Loss of Control Inflight is Leading Cause of Fatal Accidents

by Randy Brooks

On April 2, 2014 at the World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS) in Orlando, FL, a panel explaining coming changes involving Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) quietly announced one of the most significant changes to pilot training in a generation. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) publicly stated that they would recommend UPRT in actual flight – and not a simulator – for all pilots worldwide prior to receiving a Commercial Pilot’s License (CPL). While it will take some time before national aviation authorities like the FAA act on this recommendation, they have signaled their view on the subject in other ways.

The FAA, which had previously published a recommendation for Enhanced Upset Recovery Training (InFO 10010) dating back to 2010, has made UPRT (in simulators) a requirement for all Airline Transport Pilot candidates beginning in August of 2014. The FAA also has an Advisory Circular on UPRT out for comment at this time. Similarly, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has a committee tasked with addressing UPRT in Europe.


This recent flurry of activity in the area of UPRT is based on the growing awareness that Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) is the greatest cause of fatalities in both commercial and general aviation. The conclusion reached by those studying the issue has been that because LOC-I can have numerous, sometimes combined causes; it can best be mitigated through pilot training. Though technical solutions are helpful, even the best flight envelope protected fly-by-wire aircraft have been lost due to inappropriate pilot actions, which can be altered through UPRT.

Why should this be important to you as the pilot of a light jet aircraft? Your airplane gives you the freedom to get into a lot of airports, and sometimes those airports are served by much larger aircraft than your own. With shorter wingspans and lighter wing loadings, light jet aircraft can possess greater susceptibility to an unexpected airplane upset whether it is on approach or running at RVSM altitudes with a 1,000 foot spacing between altitude assignments. In fact, one light jet manufacturer acknowledged this fact by creating a requirement for upset recovery training as a part of the jet’s type rating.

To be sure, airplane upsets are rare events, but they can be time-critical and potentially catastrophic. The accident record is clear. So, although the coming ICAO recommendations and FAA mandates for UPRT may not apply to you, it might still be a good idea.

UPRT is different from standard aerobatic or spin training. While aerobatic maneuvering may be performed during the course of your training to introduce or expand your awareness of all-attitude flight, the emphasis in UPRT is in using acquired maneuvering skills to return your aircraft safely and effectively to the center of the flight envelope. Comprehensive UPRT addresses the full range of potential upset situations with simple, methodical techniques that can be applied by all pilots with the appropriate practice and repetition to proficiency.

UPRT incorporates academic instruction which highlights the aerodynamic fundamentals that will help you to quickly assess important factors in an airplane upset event. Taught at a level which should be appropriate for all pilots, academic content is focused on only the most pertinent and relevant information that you need to know to prevent, or recover from, a Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) event.

What might you look for in finding a reputable provider for this area of training – which is not yet regulated? Here are just a few ideas. The first would be to find a provider who can clearly articulate the differences between aerobatics and UPRT. Aerobatics is wonderful for developing manual handling skills, but studies have shown that dedicated UPRT is more effective training if your goal is a safe and effective recovery from an unanticipated airplane upset.

Can the training provider teach you recovery techniques using Instrument references? If you fly at night or in the clouds, the chances are those might be the conditions you find yourself in during an upset event.

What is the experience level of the instructors? Is their experience exclusively from all-attitude flying, or do they possess experience in the type of flying that you do in your airplane? The idea is to get training that is applicable to the type of flying that you normally conduct.

Like anything else, references are always a good idea. If possible, speak with someone who has trained with a particular provider and find out if he or she enjoyed the training experience and specifically what was learned.

Peace of Mind

As a pilot flying independently, there are a lot of tasks that you have to manage. By making sure that everything is taken care of you can create the most enjoyable flying experience for you and your passengers. Safety is important to you, and knowing you are prepared to handle everything you might face in the air, including an unexpected airplane upset event, will allow your flying to be that much more gratifying.

About the Author

Randy Brooks is the VP of Training and Business Development for Aviation Performance Solutions. He is a Master Instructor, member of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), UPRT instructor, and has a background in many facets of business aviation. His air show aerobatic experience includes formation team demonstrations, jet aircraft, and sailplanes. He has over 12,600 flight hours and is President of UPRTA.