Ahead of looming regulations requiring upset recovery training capability, simulator manufacturers are vying to address airline and bizjet operator demand. Rick Adams looks at UPRT and other pilot training technology developments.
If I am ever a passenger in an aircraft which deviates into an “upset” attitude, I’d prefer that it be at least the second time the pilot has encountered the situation.
“On their second attempt, they get it right,” Dann Runik told me. Runik is executive director of Advanced Training Programs for FlightSafety International and the lead on development of the “expanded” aerodynamic model for the first full flight simulator approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT).
At the end of the intensive one-day academics and simulator UPRT course for Gulfstream 550 pilots, the trainees are presented with six unannounced upset scenarios, all of which are based on real-world accidents which killed pilots and passengers. “For the most part, they will crash in two or more of the scenarios,” Runik said.
“With this new model in place, the simulated airplane will violently depart controlled flight. You’ve got about three seconds to recover correctly or it will get into a deep stall that may or may not be recoverable, which is exactly like the airplane.”
Runik is a former pilot for Delta, Northwest, and Flying Tigers, and was an engineer on the Space Shuttle programme leading up to the first launch of Columbia in 1981. He’s been with FlightSafety for more than a decade.
The FlightSafety G550 simulator is one of multiple initiatives by training organizations, airlines, and business aircraft operators to get in front of FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) mandates requiring UPRT pilot training. The new EASA regulations kick in 4 May 2016; the FAA effective date is March 2019.
Delta Air Lines, for example, is planning to develop an in-house, type-specific UPRT programme after it has cycled 16 instructors (two for each aircraft type in the fleet) through a Jet Upset Simulator Instructor course at Aviation Performance Solutions’ Arlington, Texas facility. APS has similar contracts with South African Airways and three other non-US airlines, and is in discussions with more than a dozen other carriers.
Insurer Global Aerospace has partnered with Calspan on a Loss of Control In-Flight (LOC-I) training programme using a modified Learjet simulator. California company Flight Research offers a two- to four-day academic and on-aircraft course in the Mojave desert with “upsets from extreme nose-high and nose-low angles of attack and progressive bank angles from 70 to 180 degrees.”
Textron’s TRU Simulation + Training is incorporating full-stall training capability in multiple new flight simulators in development for Beechcraft models. Xavier Stack, After Sales manager for France’s Alsim, which produces flight training devices priced at under a million US dollars, said they’ve developed a rudimentary high-altitude stall to 39,000 feet as part of a new software load for their Evolution customers.
Sim manufacturing leader CAE claims to offer “the most extensive buffet model in the industry, which is a principle cue when the aircraft is not happy,” according to Marc St-Hilaire, vice president, Technology and Innovation. CAE has developed half a dozen instructor-driven scenarios such as low-speed close to the stall boundary or 60 degrees of bank with the nose down 20 degrees. A set of pages allows the simulator instructor to configure and pre-position the aircraft. The IOS screen monitors the recovery, plotting the flight path against the boundaries of the desired flight envelope.
“We were the first company to include the upset recovery package inside the simulator,” St-Hilaire claims. The “EASA-approved, FAA-approved and ICAO-compliant” package comes “out of the box” for Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft in CAE’s Series 7000XR Level D flight simulator, introduced a year ago at the World Aviation Training Conference and Tradeshow (WATS) with the first delivery in March 2015 to the Middle East Aviation Academy in Beirut, Lebanon. The UPRT module is also available as a retrofit for older sims.
Extended Envelope Data Until the new regulatory requirements for upset recovery training, the aerodynamic models used in flight simulators went only so far as the onset of stall conditions. Not because relevant aircraft data beyond stall did not exist but because the FAA and EASA did not require anything further for simulation. And sim manufacturers were not about to incorporate pricey data or training scenarios which might open them to liability in the case of an accident traceable to non-regulated training.
Most major aircraft OEMs, in fact, have collected various stall and upset conditions data as part of the certification process. Reams of data. Runik said Gulfstream test pilots performed nearly 1,000 aerodynamic stalls in the prototype G550s. Whereas the normal redline, or maximum recommended speed for the aircraft is 340 knots, the test pilots pushed it to 444 knots. They also took it beyond the normal maximum cruise of Mach 0.855 to just below Mach 1 (0.955).
“They stalled it in all three configurations: Clean, Flaps 10, and Flaps 20. And then fully configured, gear down, and Flaps 39. And they stalled it at forward CG [center of gravity], mid CG, and aft CG.”
“It took us about five or six months to get all the data collated, put into the model, flight tested, and then finding where we went wrong,” Runik explained. “If the model didn’t feel right in one regime, we found out the error in the data. Then we flight tested it to my satisfaction, that it met the flight test reports.” The Gulfstream test pilots then evaluated the simulator model. “They said, ‘This takes us right back to the day.’ That’s when we knew we really had something.’”
The four-hour simulator portion of the FlightSafety G550 training course somewhat mimics the aircraft flight data collection process. “We start out by getting them to know the low end and the high end of the envelope. We take them up to altitude and have them stall the airplane and have them recover from that. And then have them do it at the different flap configurations so they get comfortable with exactly what it is they’re feeling – the airframe vibration, the roll off, how much you’ve got to reduce the pitch attitude to reattach airflow over the wing. They learn and get comfortable with all that in the low-speed regime,” Runik described.
“Then we take them up to altitude, 48,000 feet, setting engines to max power, and take them up to near Mach 1, about 0.96 Mach, and have them feel what happens as the shock wave begins, as the wings produce their supersonic flow. You get tendencies like Mach Tuck [an aerodynamic effect whereby the aircraft nose tends to pitch downward when approaching supersonic speeds] and ‘aileron buzz’ [a very rapid oscillation of the ailerons]. All these very confusing things begin to happen if you’re not familiar with flight in those regimes.”
Sim Only or On-Aircraft? Unlike many other UPRT programmes, FlightSafety does not include any on-aircraft training. Runik cites two primary reasons: one, potential negative transfer of training – “Whatever you learn in an Extra 300 with the recovery techniques could be and likely are completely inappropriate for a Gulfstream or a Falcon or an Embraer and could actually tear the airplane apart.”
Two: “With a stick between your legs in an aerobatic style airplane that’s often way different than a yoke in your left hand and throttles in your right hand. So there’s the muscle memory problem, and how do you transfer that to a different aircraft?”
Runik summarized, “We’re doing an aerodynamic model that’s type-specific with recovery techniques approved by the OEM that we know will work for that particular aircraft. The ability to do this kind of training very low to the ground showed us that anything to be gained in the aircraft doesn’t outweigh the danger of going up in an aerobatic airplane and maybe having something go wrong and actually dying from it.”
Randall Brooks, vice president Training and Business Development for APS, said not using on-aircraft in a UPRT curriculum “is certainly any training provider's prerogative, but it is clearly not in line with current guidance on the subject. The global perception is changing rapidly on the subject of UPRT, with growing realization that part of the reason behind the epidemic of aircraft loss of control is from limitations inherent in a strictly simulator-based approach.”
Although the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) stops short of absolutely recommending aircraft training, in part because some Member States lack sufficient resources, their Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery (Document 10011), released last March, advocates an “integrated training concept” involving academics, on-aircraft training, and flight simulation as providing the most comprehensive approach. ICAO’s revised pilot training standards (PANS-TRG) do call for UPRT “in actual flight” at the cadet level prior to commercial licencing.
“The human factors associated with upset events, both psychological and physiological, cannot be fully replicated through flight simulation, even with advanced – and quite rare and expensive – continuous G (centrifuge) devices,” Brooks said.
New guidance issued this summer by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) states: “On-aeroplane UPRT can be a valuable tool to build long-lasting confidence for the young pilot. This confidence is psychologically built on realistic proof of the student‘s ability to control and recover the airplane to normal flight from any ‘3D’ set situation. The existence of such proof forms the underlying basis of true confidence and is a prerequisite for the ability to contain the effects and the duration of startle.”
Brooks notes, “The psychology of being in actual flight is a larger contributor than even the accelerations missing from the simulator. When pilots are bolted to the ground it is difficult to create the degree of surprise and startle encountered in actual flight. The recovery strategies should include how to manage surprise and startle induced by unusual attitudes and stall, and how to perform even counter-intuitive actions under the presence of deviations from 1g flight.”
Tech Threads Though UPRT developments have dominated recent training industry announcements, there are a few other pilot training technology threads.
Belgian startup Venyo, which first appeared publicly at the 2013 Paris Air Show, expects to deliver its first “metered” pay-by-the-hour flight training device by the end of this year and a second in mid-2016. The 737NG trainer (EASA FNPT2/MCC, FAA FTD Level 2) is scheduled for Belgian Civil Aviation Authority evaluation toward the end of August, according to Jean-Claude Streel, Business Development manager. Eventually Venyo hopes to upgrade their capabilities to Level D full-motion simulators.
Axis Flight Training Systems, based in Austria and Switzerland, has delivered a Level D Cessna 560 XLS simulator to Mediterranean Aeronautics Research and Training Academy in Enna, Sicily, where it will be used for both training and human factors research. The device incorporates the Axis Technical Monitoring and Control System (TMCS), a web-based application that allows monitoring and control of key aspects of the simulator, including remote assistance.
Rockwell Collins raised the ante in visual image generators with the EP-8100. The upgrade is geared more for military applications but includes some airline training features such as higher-fidelity snow and rain effects with “full-depth image rendering” and a large catalog of high-resolution airport models. The primary benefit to commercial customers, senior director Nick Gibbs told us, is that the new IG iteration is compatible with existing EP-8000 databases and all interfaces. “It is literally and truly a drop-in replacement with the advantage of having a much lower life-cycle cost and much higher reliability. Radical innovation is exciting to our customers but life cycle stability is critical. It’s a smaller footprint, more reliable, 100 percent compatible product, hardware and software, with the existing EP-8000 library.”