At the end of this year airline pilots will be required to undergo additional training. Commission Regulation (EU) introduced new requirements for upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT). All pilots studying for new ATPLs and pilots undergoing their first type rating course in multi-pilot operations, will be required to undergo the new Advanced UPRT course FCL.745.A. On-aircraft UPRT training will become mandatory by the end of this year, from the 20th of December 2019.
What is UPRT?
It is an acronym that stands for Upset Prevention Recovery and Training and constitutes a combination of theoretical knowledge and flying training with the aim of providing flight crew with the required competencies to both prevent and to recover from situations in which an aeroplane unintentionally exceeds normal flight parameters.
What factors might cause an upset? Let’s take thunderstorms as an example. All pilots, and the vast majority of the flying public, are well aware that thunderstorms are hazardous and should be avoided, but what precisely does that mean? At what proximity does a thunderstorm pose a danger and does that proximity alter depending on altitude as well as the distance from the take-off or landing airfield? What are the various hazards of a thunderstorm? What effect are they likely to have on the aircraft and where might these experienced? What are the most effective means of identifying thunderstorm cells and their hazards, including the use of systems and technology? When confronted by a thunderstorm from where is the most significant threat likely to be encountered? What might be the indications in the flight deck and how would a flight crew implement the best recovery techniques?
UPRT takes these specifics into account and expands upon them rather than the more general idea that thunderstorms are dangerous and should be avoided. UPRT deals far more specifically with the What, Where, When, Why and How.
According to BAA Training Deputy Head of Training Mauro Belloni the UPRT is a mandatory training and it should be implemented both by every airline for their pilots and for the pilot instructors. For the commercial pilots, this training is aircraft-type-related and shall be repeated every year.
UPRT is needed, particularly for professional pilots
Loss of control in flight is the single largest cause of commercial aircraft accidents and fatalities. As a result both the industry and regulators have recently focused on UPRT. A number of high-profile air transport catastrophes has made it evident that this type of training has not only been historically lacking but is also very much needed in order to better manage the risk of the re-occurrence of such events and their potentially lethal consequences.
There is no secret that training and repetition is the only way to develop a skill. So, if certain piloting skills are not trained and repeated, then it stands to reason that pilots may well be deficient in those areas.
Another important factor to consider is the frequency and time allowed for training. Air transport pilots are required to undergo recurrent training twice per year and on each occasion a total of four hours of simulator time is scheduled for two pilots: two hours for flying, two hours performing the duties of the pilot monitoring.
So, the maximum total training time whilst actually handling abnormal situations in the aircraft in a year is only four hours. Four hours, not accounting for numerous items which the vast majority of have nothing to do with recovering from an upset condition.
Two aspects of the training
The diversity of causes of an upset including Environmental, Systems and system malfunctions, Aerodynamic, Pilot induced / Human Factor or any myriad of combinations of the above, as well as other contingent factors, are covered in UPRT training. An emphasis is placed on prevention as it is obviously far more desirable to avoid an upset condition rather than have to recover from one. The primary goal of the training is to help ensure that pilots are well equipped to resolve an upset condition, both technically and emotionally.
The technical aspect of the training helps to mentally prepare pilots, not only for the flying skills training which follows on from the theoretical aspect, but is also designed to help ingrain the circumstances and precursors which can lead to an upset, thereby enabling pilots to better identify the early stages of the onset of an upset condition, should one occur.
The UPTR training focusses on the psychological and emotional aspect of an upset, perhaps better condensed into the phrase made famous by Captain Sullenberger or Sully the hero of the ditching on the Hudson, the startle effect. Few pilots are better qualified to comment on this aspect than Sully and appropriately dealing with it is a vital component in the effective implementation of an upset recovery.
The unexpected mental shock, G forces, noises and sudden changes in environmental conditions can have an impact on the frame of mind of the flight crew which may severely hamper their ability to operate and co-ordinate. This has historically not been much of an element in the curriculum of flight training, at least not until the advent UPRT.
After completion of the ground-school phase of UPRT training flight crews go into the simulator for their particular aircraft type to complete the skills development phase of the training. Flight crews are briefed and exposed to various upset conditions and are given the opportunity to experience and learn from situations they might not otherwise have encountered. This phase helps in the development of cognitive ability in these alarming situations and provides an important frame of reference on which to draw should flight crew find themselves in a similar real-world situation.
In combining these two elements of the training the aim is to improve the recognition capabilities and flying skills of flight crews in order to better prevent the occurrence of an upset and, in the event of finding themselves in an unusual attitude, to be in a position to make a satisfactory recovery.
Not a new concept in the aviation industry
It might seem that UPRT as a standalone concept is relatively new in the aviation industry, however M. Belloni says that this training practice started a long time ago with the first 1st Word War military pilot training.
Elements of upset recovery training have existed in various degrees in nowadays flight training too. For example, a new student pilot in the early stages of their flight training are required to undergo stall recovery training as well as nose high and nose low recovery training. Multi-engine pilots are trained in how to deal with the loss of an engine, or in the worst-case scenario, the loss of all engines.
Historically this training has not necessarily holistically encompassed elements of theoretical, psychological
and physiological effects which may surprise a pilot when faced by a surprising upset situation, and this is what UPRT aims to do.
UPRT plugs the gaps in the deficiencies
Another consideration is the wide diaspora of pilots with different levels of natural ability, capabilities and technical knowledge as well as vast differences in the quality and type of flight training with which they have been provided. With these obvious inequities it is clearly seen that there is a real need for critical training which aims to plug the gaps in the deficiencies when it comes to dealing with the threat posed by an upset condition. This is another aspect that UPRT aims to improve upon and this is why it is a necessity.
The form and content of UPRT training is established by the regulatory agencies for each region, with EASA, (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) being the authority for the European region.