Safety Article

In the process of obtaining a tail wheel endorsement recently, I was also introduced to the benefits of Upset Recovery Training (UPRT). I had always understood the value of spin awareness and recovery training while teaching potential CFI’s but had never been able to perform outside the envelope of most training aircraft and recognized that many pilots that do not pursue a CFI Certificate never get past a basic stall. 


The General Aviaiton Safety Fact Sheet released in October 2017 indicates a disturbing trend as the number one cause of fatal accidents were directly related to Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I) accidents. The number two cause was Controlled Flight into Terrain, which due to the lack of cockpit and instrument recording equipment in most GA aircraft might actually be indirectly related to LOC-I.  This leading cause of accidents indicates that pilots are not correctly recovering from an upset, but why would we expect them to? UPRT goes beyond basic stalls and unusual attitudes experienced in pilot training but is not standard in most training syllabi. Why? Well, that is simple. Most training aircraft prohibit spin entries or spins, and regulations clearly state that over banking or over pitching an aircraft becomes and aerobatic maneuver requiring the correct aircraft, and if not part of a required training for a certificate, requiring parachutes for the crew (Far 91.303, 91.307). The test standards for pilots do not require pilots to be tested in scenarios where LOC-I accidents occur, so the first time these are experienced by pilots it is often overwhelming and their natural reactions are incorrect and frequently fatal. According to the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook “To develop the crucial skills to prevent LOC-I, a pilot must receive upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT), which should include: slow flight, stalls, spins, and unusual attitudes.” The FAA continues “Upsets are not intentional flight maneuvers, except in maneuver-based training; therefore, they are often

unexpected. The reaction of an inexperienced or inadequately trained pilot to an unexpected abnormal flight attitude is usually instinctive rather than intelligent and deliberate. Such

a pilot often reacts with abrupt muscular effort, which is without purpose and even hazardous in turbulent conditions, at excessive speeds, or at low altitudes. Without proper upset recovery training on interpretation and airplane control, the pilot can quickly aggravate an abnormal

flight attitude into a potentially fatal LOC-I accident. Consequently, UPRT is intended to focus education and training on the prevention of upsets, and on recovering from these events if they occur.”


So, how do we teach our students about this flight regime which is outside the test or certification requirements and most likely far outside our normal flight envelope? The answer is to acquire the training from an individual or organization which is proficient in UPRT training in an aircraft which is capable of placing the trainee in areas which are prohibited in other aircraft. If you can imagine a small box, one that limits the flight envelope and is not the parameters where loss of control is frequently experienced, this is where your average pilot trains. Now, imagine a box much larger surrounding that box, expanding the operational envelope of the training, this is the area where the loss of control accident occurs, and where beneficial training can be received. 


 In 1949 the FAA removed the requirement for spin training from the private pilot training requirements due to the number of stall-spin accidents, and the number of related accidents 

immediately decreased. However the LOC-I continues to be the leading cause of fatal accidents. The majority of pilot groups most represented in the trend are private pilots and commercial pilots with a sizeable number of these accidents happening in the training environment. Most of the newly certified business jet aircraft from VLJ’s to BBJ’s require upset recovery training as part of the pilot training. This is due to number of LOC-I related accidents encountered by this group. IATA has also published a study conducted between 2010-2014 citing leading causes of LOC-I accidents. 


The choice of including UPRT training in your program is ultimately up to you. One thing that has been proven over the years is that when a pilot is placed outside the normal flight training envelope, they do not react well and often make mistakes that could be corrected in advanced training. Several training maneuvers including power-on, accelerated, secondary, and cross controlled stalls can lead to a loss of control situation which many new CFI’s may not have the proficiency to properly recover from. The average CFI has only practiced stalls on one flight and often feels inadequate about stalls and spins shortly after that initial training required for the CFI certificate. Also, putting aside CFI training, how many commercial pilots that do not rise to the CFI training for a multitude of reasons could benefit from UPRT training since otherwise they will never be required to recover from a spin or upset situation?


Hopefully this article has provided some food for thought. There are many excellent advanced training facilities available across the country. Many basic flight training providers have contracted with these facilities to provide advanced training to their pilots on a regular basis as they see the value in providing experience outside the normal flight envelope. If you have questions, several of the members of the Utah Flight Training Consortium can share their experiences and give you some experiential advice. 


Fly safe everyone and let’s all try to keep track of which way is up!


Craig Davis

Aviation Safety Director, SUU