Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Upset Recovery Vs. Aerobatics

How upset do we have to be to get good training?

Flight training seems to have gotten so risk adverse that student pilots aren't taught deep stalls, spins or even basic akro. We can't avoid risk completely, but we can train for it. You can't really blame the pilots for these accidents—they completed the FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) requirements (or equivalent) like everyone else, but you can blame the system. How were they supposed to know what they didn't know about stalls and LOC?

I do have a bone to pick with the FAA on this one. With its new rules, the FAA is trying to take credit for "advancing" flight training by "introducing" upset training to commercial pilots. But the FAA has to take some blame for eliminating spins and more advanced maneuvers from private pilot training in the first place.

How did we get so far away from teaching basic stick-and-rudder skills in primary flight training? Why don't we require private pilots to have spin training, upset recovery/aerobatics and overall good airmanship?

Before and after WWII, student pilots were taught spins and basic aerobatics as part of their basic training curriculum. During WWII, the pre-solo student was trained in forced landing techniques and recovering from stalls and spins. Post-solo, there was training in precision of control, lazy 8s, pylon 8s and chandelles. Before a student earned their pilot's certificate, they were required to perform loops, Immelmans, slow rolls and half rolls, and they were required to make at least 175 landings. This type of basic flight training for most pilots in the U.S. continued into the 1960s, and in my opinion, should still be considered basic training for all student pilots today.

Not everyone was military, but the system pumped out enough pilots into the 1950s so that the training culture permeated to civilian students who benefited from ex-military trained instructors. My dad, who retired from the airlines and ended up back in DC-6s and 7s as a freight-dog, completed his basic training in the late '40s in Stearmans and T-6s. Back then, he considered loops, rolls and spins as no big deal and assumed every pilot was trained for "upsets" that could occur.

I'm a big believer in recurrency training, and no one can argue the new mandate requiring more flight training isn't good. The problem I have with the new FAA "upset rules" isn't that they aren't good; it's that they're trying to fix a symptom and not the cause. If the FAA and the industry in general wanted to fix the cause, they'd throw out the current PTS for all private and commercial certificates, and go back to basics. Why not just train student pilots in stalls, spins and upset training from the very beginning instead of trying to "fix" them later?


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