Plane & Pilot
Sunday, July 1, 2001

Upset Recovery Training


More and more pilots are beginning to understand that anyone can find themselves in unusual attitudes


Upset Recovery TrainingI hate roller coasters. Little tykes who are barely out of their diapers scamper away from the Superman Ride giggling and laughing. I, on the other hand, stumble away with nausea, posttraumatic stress and a desire to sue the park for mayhem, reckless endangerment and domestic terrorism. So what am I, a nonaerobatic pilot, doing here at 7,000 feet—with my eyes closed, mind you—falling inverted out of a tailslide in an airplane I’ve never flown before?

 

 

 

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I hate roller coasters. Little tykes who are barely out of their diapers scamper away from the Superman Ride giggling and laughing. I, on the other hand, stumble away with nausea, posttraumatic stress and a desire to sue the park for mayhem, reckless endangerment and domestic terrorism.

Upset Recovery Training So what am I, a nonaerobatic pilot, doing here at 7,000 feet—with my eyes closed, mind you—falling inverted out of a tailslide in an airplane I’ve never flown before?

Answer: taking one for the team—that is, you, dear reader. Why? I want you to learn how to save your life in any out-of-control flight situation you may wind up in.

I’ve been tasked with flying myself out of this incipient disaster. Did I mention that my eyes are closed?

“Okay,” comes Bill Finagin’s voice over the headset, “open your eyes!” My eyes pop wide. I’m inside a tornado. Everything’s a spinning blur. Where’s the ground? Where’s my stomach?

Oh. My. God.

An hour earlier, Bill Finagin, a master Pitts instructor pilot and a man with a mission (creating supersafe pilots), had offered to teach me this simple, bulletproof flight-recovery method that supposedly works for any flight attitude.

Any?” I asked, beginning to tap my fingernails on the table.

“Any. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a spin or just fell out of a hammerhead stall—maybe you don’t even know what happened, but you’ve lost control of the airplane.”

“Don’t tell me...you’re going to demonstrate this with me in the front seat of the Pitts, right?”

“Right.” Is he smirking? “It’s like drown-proofing a swimmer. Every pilot should know this.”

Note to self: Start finding ways to weasel out of this flight without making cluck-cluck or weasel sounds.

“I usually ask someone,” says Finagin, “‘What’s your criteria for determining when an airplane’s out of control?’”

I sit there with a blank look on my face, weighing my exit strategies.

“When do you decide?” he continues. “Unfortunately, many pilots haven’t thought about that. So I’m going to define it for you.”

Out of control, I think to myself, is probably when the screaming starts.





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