By CJP President Kirk Samuelson
CJP Safety Committee chairman Charlie Precourt opened my eyes a bit earlier this year during a discussion of how to adopt military training guidelines like standard operating practices, or SOPs, to civilian operations. After all, the military represents the ultimate single-pilot operational experience: one plane, one pilot, operating a multitude of challenging, diverse, and highly intensive missions.
Charlie noted that one key difference between military and civilian training is the former’s emphasis on extensive upset recognition and recovery training, or URRT. Of course, military flying is far more complex than the relatively docile nature of being a civilian pilot… but several recent accidents, including within our own Citation community, sadly demonstrate the possible consequences of not reacting properly when we depart from our usual, and relatively narrow, operational envelope.
With this in mind, I mentioned to Charlie that I’d often thought of taking a URRT course, and that I felt it would be a beneficial experience for other Citation pilots as well. “Well, I think you should lead by example, then!” he replied. “Isn’t that the best way to convince others to come around to what you’re saying?”
It’s hard to argue with a former U.S. Air Force F-15 test pilot and instructor, and four-time shuttle astronaut.
That conversation led me to Mojave, CA and Flight Research, Inc., which provides an extensive list of training options to general aviation pilots and corporate flight departments utilizing a pair of North American Sabreliners, the sprightly Aermacchi MB-326 Impala, and Slingsby T-67 Firefly.
I underwent the company’s four-day Initial Professional Jet URRT course, throughout which participants can progress through these aircraft, based on their background and experience, in learning upset recoveries, and the nature of stalls and spins, in great detail. Flight Research’s instructors are test pilot instructors, and they’re accustomed to pushing towards the farthest corners of the flight envelope.
My first instructor was Charlie’s former astronaut colleague, and Top Gun aviator, Billy Oefelein. Billy introduced me to more upset scenarios in the Impala than I would have ever believed possible. Not only did I learn to recognize a variety of unusual attitudes, and correctly and safely respond to them; I also learned to recognize my own reactions to those conditions, and how to adapt accordingly. Those are tactile experiences that simply cannot be replicated in any other environment.
That said, it’s one thing to learn how to react to an upset when flying a tandem-seat military jet, and quite another to do so when at the controls of a typical business aircraft. That is why Flight Research also provides training in the Sabreliners, to provide corporate jet pilots with this vital training in a more familiar environment. However, there is another option, and the one that I utilized: the chance to experience these conditions and sensations at the controls of my own CJ2+.
Under the careful eye of Flight Research’s senior VP of operations Scott Glaser, who also served as a flight test engineer on the F-22 program and with Virgin Galactic, I experienced upset and stall training while holding the yoke and throttles of my own aircraft.
This was certainly a different experience than before, and not only because of the Citation’s obvious performance and control differences; probably the most unnerving realization was the distinct loss of visibility. Compared to the expansive view afforded by the Impala’s canopy, my Citation’s narrow windscreen provided just two views, the ground or the sky. There was no more visible horizon to help me determine up from down!
My time in the Impala had helped me develop rote memory and muscle control for responding to upset conditions; now, I could also see how my aircraft responded at the limit. Of course, we didn’t do any spins my plane… but Scott and I did, for example, take it up to 17,999′ within Mojave’s restricted airspace to perform a deep stall. We recovered at 13,000′. Again, it was eye-opening.
Flight Research has opted to become a CJP Silver Partner, and has made this training available to all CJP members; in fact, CJP will be auctioning a couple of these training packages during the convention in October. I encourage you to check out www.flightresearch.com for more information about this valuable, and potentially life-saving, training experience.