Several fatal accidents wouldn’t have happened if the pilots had prevented an ‘aeroplane upset’ or had recovered from the upset once it occurred. In particular the accidents to Air France 447 on 1 June 2009 and Air Asia 8501 on 28 December 2014 both resulted in the loss of all passengers and crew on board. In these events the aircraft were controllable and could have been saved if the pilots’ actions had been different.
To reduce the risk of similar accidents EASA has amended regulations for pilot training and aircraft operations to ensure that commercial pilots get the training they need to prevent ‘aircraft upsets’ and to recover from upsets before they become catastrophic.
Prevention and Recovery
Prevention training helps pilots to avoid getting into an ‘aeroplane upset’. Recovery training teaches them to recover from an upset that has already happened. The European regulations include a list of 41 elements for prevention training and five exercises for recovery training. These training elements, collectively known as ‘Upset Prevention and Recovery Training’ or UPRT, are mandated during initial and recurrent pilot training.
Who needs UPRT?
Any pilot needs to be able to avoid getting into an aeroplane upset. Sometimes upsets are caused by external circumstances, so pilots also need to be able to recognise and recover from aeroplane upsets. UPRT is not a one-off event, it is now integral to the training that pilots receive throughout their careers.
Basic UPRT is part of the training for commercial pilot licences. Basic UPRT incorporates manoeuvres like steep turns, spiral dives, unusual attitudes and stall recovery that have always been part of pilot training. Now there’s more emphasis on the prevention and recognition of upsets as well as the recovery manoeuvres. There are no special aircraft or instructor requirements for Basic UPRT but, as for all other training exercises, the ATO delivering the training will ensure that the aircraft are suitable, and the instructors are competent.
Pilots starting their first type rating course (or class rating for complex or high-performance aeroplanes) need to have completed an ‘Advanced UPRT’ course. The objective of this course is to expose pilots to the ‘physiological and psychological effects of dynamic upsets’ and to ‘develop the resilience and competence’ to recover from such upsets. The course will involve exposure to the whole range of attitudes and g-forces that a pilot could experience during an upset. Because of this the course generally has to be conducted in an aerobatic category light aircraft with a specially qualified instructor.
The course includes a minimum of three hours flight training as well as ground school and briefings. Pilots who follow integrated ATP or MPL training complete advanced UPRT as part of the integrated course.
Type-rating courses (and class rating for complex or high-performance aeroplanes) include theoretical and practical UPRT related to the specific characteristics of the aeroplane type (or class). If a simulator is used for type-training, then pilots can be taught the correct recovery techniques, but they won’t be exposed to the g-loads or ‘fear factor’ associated with a real upset. This is why it’s important for pilots to have competed advanced UPRT before starting type-rating training.
Commercial air transport operators of complex motor-powered aeroplanes provide UPRT as part of the conversion course for pilots joining an operator and during recurrent training. Pilots complete upset prevention training every year and practice all the upset recovery exercises over a three-year period. Both prevention and recovery training include theoretical (‘ground-school’) and practical (simulator) training.
Instructors need specific and standardisation according to the type of UPRT they are qualified to provide. Instructors for the ‘Advanced UPRT’ course generally need an aerobatic qualification and a specific additional training programme to ensure that they manage the training and could recover the aircraft from any unintended mis-handling.
Instructors providing UPRT during type-rating or operator training should also have specific training so that they understand the limitations of using a simulator for UPRT and use the correct training and recovery techniques.