Operations: Upset Recovery Training Pays Off

 - April 22, 2013, 2:58 PM
The C-12 pilot was able to recover after a stall.

Loss of control in flight related to the inability to recognize an upset and controlled flight into terrain remain the primary causes of accidents involving transport aircraft.

Training company Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) highlighted an incident in which one of its upset prevention and recovery graduates used skills he learned on its course to save his aircraft and two lives.

A C-12, the U.S. Army’s version of the Beech King Air 200, encountered severe clear ice at 6,000 feet during a training mission. Within moments of the pilot’s first recognizing ice accumulation, and with the airspeed at 160 knots, the aircraft began to shudder “violently” as the speed quickly dropped to 140 and then to 120. The C-12’s nose dropped and the aircraft banked 60 degrees to the right.

Remembering his APS training, the pilot concluded, “You have to aggressively and correctly reduce angle of attack in a stall or you may not recover.” Despite the fact that the aircraft was descending at 3,000 feet per minute at a bank angle greater than 70 degrees, his training worked. “As I shoved the yoke forward and pulled the power back,” he recalled, “I made sure we were in trim and, within a couple of seconds, I could once again feel feedback in the ailerons. I rolled the aircraft upright and started to pull out of the dive.”

The aircraft later landed safely.



I don't know who that Army pilot was but either he is a very low time pilot or his APS training was very wrong.

First of all severe icing conditions are to be avoided at all times, Even a 727 cannot handle severe icing for very long. The King Air does not have a heated wing like an airliner does. It requires experience to use the boots correctly. You can't just turn them on like wing heat. The King Air is well known to have an adverse ice collection condition at low airspeeds. The ice forms below and behind the boots and increases the stall speed dramatically.

Secondly, why in Gods name would you pull back the power. Even the French pilots know to keep the power at max continuous. Proper response is to lower the nose and increase the power. Keep the wings level with rudder. Every student pilot knows that before he can solo. In airline training we were required minimize altitude loss when recovering from a stall. We knew that was wrong but that was what the FAA wanted.

Now the FAA realizes it is more important to recover from the stall than to return to your assigned altitude. The FAA was also wrong about rudder use. For several years they required us to recover from unusual attitudes using only rudder. After American Airlines almost tore the rudder off on one Air Bus going into MIA and tore the rudder and both engines off on another coming out of JFK, they realized there was something wrong with our assumptions. Turns out you cannot use full rudder even though you are below maneuvering speed.

I have twice taken the APS unusual attitude training course in Mesa , AZ. It is a fabulous course and equips you with the skills to recover from any unusual attitude, whether caused by pilot error or mechanical issue or outside influence such as wake turbulence. And the recovery process is always the same, whether you are pointed straight down, or pointed straight up, or at an extreme bank angle. The first step is to reduce the angle of attack by pushing on the yoke or stick. The second step is to add or remove power, depending on current airspeed and attitude.

For example, if the plane was nose low, it could be a mistake to add power, and possibly overspeed the airframe. In addition, engine power can introduce other disturbances such as asymmetric thrust, P-factor, and slipstream effects that can introduce yaw and convert the stall into a spin. I encourage pilots to attend the APS training. It is mind-opening. And a lot of fun.

First of all, let me say I have very high respect for APS and their training, I went to some of their seminars at the 2012 Bombardier Safety Standdown, and they were great.

Having said that, let me also state that I have been an Army C-12 Pilot and Instructor for years (IP/SP/IE/MP/ME), with over 4000 hrs in the C-12/King Air series, and I am appalled at the report from this apparently very new C-12 pilot.

The C-12 can and does indeed fly in icing conditions all over the world without suffering any problems or incidents of stalls or near stalls, unless they are pilot induced, or the result of pilot inexperience and inattention. If one flies the C-12/BE-200 in icing conditions at speeds greater than 140 KIAS (min speed, ideally use 160), the airplane will not stall from under you, unless you do one of several things wrong: either allow severe ice to build up without you noticing (lack of experience, where you don't notice the ice on the wipers, plus the increase in Torque required to maintain the 160 KIAS, or the slow reduction in speed because you failed to add more power), or while in icing conditions, you simply pull up abruptly and exceed critical AOA, or exceed about 15 degrees up in the ADI.

This event should have never happened. Once it happened, the pilot should have mitigated his errors by reducing the AOA to about 8 degrees above horizon (where the GA Flight Director indication would be if you hit GA), while silultaneously adding full, or nearly full power, along with right rudder to center the trim ball. I have done test flights on various models of C-12's and at full stall, with a break, you could recover with proper technique, which never, ever included "reducing power and dumping the nose". Sorry to have to point out, but this erroneous technique is neither what APS not the Army teaches pilots to do.

Know your aircraft, its abilities and limitations. The National Test Pilot School has one of the best training programs for jet upsets, including spins, inverted spins and all the other unusual and confusing attitudes. I found the 2 week technical pilot program the best in the world. Having type ratings on 9 airline aircraft, understanding the basis for recovery, of course breaking a stall by reducing AOA is essential.

Never the less, the old FAA training of flying out a stall close to the ground is a good program. Remember, just how much altitude can we afford to lose is the basis for successful recovery. Rudder use is still a highly useful tool under certain conditions. Don't base important flight conditions on the bad design of the later A-300. I flew the older A-300, [metal tail] and it was a well designed and a safe airliner. The later model [composite tail] was horrid. If my memory serves me right, the rudder pedal movement was also reduced in that aircraft, adding additional problems for allowing tail divergence.

One of the most important elements for safe flight is to have 'operational test flight' and 'differential training' by the airlines and all other aircraft users. Teach the pilots the difference in flying of the aircraft they are transitioning to - from the aircraft they flew before. Learn the aircraft they will now fly, [ no monkey see - monkey do] but with emphasis of the differences and habits from the previous aircraft.

This is a requirement for 'operational test flight' to be done by the aircraft operator, a test program for operational requirements - that are unique and routine for that specific operator. There has to be a thinking process wit problem recognition and proper learned behavior follow up that is ingrained in the pilots response. Prior training and exposure to jet upset is the best way to gain the confidence and knowledge for a critical event that may come about in a possible very short period of time. Competence is knowledge, proper response is based on prior training - this is what provides for the survival of the fittest!

I must have missed something here Jean.

Your comment about pulling the power back ... the guy's in a turn with 70 degrees of bank descending at 3000 fpm. Why WOULDN'T you pull the power back?

I have minimal time in the 200 but did attend flight safety and recall that the 200 has a propensity to maintain level flight via trim and auto pilot as the ice accumulates. When the SHTF all hell can break loose. Isn't this just an inattention issue.


"I must have missed something here Jean."

"Your comment about pulling the power back ... the guy's in a turn with 70 degrees of bank descending at 3000 fpm. Why WOULDN'T you pull the power back?"

First off Rob, the only way he could have got himself into that situation in the first place was to leave the autopilot on. When the stall breaks the autopilot snatches the ailerons back and fourth trying to keep the wings level. It also has been running the trim nose up to compensate for the declining airspeed. When the stall occurs it pulls the yoke back trying to maintain altitude. In severe icing conditions you will loose airspeed, you must use max power and if need be you must sacrifice altitude to maintain airspeed. There is no other option unless you have an ejection seat.

If you hand fly the aircraft you will notice how mushy the controls feel before the stall. Several Part 121 turboprop crashes have been attributed to autopilot use in icing conditions. These aircraft all had autoboot systems since you can't see the wings from the cockpit. Experienced pilots will tell you boots are a second best solution. Boots are hard to use correctly, especially at night using the wing light. Icex does help a great deal.

Secondly the guy was in a stall because his airspeed was insufficient for the condition of his airfoil and the load on the wing. In other words his AOA was too high. When your wing is stalled power is your friend. He said he was descending at 3000 fpm in a dive. He didn't say what his airspeed was at this point. If it was high the aircraft had already recovered from the stall on it's own. If the airspeed was approaching VNE then reducing power was correct.

One other thing that could have happened is a tail stall. When the tail stalls the nose goes down but the aircraft does not roll. If the autopilot is on when the tail stalls it pulls the yoke back which causes the wing to stall and then the aircraft will roll. Again, disconnect the autopilot.

First to Eric's point. I think this is absolutely about inattention. If the pilot had recognized the situation earlier - and to be honest he did say he thought something was up the first time he busted the ice - this probably would never have happened.

But he's also a low-time guy and it got past him.

The point of the story was that at least he remembered enough to save the aircraft and his co-pilot.

Now to Jean's response.

You added much more to your response this time and I doubt I could question anything you've said. As the pilot mentioned, he did have the autopilot on which everyone knows since Roselawn at least, is a very bad idea.

You're correct about not no specific mention of the IAS. If he were extremely slow, he should have shoved the power in so I stand corrected on what I was implying. I was simply thinking of the dive itself.

But one thing we do all agree on is that they guy simply wasn't terribly experienced, nor was he paying enough attention to what was going on around him. There were clues. He just didn't understand what the weather and the airplane were telling him.

These guys were lucky.

Before responding as a representative of APS, I’d like to express my genuine thanks to the C-12 pilot that was brave enough to share this potentially life-threatening event with the general public. There is always so much to learn in aviation and none of us are perfect in every situation. Did this pilot perform a perfect or ideal recovery? Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t; but he survived and did the best that he could given the situation and his available resources which included both accumulated knowledge and skill.

Since the APS name has been brought into this discussion, I thought that I would offer an input from our perspective. The “power” step referred to by the author of the original article is really an assessment of the aircraft energy state in the upset and determining the appropriate response required. The proper response is highly variable, typically involves a best compromise between competing performance factors, and can cover the full range of power/thrust applications from maximum to idle depending on the energy state at the time as well as associated rates of acceleration or deceleration. Blindly adding or deleting power in the situation briefly outlined in the AIN report is not defensible without significantly more information on this particular incident.

In the real world, no two upset events are alike and the conditions are often highly dynamic. The information in the original article does not precisely define the energy state at the moment when the decision was made to reduce power. The author simple states that there was a descent rate of 3,000 feet per minute while in a 70 degree bank, which indicates that a power/energy reduction may have been in order although we lack sufficient detail to make a firm determination. Of great importance in APS loss of control in-flight mitigations and strategies are the integration of the pilot’s knowledge of the specifics of the situation they are facing and the performance characteristics of their model of airplane.

I believe that there is an even more important point here that I alluded to in my introductory paragraph. The original author offered this information in order to try and contribute to the safety of others. Critiquing the conduct of this pilot or others without an accurate depiction of the full range of variables which must be addressed in upset events is difficult to do with precision. With the experience that comes from training several thousand pilots at APS over the past two decades, we see that it’s always difficult for pilots in training to internalize the reality that there are simply no one-size-fits-all solutions in upset prevention and recovery.

What is important is that the actions taken worked and were successful in this particular situation. I’ll take ‘safe’, ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ over ‘perfection’ any day. The article’s author acknowledges that the training he received was helpful in this event being an incident which could be reported rather than an accident to be investigated.

Randall Brooks, APS Upset Prevention & Recovery Instructor Pilot

Randall has hit the nail on the head, success and honesty in evaluating an unusual event is the bottom line. Fudging to make one look good can be greatly misleading and cause others to rely on bad information, which can cause problems and accidents. Tell it as you recall, which often is also not completely accurate. At the same time, using descriptions as 'energy management' instead of power on or off has a tendency to get us into fighter and test pilot mode. Using the KISS method, [keep it simple stupid] has a great advantage because we need to accentuate the [hand movement], the eye and hand coordination essential for recovery. There also is a world of difference between teaching 2000 student in upset recovery, and having a real world experience in the middle of the night unexpectedly. As said, no two upsets are completely alike! But more often than not, they begin with the same correctable factors. I had a B-727 tail froze in the climb mode, climbed up in the coffin corner to 39,400 feet - airspeed down to 220 kts., stall imminent, what do you do!
Obviously a jet upset with frozen [blocked] elevators would not have allowed us a recovery, so I pulled off all the power and luckily got a change in attitude [AOA] and was able to fully recover the elevator use at a much lower altitude.
End of story. I will send you a news paper account of this event. To reemphasize the most significant issues, early problem recognition of icing, and its effect on the aircraft, and the many other events causing an upset are essential. Once the upset take place - good prior training and quick proper response are essential. We cannot argue with success, my hat is off to the C-12 pilot - he survived so we can discuss and learn from his recovery.

Jean, first, there is no problem in using full rudder even below maneuvering speed. Quick rudder REVERSAL is what caused problems in the A-300-600 [short rudder pedal] with the under strength composite vertical stabilizer-rudder induced movement. The FAA always uses a canned approach. The FAA believes, that one training method fits all aircraft operations; a monkey see - monkey do approach to stalls is representative of this FAA belief. The FAA developed the 'fly-out-of-stall' training method because at one time this was a major stall [safety] problem close to the ground on approach. A major change of AOA in swept-wing airliners - without a full time yaw dampener - was a major issue evidently before your B-727 experience. The definition of severe icing is - when icing is so extreme that the aircraft deicing cannot handle it. The type of aircraft therefore must be considered in jet-upsets resulting from icing. Perhaps the C-12 pilot pulled the power back to avoid wing divergence, because he was on or beyond airspeed red line with a 3,000 fpm dive. Makes sense to me! It helps to have wings in the recovery. This event is not comparable to the A-330 Atlantic Ocean crash. In that case all the pilots had to do was to go on the standby horizon, level, put the airliner on a 3 degree AOA - adjust the power and head for the nearest airport and land. There was NO jet-upset just - mush - mush and settling for over 4 minutes. How about problem recognition? Drowning in information - trying to evaluate announcements of system failures, which had to be ignored. Automation is wonderful but pilots must understand the basics, first fly the plane.