FAA promotes upset recovery aid

Washington DC
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The US FAA is asking airline, air cargo, air taxi and fractional flight departments to incorporate upset recovery aids developed by government and industry into their training programmes.

"Although the overall accident rate has decreased, the category of loss-of-control (LOC) continues to outpace other factors as the leading cause of fatal accidents in the last 20 years," the FAA says in an Information for Operators letter issued 6 July. LOC is defined as flight "outside the normal flight envelope, with nonlinear influences, and with an inability of the pilot to control the aircraft", the agency states.

LOC as it relates to training was highlighted as a problem area in the February 2009 crash of a Colgan Airways Q400 near Buffalo, New York. In that crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the pilot responded incorrectly to a stick shaker warning, putting the aircraft in an aerodynamic stall and upset condition from which the crew did not recover before hitting the ground.

The FAA in January 2009 proposed a revamping of pilot training rules that would require formal upset recovery training programmes for airline pilots, giving them the chance to regularly experience the events in simulators. The agency has not yet finalised the proposed rules.

In the 6 July safety letter, the FAA asked operators to use applicable portions of a modular airplane upset recovery training aid developed in 1998 by an FAA/industry working group that was chaired by Boeing, Airbus and the Flight Safety Foundation. "Although the work group was primarily focused on large aircraft, many of the same aerodynamic principles apply to smaller swept wing turbine aircraft," notes the FAA.

The print and video-based training aid reviews the physics behind the events as well as the expected recovery procedures.

"When tailored to specific aircraft and operator procedures, the suggested actions presented in this aid provide an excellent framework for an effective upset recovery training module," the agency says.