Originally submitted to Mentor Magazine
Nothing to get UPSET about…
Flight Instructors have great demands placed upon them, first and foremost of which is flight safety. The best way to ensure safety is to continuously advance our training and improve flight skills. Every pilot, especially instructors, should make an investment in specialized upset and emergency attitude recovery training, an investment the FAA does not require, but which pays dividends throughout a flying career. Military flight schools put students through the paces of upset and emergency recovery, but the requirement for these types of maneuvers was deleted long ago from general aviation licensing requirements. Pilots without upset recovery training often do not even know what they don’t know. Once pilots experience life well beyond ‘stall’ and learn to master recovery skills, they will wonder how they survived without it. Where can you find this training? The best answer is APS!
APS Emergency Maneuver Training of Phoenix, Arizona teaches a course that is more than flying upside down and aerobatics – what they teach could easily be called a master’s degree in aerodynamics. Speaking from experience, this course goes well beyond the training that military primary students receive. APS Instructors walk pilots through and around the corners and curves of the aircraft envelope with a thrilling, NAFI Master Instructor-designed syllabus. Each classroom exercise explores the finer points of aerodynamics, teaching the pilot to think like an airplane. Strapping into the Extra 300L, the flight lessons drill the all-attitude aircraft recovery procedure into pilot’s muscles and mind. The leap in skills and knowledge is a great as getting an instrument rating! We left the course a believer in specific recoveries and advanced aerodynamic theories. Most importantly, APS provided us the confidence to recover from any situation that is recoverable, and made us wise enough to recognize and avoid situations that are unrecoverable.
Arrival at Williams Gateway Airport (IAW):
Upon arrival at APS, a big, friendly black Lab named Piper meets all pilots and performs a quick indoctrination and security check. Piper’s hearty hello is the first indication of the friendly welcome extended by the entire APS team to their guests. The dog is named after an airplane, and my instructor was named after an aquatic water mammal - Otter. Otter is an experienced F-18 Hornet fighter instructor and airline captain. What is most amazing about Otter is the level of intensity and newness that he brings to every instructional hop – this guy loves his job and is great at doing it. He makes learning the techniques and lessons on emergency recoveries and aerodynamics challenging and fun. Flight instructors have the added opportunity to learn added lessons on How to Teach, by copying Otter’s instructional style and bringing home his enthusiasm to their students.
Prior to arrival, APS provides each student with a comprehensive flight-training manual for the course they are going to attend. Reading the manual is essential to maximizing the course material, from studying the aerodynamic questions explored in the manual to make classroom work enriching to memorizing the ‘All Attitude Recovery Procedure’ (PUSH – POWER – RUDDER – ROLL – CLIMB) so that it can be applied immediately in flight. A great recommendation is to go for a run and repeat this mantra about 300 times. Memorization is the key.
What is the All Attitude Recovery Procedure? PUSH – POWER – RUDDER – ROLL – CLIMB. PUSH the stick forward to decrease the weight of the aircraft, which lowers stall speed, and increases the speed of the aircraft to break the stall. POWER increases or decreases the acceleration rate of the aircraft. RUDDER – apply to establish trimmed flight, and determine why and when the ball is not accurate. ROLL to a wings-level attitude, and learn why the ailerons should not be used until this step. CLIMB – pull away from danger with the perfect amount of G-force for the limit of the particular aircraft structure (3.8G Normal Category).
APS spends a great deal of time teaching the aircraft envelope diagram that shows the relationship between Angle of Attack and Coefficient of Lift/Drag. How much time does the average pilot spend thinking about how the aircraft behaves well below the published stall speed and why it behaves that way? Not much if any. APS structures their course to explore the diagrams academically and practically, with advanced theory in the classroom and flight maneuvers in the cockpit. For example, APS practices two maneuvers that help pilots master flying the aircraft below the published stall speed, called the Falling Leaf and the Zoom Maneuver.
Strapped into the Extra 300L, the Falling Leaf is an exercise where the instructor holds the stick full aft with the Extra in a deep stall. Using the ailerons for control will increase drag on the respective wing at a greater rate than the input will increase lift! Sure, they show you on the diagram and teach you procedure on the ground, but getting the muscles to leave the stick centered is another matter. With the rudders as your only available control, the pilot gets to enjoy a wild ride trying to keep the aircraft upright, recovering from attitudes of beyond 150 degrees of roll. Bottom line – the rudder works and the ailerons do not – this exercise will make any pilot a believer. Check off this exercise and your ready to move on, they are putting the building blocks in place for more advanced procedures.
The Zoom Maneuver places the aircraft into a parabolic arcing climb. At the top of the arc, the aircraft slows down and is unloaded. In other words, it weighs less by the decelerating descent. If the aircraft weighs less by reducing G, but remains slightly positive, stall speed is lowered significantly and the aircraft is comfortably controlled at less than 40 knots! Check off this maneuver, there is life below the published stall speed, and once again you are a believer.
The entire course is one fun exercise after another. Each one goes back to the solid aerodynamic theory that makes the syllabus so enriching. Using maneuvers such as the Falling Leaf, the Zoom Maneuver, Dutch Rolls, Roll Dampening Exercises, and Accelerated Stalls, builds a solid foundation to move through practical exercises. The advanced practical exercises focus on approach-turn stall recoveries, severe wake turbulence recoveries, engine out, emergency landing, and loss of flight control scenarios. As a bonus, they use aerobatics to teach the same theories. Flying loops, Cuban Eights, aileron rolls, split-s, and other maneuvers makes it tough to believe that this is a school since it is so much fun.
What is the result? Pilots learn the limits of their aircraft and how to recognize the limits by feel. They have a greater respect for exactly what they are able to accomplish in an aircraft and an understanding of how to create better personal minimums. Additionally, they will be able to use the aircraft to its maximum performance limit in case they are ever in extremis. More importantly, students learn new flight skills from some of the best pilots in the business!
Byline: Dave is a flight instructor with helicopter, single engine, and multi engine ratings. He works with Momentum Interactive, creators of FLITELite.