Basic UPRT flight school training

I am writing as I wish to voice my views on the new UPRT courses which are now mandatory for new pilots and I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

I am a TRI on [Airliner type] and I regularly fly and instruct on light-aircraft. As you are aware, student pilots who complete their initial training now require to do a 3-hour UPRT course before they can apply to airlines. As part of a type rating we do a 4-hour simulator session on UPRT manoeuvres. I have found many students are struggling with this part of the course because it is very different technique to what is taught during the UPRT basic course at flight school.

For example, in a light-aircraft in a high-nose upset, you will recognise the situation, APPLY power, lower the nose and roll wings level. However in a jet transport aircraft you may have to initially REDUCE the thrust, lower the nose and roll wings level. The same applies for stall techniques, in a swept-wing with pod-mounted engines the most important thing to do is lower the nose and, to do this, a reduction in thrust may be required. I see lots of students on their type-rating course struggling with this due to being taught the UPRT recoveries for light-aircraft during the UPRT basic flight school course. Personally I feel that the possibility exists of airline pilots who may find themselves in an upset situation in a jet transport may revert to these previously taught techniques during UPRT, which may in turn make things worse. Pilots often revert to how they were first taught when under stress and dealing with situations. I would therefore ask, is the UPRT course really achieving the aim it was set out to do?

I strongly feel that simulating stalls and upsets that mimic incidents like AF447 is far more beneficial in a Level-D simulator than learning light-aircraft techniques which essentially would make the situation worse if these were applied to a swept-wing jet transport airplane. I feel part of the issue is the instructors teaching these UPRT courses at flight school often have no experience with jet transport UPRT recoveries and are unaware of the differences.

Background Information: Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/1974 entered into force on 20 December 2018. This Regulation amended Commission Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 by introducing new requirements for upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) for pilots in its Annex I (Part-FCL). Effectively, on-aircraft Advanced UPRT (FCL.745.A) became mandatory from 20th December 2019; all pilots studying for new ATPLs and pilots undergoing their first type rating course in multi-pilot operations, are now required to undergo the Advanced UPRT course. The training requirement under FCL.745.A is 3hrs of actual UPRT (i.e. not including time spent conducting taxy, transit, circuits, approaches etc).

It is not a regulatory requirement for existing commercial pilots (ATPL/CPL/MPL) to undergo the Advanced UPRT course but all commercial airlines are required to include recurrent Flight Simulator UPRT over the normal 3 year Simulator Programme. There is no requirement for in-aircraft recurrency.

With respect to the timing of the Advanced UPRT course within the ATPL syllabus, there is no prescribed schedule and it may be flown at any stage. Typically UPRT can be flown at the foundation flight training stage or at the advanced flight training stage; most training organisations choose to fly the Advanced UPRT course at the end of the IR phase prior to the MCC/JOC (Multi-Crew Cooperation/Jet Orientation Course) stage.

ICAO Doc10011 Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training also refers, and Boeing’s article Aerodynamic Principles of Large-Airplane Upsets provides useful background to UPRT concepts and recovery procedures.

CAA Comment

The CAA have recently audited UPRT at training schools to ensure that they met with the regulator’s requirements for those focused on delivering commercial pilot training as opposed to aerobatic training. Such training for commercial pilots is very different from the UPRT syllabus necessary for a pilot about to undergo aerobatic training to achieve an aerobatic rating on a single-engine piston aircraft.

CHIRP Air Transport Advisory Board Comment: UPRT conducted at flight training schools may or may not assist the large-aircraft Commercial Airline pilot in the actual recovery of their aircraft but the same could be said for many aspects of basic training – many principles learned in a Cessna 152 for example may or may not be relevant to a large-aircraft operator, but we all have to start somewhere. By starting simple and moving to more advanced exercise(s) we increase our competence, and our resilience. Differences required with large-aircraft (e.g. inertia, engine handling, and numerous other items) are covered as part of the advanced MCC or Type Rating Courses. UPRT training (as approved by the CAA for large-aircraft operators) includes specific standardised ground-school requirements that emphasise the differences between the light-aircraft used for such training and the large-aircraft case, and only those providers who have been approved by the CAA for this activity can deliver the associated UPRT training, which is quite different from UPRT training delivered by other organisations for aerobatic purposes for example.

There are a couple of aspects of UPRT that may also be relevant to the UPRT training requirements. Whilst Level-D simulators provide excellent training facilities, they do lack in a couple of areas: the inability to provide G-loading and the lack of disorientation effects spring to mind (especially with regard to UPRT). The opportunity to experience “G” is a vital element in the UPRT training so that pilots will not be surprised when they encounter levels of G when commencing a recovery. Even the 2.5G that an Airbus limits to might startle a pilot during a recovery, and the opportunity to experience it in a light-aircraft will probably be invaluable. Furthermore, a Boeing could pull a lot more G than this and the ability to experience “G” in the UPRT training prior to CPL issue is most worthwhile. The regulatory requirements for UPRT are now extensive (and covered under ORO.FC.220 & 230 and their associated Guidance Material, and EASA Part FCL Appendix 9), but operators are at liberty to increase the training beyond the regulatory levels.

We would all agree that prevention is better than recovery, and a lot of the regulatory requirements focus on this. But we must not overlook the number of aircraft that have ended up in an “Unusual Position” from which the flight crew were unable to recover. CHIRP suggests that the core issue in these was probably not whether they closed the thrust levers or not, but the very basics of recognition and recovery (e.g. rolling to wings level before pulling for the nose-low recovery case). Level-D flight simulators have improved recently with the implementation of CS-FSTD 2 (which ensures the simulators should adequately reflect the handling of the actual aircraft more realistically), and airlines and training organisations now have the ability to increase the amount of training of stalls and other upsets that mimic incidents. There does, however, remain a regulatory requirement for Upset Recovery, as well as prevention. The basic training provided in the light-aircraft training may assist in this regard, even though it may not be as specific as one would like, and it’s also important for airlines to make sure that their trainers (who may not all be experienced light-aircraft pilots) are nevertheless aware of the importance of emphasising the techniques and differences in large-aircraft UPRT handling.

CHIRP GA Advisory Board Comment: The Advanced UPRT course was introduced as a pan-European effort to combat hull losses due to aircraft loss of control; not least the AF447 incident. The course is designed to teach the students how to cope with psychological and physiological aspects of dynamic upsets in aeroplanes in order to help develop the necessary competence and resilience to apply appropriate recovery techniques during upsets: a Level-D flight simulator cannot simulate these physiological effects of an upset.

The training is designed to teach students a strategy to recognise and prevent the onset of a stall event and potential upset position. The course is split up into two main elements; 5 hours ground-school and 3.5-4 hours inflight instruction. During the ground-school the students are refreshed on basic aerodynamic theory; in particular, the relationship of lift to angle of attack, medical aspects of upsets and the causes of upsets, including case studies. The flight aspects include investigation of slow flight and stalling, with and without high-lift devices. A robust technique is taught to recognise stall events, along with lessons on incipient spin and spiral dive recognition and recovery. There are demonstrations of recovery from a deep stall, and how load factors (G) affect the stall. Following this, upset recovery is then trained. During the course the students are told of the limitations of using a light-aircraft; in particular with regard to inertia – in the absence of any large swept-wing aerobatic-capable aircraft, a compromise has to be achieved. At the conclusion of the course the students undergo an assessment of competence and, as part of the course debrief, the students are instructed that company procedures must always be followed when they graduate with their commercial licence.

The basis of the upset training is generic by its nature. However, the recovery techniques taught are those for commercial airliners and they align closely with Airbus and Boeing procedures. The pilot will verbalise the issue, disconnect the automatics/auto throttle (if desired) and lower the nose (unload). If this does not work then, for a nose high upset, consider thrust and roll to bring the nose to the horizon. Note that in all upset recoveries, after the consideration of automatics, the training is to attempt to unload the wing first before ANY other action, this includes thrust and or rolling options.

There will always be differences in service providers, but the leading schools’ staff all have significant jet/test pilot experience. The schools encourage feedback from the airlines so that issues can be resolved and training enhanced; so far, the feedback has been highly positive.