NTSB wants business aviation pilots to train for upset recovery

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US air taxi companies and business would have to incorporate upset recovery training into their pilot training programmes if the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation to that effect is accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The NTSB wants "all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91K and Part 135 operators to incorporate upset recovery training...into their training programmes".

The board's recommendation has been sparked by its investigation of a fatal accident on 4 June 2007 involving an emergency medical services flight by a Cessna Citation 550 (N550BP), in which the crew lost control of the aircraft shortly after take-off from Ypsilanti, Michigan, when they suffered a control system anomaly in instrument meteorological conditions.

The most likely causes, says the report, were inadvertent engagement of the autopilot when engagement of the yaw damper only was intended, or a pitch trim runaway. The NTSB believes either of these problems were containable if the crew had been appropriately trained.

An additional recommendation specific to the aircraft series is that Cessna should "redesign and retrofit the yaw damper and autopilot switches on the autopilot control panel to make them easily distinguishable and to guard against unintentional pilot activation".

At present they are next to each other, identical in form and operation, and unguarded. It asks the FAA to require that Cessna modify the Citation series to incorporate an aural indication when the pitch trim is in motion, and an easily identifiable circuit breaker to enable the pilots to isolate a runway trim. Finally, the NTSB wants the FAA to check that other types do not have the same autopilot control design vulnerability.

The report has generated a host of other recommendations mainly aimed at the Part 135 on-demand charter sector, but also at Part 91. Two of these, if the FAA were to accept them, would be controversial in the industry. One would require operators to provide their customers, when a business agreement or contract has been completed, with FAA contact information to enable them to express concerns about flight safety if they had any.

The other would require operators to notify the FAA of "specific adverse financial events, such as bankruptcy, court judgments related to non-payment of recurring expenses, or termination of a credit agreement or contract by a vendor for reasons of late payment or nonpayment".

The NTSB comments: "Upon receipt of such information, [FAA] inspectors should increase their oversight of operators who appear to be in financial distress."