I remember flow states, during times of stress in the airplane, when time slows down just a bit—enough to help me manage a given situation deliberately and appropriately.
THERE IS NO FLOW TODAY.
Flashing back to two days ago, I recall a comment that has lodged in my mind, and I work hard to apply those words to the situation at hand: “It’s just a position in the sky that you have to deal with.”
So says Mike Burke, instructor for Prevailance Aerospace in Chesapeake, Virginia, as we’re finishing up the first ground session of a threeday upset-prevention-and- recovery training course that I’ve signed on to; UPRT trains pilots to recognize and recover from unusual attitudes and aircraft upsets. We would be preparing to head out to the airplane to start into it, except for the scuds of what was once Hurricane Isaias trudging across the airport.
The syllabus calls for three instructional sessions, each followed by an hourlong flight in one of the school’s Extras—a 330 or 330LX. Fortunately, I’m in a class of one, and the training is designed to flex for just such occasions because the UPRT flights need to be flown in good VFR conditions, with enough ceiling, visibility and cloud clearance for the tasks ahead.
We soldier ahead through the second ground session. By the time we begin tackling the third, the weather has cleared to CAVU. Vanessa Christie, founder and president of Prevailance Aerospace, helps me strap into the seat-pack parachute we’re required to wear for the aerobatic maneuvers ahead. Though I’ve put on my own pack dozens of times, the company takes the extra precaution of assisting its customers in the move, to ensure that it’s on just as tightly as it needs to be and to help pilots get into the front seat in what may be a relatively unfamiliar situation.
The Extra 330 and 330LX were selected for the training because their aerodynamic margins lay well outside the envelope in which we’ll fly. We’ve specifically reviewed the 330LX’s maneuvering and limiting airspeeds, along with the fact it’s rated for plus or minus 8 Gs with two people on board. Nothing we’re going to do will take us intentionally above 4 Gs or below minus 1 G—so we’re well within the airplane’s capabilities.
I’m upfront—the Extra is flown solo from the back—with only a handful of instruments in front of me on the panel. The Sandia attitude indicator has the breaker pulled because I’ll be recovering from each upset visually during this course and to keep us from having to reset it. Burke has all the navigation in the rear cockpit and a native’s familiarity with the airspace near us, which feels the nearby presence of Naval Air Station Oceana (Burke’s a retired Navy pilot). He’ll taxi out and take off so I can focus on the tasks ahead; this isn’t a training session to get me checked out in the 330LX, which takes a certain amount of finesse to handle on the ground. The flights to come will make me want to revisit the airplane, though. It’s a sweet companion for the next few hours we’ll spend together.
The first flight is spent reviewing basic aerobatics—wingovers, aileron rolls and a loop—plus nonviolent upsets, involving recoveries from just past the standard aerobatic limits of 60 degrees of bank and 30 degrees nose up or down. I find it relatively easy to apply the steps I’ve been taught to recover—but I’ve seen these attitudes before in an airplane.
My moment of truth comes on the second day, during our third flight overall. Normally, Prevailance doesn’t plan for two flights in a day for most pilots because of the stress involved for the body and mind. But weather has forced our hand a bit, and I’m game to try the third flight after a good morning session doing spins, more aerobatics and bigger upsets.
A UPRT Syllabus
The basis for the Prevailance Aerospace syllabus is found in the advisory circular covering UPRT, AC 120-109 “Stall Prevention and Recovery Training,” and aimed at meeting the Part 121 flying requirements in AC 120-111, “Upset Prevention and Recovery Training.” Compliance at the airline level is mandatory as of March 2019 under the FAA; the requirement under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency became mandatory in April 2019, including basic UPRT within initial pilot training for the commercial pilot license and airline transport pilot license.
The core of the recovery process lies in this step-by-step procedure:
1. Uncouple (autopilot off, if using)/neutralize/analyze
2. Push to unload
3. Roll to recover
4. Power adjusted as needed
5. Steps to return to the previous phase of flight, if that makes sense
What can you do if a full-up UPRT course isn’t in the cards right now? Take a look at the following sample accident scenarios, and discuss them with your instructor in your next periodic proficiency session.
* February 2012: At Melbourne International Airport (KMLB) in Florida, a Cirrus SR22 crashed in the traffic pattern maneuvering to follow another airplane.
* January 2017: A wake-turbulence encounter occurred between an Emirates A380 flying from Mali, West Africa, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and a Challenger 604, with the Challenger’s diversion to Muscat, Oman.
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