PILOT TRAINING ARTICLE
The Need for Stress during Upset Prevention and Recovery Training
By Michael C. Newman
A pilot’s initial reaction to an unplanned aircraft upset is paramount to the eventual recovery or loss of control that follows. Fear, shock and extreme anxiety, often referred to as the startle factor of an upset, are common reactions that degrade performance and reduce the likelihood of recovery.
Several studies have investigated how various training techniques affect future performance while under stress. Kivimaki and Lusa1 (1994) found that training that encourages automatic processing in operations under stressful conditions (fire fighting techniques) was most useful and least degraded under stressful conditions. Green2 (1985) examined three types of stress as they relate to pilot error and aircraft accidents. The author argued that most pilots respond very well to acutely stressful situations, and when surveyed, report that previous experience in simulation training was the reason for their success. This self-report may imply that such training plays an important role in the habituation and conditioning of possible affective responses. McKinney and Davis3 (2003) examined the effects of deliberate practice on pilot decision making under crisis conditions. They reported finding that deliberate practice tends to aid performance by automating it, enhancing the performer’s ability to use pattern matching, and improving the accuracy of his perceptions and expectations.
Athletes, warfighters, firefighters and law enforcement personnel all incorporate stress scenarios into their training regiments in order to increase training effectiveness. Stress training in the aerospace industry actually date back to the days before manned space programs, setting the stage. Astronauts of Project Mercury trained in a high-fidelity capsule mockup that was mounted in the gondola of the human centrifuge at the NADC in Warminster, Pennsylvania4. These astronauts performed control tasks and emergency procedures under the high G-loads that they would eventually experience during the launch and re-entry of the Mercury capsule
Pilots that train at the NASTAR Center, located in Southampton PA, practice upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) techniques under exposure to G-forces. By incorporating realistic physiological stress into the training curriculum, pilots can identify their individual stress response, and feel the associated impact on piloting performance, cognition and biodynamic function. Through such training it is possible to manage the stress response and diminish its negative effects on performance. As loss of control in-flight remains a major factor in aviation fatalities for commercial, corporate, and general aviation, it is essential that pilots begin to think about how the skills they know will transfer under crisis conditions. A complete UPRT course should not only address the techniques and skills required to recover the aircraft, but should also simulate these techniques in the stressful and physiologically taxing environment in which they will ultimately be put to use.