Aviation Performance Solutions (APS, Booth 1117) has added a new feature in its integrated academic, on-aircraft, and simulator training services that addresses the gap in upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) for four classes of airplanes. This expanded training takes advantage of APS’s new Alsim simulator, located at its headquarters at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. The simulator can be reconfigured for UPRT in light and large multiengine turboprops, multiengine business jets, and large transport-category airplanes.
APS also has access to integrated UPRT solutions at its other facilities in North America and Europe. The integrated UPRT is part of APS’s three-day upset training program, which combines on-aircraft and simulator training. The simulator training can also be included as an enhancement to any of APS’s recurrent upset training programs.
Loss-of-control in-flight (LOC-I) still accounts for the majority of crash-related fatalities in commercial aviation. “Unfortunately,” according to APS, “statistical trends show the LOC-I threat to be increasing in proportion to other accident causes.”
“The main reason [for recurrent training] is because, despite APS delivering proven-effective long-lasting competencies, we have seen a gradual, unavoidable knowledge and skill decline over time,” said Clark “Otter” McNeace, APS vice president of flight operations and standards. “In fact, we generally see a 30 percent reduction at the two-year mark and as much as 45 percent after three years.”
The recurrent on-aircraft programs are available in the single-engine piston Extra 300L in Arizona and Arlington, Texas; the single-engine piston Slingsby T67M in Breda, The Netherlands; and in the Marchetti S-211 single-engine, high-altitude, swept-wing jet trainer in Arizona.
In addition to the two-mission core UPRT skills recurrent program, clients can opt for full- or half-day enhancements. These include upsets by reference to instruments; spin awareness and recovery training; UPRT skills training in the simulator for multiengine turboprops or jets; high-altitude, high-Mach UPRT transition in the S-211 jet; and an aerobatics-specific enhancement if the customer desires.
The S-211 training offers a unique opportunity for pilots to experience how performance differs between the low-, medium-, and high-altitude environments. “It's an excellent upgrade to the standard recurrent program, especially if they didn't get a chance to do it in their initial training,” McNeace explained. “In addition to the glass cockpit and IFR UPRT hood options, there are substantial differences, especially in terms of thrust availability at high altitude, for example, which can be up to an 80 percent loss.”
The other key factor that pilots learn in the S-211 is the increased sensitivity of flight controls at high altitudes. “Decreased aerodynamic damping at high altitude causes the airplane to be much more sensitive,” he said, “so it becomes easier to overcontrol the airplane than it would be in the low-altitude environment, which is where most pilots would have most of their skill sets developed in upset training.”
The S-211 is equipped with Garmin glass displays, giving pilots who fly modern business jets a more familiar flight deck environment. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D turbofan, the swept-wing S-211 can be safely used for full stalls and is approved for upright spins, although these are not part of the standard APS UPRT program. APS high-altitude training includes thrust-limited slowdowns, wake-turbulence encounters, full stalls, nose-high and nose-low upsets, all-attitude maneuvering, and high-Mach intervention strategies.
“APS’s ability to quickly reconfigure its advanced simulator to four distinct classes of airplanes helps better serves our customers’ critical safety upset training needs in models and classes of airplanes as close as possible their airplane,” said APS president Paul BJ Ransbury. “Moreover, the simulator provides essential training in environments and conditions not possible in real airplanes such as very low altitude and nasty weather conditions, all under the direct guidance of APS’s team of expert UPRT instructors."
During a recent visit to APS’s Mesa, training facility, I flew some UPRT maneuvers in the simulator with McNeace, with the simulator configured as a typical general aviation twin turboprop like a Beechcraft King Air.
Just as advocated by Airbus concerning UPRT, this particular simulator is not motion-based, and as McNeace explained, once a pilot has done in-aircraft UPRT, there is little value in flying UPRT maneuvers in a motion-based simulator because the motion cues in developed upsets are inaccurate. “Simulator motion cues in normal flight are fine,” he said. “But doing upsets and upset recovery, the motion cueing for that is gravely inadequate and could be counterproductive and lead to negative training.”
Another issue with simulator training is that it is imperative that the instructors are experienced enough to understand what the student is doing with the controls to make sure the student isn’t reinforcing the wrong way to react to an upset, resulting in negative training.
For example, a pilot might use rudder to try to recover from an overbank situation. “It's true that the rudder can roll the airplane because the secondary effect of yaw is roll,” he explained. But in a simulator, he added, “you get no realistic sustained sensation of inappropriately applying the rudder, especially cyclic rudder, which is a big no-no.” In a real airplane, stepping hard on, say, the left rudder would throw the pilots to the right, but, he said, “even in a level-D motion simulator, you won’t feel that to a sufficient magnitude to realistically represent the severity of the resulting airplane response.”
If the student gets in the habit of inappropriately stepping on the rudder to reduce bank without feeling or understanding the consequences, the result could be to overstress the airplane during a real upset recovery or worse, as was seen in the American Airlines Flight 587 catastrophic rudder failure of the Airbus A300 in 2001 over New York City. “If the instructor doesn’t notice the pilot in training using rudder instead of ailerons, he's promoting negative transfer of skill,” McNeace said.
He then demonstrated another example in a recovery from a nose-high upset. In the simulator, a student could recover by pushing the yoke forward to reduce the angle-of-attack, but also push too far too quickly because there is no feel of the amount of g loading that the pilot is imposing by pushing forward on the yoke. Even through the recovery looked safe and effective, he said, “We may over overstress the airplane because it went beyond the negative G load limit, yet we felt nothing like that, nor can any simulator, not even an extended envelope level-D full-flight simulator.”
Experienced UPRT instructors know what to look for. “At APS, we deliver training in airplanes as well,” he said. “We know what pilots tend to do wrong, especially during initial sessions. We see it first-hand in the real world, so we know what to watch for in the simulator as well.
“The simulator environment is a potentially dangerous environment without a properly trained instructor. The risk is largely due to the potential unintended consequences of inappropriate upset recovery technique going unnoticed, despite the inexperienced UPRT instructors’ genuine efforts to provide the safest possible training they can.”
One of the great benefits of the simulator is the ability to pause the action to help the pilot in training understand the upset situation and correlate what they can see of the outside view with what they see on the instrument panel, to develop a mental 3D model. In a real-world upset, seeing the horizon is never guaranteed so mental modeling must happen in training. While pilots do have to deal with the startle factor in the real airplane upset training, in the simulator the startling situation can be done much closer to the simulated ground, adding even more urgency to the need to react promptly and correctly. The simulator also is useful for practicing upsets in instrument conditions.
McNeace put me in a challenging situation in the simulator: an engine failure shortly after takeoff. As it turned out, even though I was well prepared and knew exactly which moves to make, the first time I crashed because I didn’t react aggressively enough to effectively unload the airplane (without going negative G) to get sufficient aileron authority to generate the required roll rate to re-orient the lift vector in time.
In this scenario, large, correct, and timely movements of the controls are necessary to recover, and having this training in my personal bag of tools certainly would help in recovering properly and safely. This scenario also helped me to gain insight into how pilots who experience an engine failure in a twin turboprop shortly after takeoff might have trouble dealing with the situation.