. Avoid IMC or flight into low visibility conditions if not properly certificated and trained. Avoid distractions.
- Second, get the proper training. According to an article in AW&ST (May 8, 1995 issue): “Training should include flights in aerobatic aircraft to practice recovery techniques because no simulator can model the disorientation of actually being upside down… recurrent training every two years, with time in an actual aircraft, would be a good start.” Regardless of the aircraft that you fly, proper training will enable you to learn to react decisively in a high-pressure environment, and to learn proper recovery techniques to avoid a “panic” response that could worsen the situation.
- Contact APS: Certainly, we would like to take this opportunity to recommend our program at APS which offers multiple course options to choose from. Please give us a call and ask to speak with a flight training specialist or submit the online form below for more information today!