Loss of control inflight (LOC-I) is a leading cause of fatalities in aviation. To mitigate the LOC-I threat, the industry is keenly focused on improving safety mainly through enhanced training programs. The problem is, all too often, the regulatory guidance on creating and implementing Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) programs is overly vague and lacks specificity on practical implementation. Without a solid standard, improperly implemented UPRT programs are a risk; negative training and/or a negative transfer of skills potentially puts the lives of pilots and passengers in jeopardy.
One company, Aviation Performance Solutions (APS)—the Mesa, Arizona-based UPRT specialist with additional locations in Texas, Alabama, and Europe—has introduced a new model that covers six critical UPRT program implementation factors. The primary goal of the “Every Pilot in Control Solution Standard” (EPIC-S2) was to create a comprehensive framework based on proven methods to further promote and substantially improve industry efforts to overcome LOC-I accidents.
According to Paul BJ Ransbury, CEO of Aviation Performance Solutions, “EPIC-S2 presented by APS has been structured to help training providers address the critical factors necessary to effectively implement UPRT to make a difference and save lives. At APS, we help pilots bring everyone home safely; that’s all pilots—not just pilots graduating from APS.” Ransbury added, “EPIC-S2 is our passionate effort to help advance the industry quickly by relaying the proven lessons learned and repeatedly demonstrated over the course of two decades and through the training many tens of thousands of pilots. We want to help; this matters.”
The six critical factors of the integrated EPIC-S2 model include instructor qualifications (the elite instructor), program development (integrated program), program duration (intensity), industry compliance (best practices), training platforms, and other elements such as initial and recurrent training.
Elite Instructors: The most important element of any UPRT program is having qualified instructors. According to ICAO, “due to the inherent dangers in upset training and the need to ensure proper skill training, risks should be mitigated by only permitting UPRT-qualified airplane flight instructors to deliver the in-flight training.”
Capt. Clarke McNeace, APS v-p of flight operations and standards said, “Despite the heavy emphasis placed on advanced instructor qualifications by ICAO, this, unfortunately, is usually compromised first. For instructors to effectively teach tangible mitigation skills, they need to be UPRT-specialized experts. They need specialization in numerous atypical topics such as human factors, motion cueing, strategy-based crisis management, commercial airplane performance characteristics, transfer of skill, simplified instruction of complex concepts, laws of learning, and cross-aircraft translation of UPRT skills and knowledge.” McNeace suggested, “The role of the pilot instructor in the implementation of effective UPRT in accordance with EPIC-S2 is pivotal to a robust and consistently effective safety solution.”
Integrated programs: An EPIC-S2-compliant program incorporates a mix of industry-approved loss of control academics, proper use of all-attitude airplanes and advanced flight simulation training devices representing an aircraft typically flown by the pilot/student. According to APS, “Each of these integrated components should adhere to the intent of the ICAO Manual on UPRT and IATA requirements for on-aircraft and advanced simulator UPRT.” This integrated approach solidifies training concepts that help, among other things, to improve skill acquisition and retention; this training not only teaches pilots how to prevent LOC-I accidents but also significantly improves airmanship and manual flying skills.
Training intensity: EPIC-S2 identifies two dimensions of training intensity critical to a successful UPRT program. This standard promotes maximum skill development and retention over time.
The first dimension is training intensity over time. According to APS, behavioral studies show that practicing a skill multiple times in a focused, deliberate manner over multiple days develops deeper learning, faster decision making, and more accurate control response under stress. Skills learned in a UPRT program should become second nature; if an unexpected upset occurs, the response should be the same as the day the student completed training, regardless of when the event occurs.
The second dimension in training intensity relates to overcoming negative human factors. In an unexpected upset, startle and surprise can affect the pilot’s ability to think clearly and respond effectively. Only intense on-aircraft training will allow pilots to overcome the fear, confusion, and uncertainty when confronted with an upset outside the normal flight envelope.
Best practices compliant: EPIC-S2 outlines regulatory guidance and elaborates on best practices that should be included in every UPRT program. According to APS, regulatory-defined training content should be considered a “bare minimum.” UPRT programs should follow the guidelines of ICAO, EASA, and the FAA. In addition, a well-constructed UPRT program will include and adhere to the best standards and practices of other organizations.
Developing LOC-I and UPRT programs and understanding industry best practices are core competencies of APS. Much of this experience has been gained through extensive participation in working groups with organizations such as ICAO, the FAA, and NBAA.
Purpose-built platforms: A critical factor in safe and effective UPRT programs are purpose-built training aircraft. According to APS, on-aircraft training in an all-attitude, aerobatic capable airplane is essential for pilots to develop advanced manual handling skills, effectively develop a three-dimensional mental model, and overcome the critical human factors (and the physiological effects) that often derail successful upset prevention and recovery during a real-world event.
Ideally, pilots should train within the acceptable load limits of the aircraft that they operate. Most transport category aircraft have a load limit of +2.5 Gs to -1.0 Gs (clean). It is essential to train in aircraft that have a large safety margin above those limits. As an example, APS uses the Extra 300L when exploring the all-attitude realm of UPRT flights; its limits are +/- 10.0 Gs.
Likewise, as an example, for the corporate or airline pilot flying a modern swept-wing jet, some training should take place in a jet. APS offers advanced training in two SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers (+6 Gs to -3 Gs) that have been updated with a modern Garmin avionics suite. Those displays are representative of the most advanced bizav transports.
EPIC-S2 uses an integrated approach to UPRT; one of the elements of this training is an approved flight simulator (with extended flight envelope capabilities). During this phase of training, the pilot or crew will practice and refine skills—both flying and CRM—in a representative aircraft that is like what they normally fly.
Initial and recurrent training: EPIC-S2 outlines the intensity, density, and integration of the initial UPRT program. This initial training establishes a long-term renewable knowledge and skill foundation. Much of this newly acquired knowledge and skill becomes perishable if not routinely practiced. Therefore, according to APS, an effective UPRT program must offer a robust recurrent program to allow pilots to refresh cognitive familiarity and afford practice opportunities at least every two years.
According to APS, the integrated and comprehensive framework of EPIC-S2 bridges the gap of “just getting it done and getting it done right” to create a more robust UPRT program to arm pilots with the skills needed to overcome the LOC-I threat.