Some LOC-I solutions continue to go unrecognized
Following closely behind the National Transportation Safety Board’s successful Loss of Control Inflight Roundtable, Phoenix-based Aviation Performance Solutions said a key reason LOC-I continues to be such a persistent and lethal threat to aviation safety stems from a number of misconceptions that continue to be either neglected or go unrecognized by agencies and organizations.
A recent APS report highlighted four critical issues the company said deserve additional attention, topics directly relatable to pilots flying aircraft in a variety of categories. APS hope the significant body of work on LOC-I and UPRT that already exists, can be used to more effectively prepare pilots to prevent and recover from unexpected upset events. APS said, “To continue to make strides toward mitigating the risk of LOC-I, we need to focus on incorporating existing U.S. and international recommendations to change what we are doing to train pilots.”
An international LOC-I consensus already exists. The International Committee on Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE), created by the Royal Aeronautical Society spent three years evaluating potential LOC-I mitigation options through training and technical research paralleling the NTSB Roundtable’s goals. ICATEE’s technical recommendations later formed the basis for changes to simulators slated to be instituted by U.S. airlines prior to March 2019. They were also incorporated into the International Civil Aviation Organization’s publication, Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). ICAO later changed civilian licensing standards to recommend UPRT prior to commercial pilot licensing, regulatory changes already implemented by EASA. FAA has updated ATP licensing standards that include three hours of UPRT, although that entire training module will be conducted in a simulator. Next year, EASA will begin demanding UPRT training for advanced pilot ratings to be conducted in aircraft.
The aerodynamics, physics and human factors affecting LOC-I of large and small airplanes are more similar than they are different. While transport category aircraft often employ significant safety features such as fly-by-wire flight envelope protections, LOC-I still results in more airline sector fatalities than any other causal. For airplanes large and small however, LOC-I accidents often come down to the startlingly familiar angle of attack or energy mismanagement issues.
Flight simulation alone is incapable of demonstrating the full range of LOC-I factors. Because full-motion flight simulators perform so realistically in normal flight operations, pilots should not overlook two critical limitations when teaching outside the normal flight envelope such as slipping or skidding stalls leading to an upset.
The APS report said the Roundtable did not address one critical reality of simulators, that the dynamic and non-linear aerodynamics involved in slipping and skidding stalls are not well modeled by even the most sophisticated Level D simulators incorporating enhanced modeling. APS believes stalls in slipping and skidded flight are best practiced in flight with aerobatic category aircraft that provide a greater margin of safety.
During an unexpected upset the cognitive overload and physiological response pilots experience is often overwhelming, according to APS. Structured training incorporating a building block approach in an aerobatic aircraft can introduce essential skills and techniques in an environment of controlled risk. This not only helps pilots learn to cope with the threat response they will experience in an upset, but also assists in the retention of those skills.
Current licensing does not sufficiently address upsets. The NTSB Roundtable demonstrated a clear consensus that additional training was the most effective method of defeating the LOC-I threat. APS said, “The concept that professionalism should not be tied to a pay check was discussed, but for commercially-licensed pilots where a greater standard of safety is required, professionalism is mandatory.”
The FAA’s own Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (LOCART ARC) recommended all pilots should receive comprehensive upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) in actual flight, at the commercial pilot licensing level on light airplanes which are capable of performing the recommended maneuvers while maintaining acceptable margins of safety. ICAO agreed and incorporated it in the ICAO UPRT Manual and updated their licensing recommendations that take effect next year.