NBAA Convention News

UPRT in Your Aircraft, Virtually: APS Leverages VR Technology

 - October 12, 2021, 6:00 AM
Simulation allows pilots to experience upset training scenarios close to the ground.

Loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) accidents kill more people than any other type of aircraft accidents. For decades it has been a leading killer, and the threat continues to persist on any flight at any time. During an LOC-I event, pilots have only seconds to precisely and properly recover from an aircraft upset. When they don't, these accidents are nearly always fatal.

To effectively combat the LOC-I threat, training organizations must use a variety of tools to implement upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) programs. For more than 25 years, Mesa, Arizona-based Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) has used a mix of academic, on-aircraft, and simulator training to deliver UPRT programs to pilots from all disciplines. Now, APS is using virtual-reality technologies for the maximum transference of UPRT skills to a customer’s specific aircraft type. 

Over the years, APS has embraced technology and various teaching platforms to develop and implement UPRT programs. “APS is committed to helping pilots bring everyone home safely," said company CEO Paul “B.J.” Ransbury. “Our maximum impact to accomplish this vision is our full-time sole commitment to upset prevention and recovery training to overcome loss of control in-flight. LOC-I is responsible for nearly 50 percent of all fatalities in aviation worldwide, with UPRT being the most effective mitigation. UPRT is all we do. APS has a diversity of turnkey, highly effective LOC-I solutions for all fixed-wing professional pilots from general aviation to corporate to military to major air carriers alike.”

Introduction of virtual-reality technology is the next step in providing a comprehensive UPRT solution to pilots. This immersive approach to training allows pilots to consolidate knowledge on their own aircraft type following APS’s integrated academic, on-aircraft, and advanced simulator training.

Author Stuart “Kipp” experiences the virtual reality upset training in the Aviation Performance Solutions simulator .
Author Stuart “Kipp” experiences the virtual reality upset training in the Aviation Performance Solutions simulator while wearing a virtual reality headset, allowing him to experience UPRT scenarios in a much more realistic replica of the type of aircraft he flies regularly.

“The industry has correctly embraced integrated UPRT solutions as specified by ICAO to include academic, on-aircraft aerobatic, and advanced simulation training,” said Ransbury. “APS has robust industry-leading solutions at every stage of integration, including type-specific air carrier train-the-trainer programs on all models of Boeing and Airbus [aircraft]. The integration of virtual-reality UPRT is yet another layer of mitigation, transfer of skill facilitation, and real-world applicability of training in just a few days, all at our new headquarters facility.” 

Since APS is dedicated solely to UPRT and combating the LOC-I threat, it can adapt its programs to ever-changing technologies and tools. APS v-p of training Randy Brooks added, "The fact that all Part 142 and classic pilot licensing providers are bound by the same regulations means that their training all tends to look very much the same. APS has the benefit of a blank canvas when it comes to creating effective UPRT.

"Instead of asking, 'What do the regulations tell us we have to do?' at APS, we ask, 'What must pilots understand and what skills must they possess to effectively mitigate LOC-I?' Because of this different viewpoint, we train essential capabilities missed by standard training providers. We are free to use all of the tools or components at our disposal—academics, on-aircraft training in multiple aircraft, flight simulation, and now virtual reality—to give pilots what they need: effective UPRT that can save their life in the real world."

As an example, APS utilizes various training aircraft such as fully aerobatic aircraft, both piston and jet, to maximize the effectiveness of training. On-aircraft training is a foundational component of UPRT programs.

The ability to understand the forces required to properly “load and unload” the aircraft during an upset cannot be replicated in a full-flight simulator. "The Extra 300 and Marchetti S211 jet are very effective training platforms for pilots to experience and practice dealing with the various human-factors challenges faced during real aircraft upsets. These on-aircraft platforms allow for a large margin of safety compared to their aircraft and they address the 'reality factor,' which is missing in a simulator," said APS v-p of flight ops and standards Clarke “Otter” McNeace."But once a pilot has developed his core upset prevention and recovery skill sets airborne, our advanced simulator—capable of modeling seven classes of airplanes and mixed/virtual reality devices—can allow for CRM practice during low-altitude upsets in either class or type-specific cockpit environments,” he added.

A virtual reality headset
A virtual reality headset

A primary benefit of the virtual-reality component of APS’s integrated UPRT solution is the ability to directly transfer core skills to the customer’s exact flight deck. In addition to having a photorealistic model of the aircraft’s flight deck, the software incorporates exacting aerodynamic modeling to mimic the handling characteristics of the aircraft.

Other benefits include the ability to replicate in-flight upset scenarios at low altitudes and/or in instrument meteorological conditions. A unique feature of APS’s virtual-reality solution is the ability to visualize the aircraft externally during an upset. This allows a great opportunity for a conversation between the instructor and student on topics such as lift vector orientation, maneuvering room at low altitude, and recovery strategies.

Typically, customers will add on a virtual-reality session at the end of their training sessions. APS customers have several options; most pilots spend three days at an APS training center for initial training and one to two days for recurrent.

The course begins with a facilitated academic discussion on “all things related to UPRT” and then completes the on-aircraft portion, which covers four to five flights. Initial training flights are in one of APS's Extra 300s with an option to substitute later flights in one of its Marchetti S211 jets. This is a great tool to explore upsets in a high-performance aircraft with swept-wing aerodynamic characteristics.

Following in-aircraft training, students can spend time in APS’s simulator, which is configurable to be representative of a turboprop, business jet, or airliner. The simulator further validates the transferability of UPRT skills to a multi-crew environment, which is key for crew coordination and to emphasize CRM skills. 

Each element of APS’s integrated approach to UPRT has its merits. For the corporate/business aviation pilot, the FAA doesn't require modernized UPRT. Virtual reality may be the only opportunity for a business aircraft pilot to experience a diversity of upset in their own aircraft type.

“When you combine the human factors and aerodynamic contributions of training in the airplane with the type-specific or type-representative environment provided through virtual reality, you can show pilots how the skills they learned in an APS aircraft are transferable to the aircraft they fly," said APS advanced instructor pilot Norman Dequier." It really brings home what the application of our strategy would look like in their airplane.”

The stark reality of the LOC-I threat is that it is nearly always fatal and can happen in any flight phase, on any aircraft at any time. Pilots have only seconds to recover.

Only through the repetition of UPRT scenarios and recovery strategies, taught by highly qualified instructors, can the pilot have the confidence and skills to mitigate the LOC-I threat, according to APS. Virtual reality, combined with an already-robust UPRT program, allows pilots to further practice upset recovery procedures in a familiar environment, providing pilots with the skills to save lives, it concluded.