KLM Flight Academy is to begin mandatory in-flight upset recovery training for students at its Phoenix, Arizona facility in February, using two Extra 300L single-engined aerobatic aircraft operated by Aviation Performance Solutions.
APS will initially teach the three-day course to 60 students a year, possibly ramping up to higher numbers based on KLM's pilot needs. The concept of required upset training has been gaining momentum in the USA, spurred by the February 2009 loss-of-control accident of a Colgan Airways Bombardier Q400 in New York.
KLM Flight Academy head of training Rob van den Heuvel, a former Lockheed F-104 fighter pilot, says the course is a first for the airline industry. Students will complete the course at the end of the single-engine training portion of their programme.
"Nowadays, training for civil aviation does not involve manoeuvres of more than 60° bank and 20° nose up or down," says van den Heuvel. "After upset training, they realise they can recover from any situation. It does a lot for self-confidence. We talked to KLM about whether it would contribute to safety and they thought it would be helpful."
KLM's Arizona flight training involves 135h in single-engined Piper Archers and retractable-gear Piper Arrows. Upset training at APS will include more than 4h of in-flight training that culminates in spin-awareness and instrument flight recoveries on the last day.
Once complete, the students return the Netherlands for 164h of twin-engined training in Beechcraft Baron simulators and aircraft as well as Boeing 737 simulators.
Van den Heuvel says that, while the results of the upset training might not be immediately obvious, he expects to "see some differences" in the students' performance when they begin initial airline training with KLM.