The US Federal Aviation Administration is asking airline, 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 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 on 6 July. Loss of control (LOC) is defined as flight "outside the normal flight envelope, with non-linear influences, and with an inability of the pilot to control the aircraft", the agency says.
LOC as it relates to training was highlighted as a problem area in the February 2009 crash of a Colgan Airways Bombardier Q400 near Buffalo, New York. In that crash, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the pilot responded incorrectly to a stickshaker warning, putting the aircraft in an aerodynamic stall and upset condition from which the crew did not recover before hitting the ground.
The FAA proposed in January 2009 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 asks operators to use applicable portions of a modular aircraft upset recovery training aid developed in 1998 by an FAA/industry working group that was chaired by Airbus, Boeing 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.