This summer marks 10 years since I learned to fly.
In those 10 years, I have been fortunate to experience a host of unique airplanes and flying, but one of the most fun (and eye-opening) experiences occurred just earlier this year when my husband Jared and I visited Patty Wagstaff Aviation Safety in St. Augustine, Florida.
Jared, a professional pilot, was attending the school’s Owner-Pilot Confidence and Airmanship Training course for a refresher in upset training and aerobatics (you can find a detailed recount of his experience in the article “Retrain Your Brain” found in this issue). While Jared was away on his second training flight, instructor Allan Moore offered to take me up for a quick spin in their Super Decathlon. An unexpected but readily accepted offer!
We briefed on the ground, strapped on my parachute (somewhat disconcerting) and loaded into the airplane.
In the air, Allan walked me through a “preview” of the type of maneuvers covered in a beginner upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) course. Though this was not my first aerobatic experience, it was my first with a training focus. I concentrated intently on what was happening with the airplane and around me – the direction of the nose, the wing’s position on the horizon, my body senses, etc. We performed aileron rolls, loops, inverted flight and, an especially rare one, flat spins.
I shadowed the controls as Allan explained each step and recovery process along the way. But I can tell you firsthand, I was completely disoriented. Unusual attitudes are, well, unusual. The brain cannot easily process what you are seeing and feeling to provide a safe, instinctive reaction unless it is trained otherwise.
As Jared points out in his article, “Once the abnormal feels normal, we give our brain the chance it needs to provide the appropriate inputs to correct the scenario.” And the best way to get there is experience and practice – especially in a real airplane, if possible.
My brief exposure to this training was all the proof I needed to realize the benefit of training such maneuvers in the chance you find yourself in a loss-of-control occurrence. Not to mention, a whole heck of a lot of fun.
Maybe you have also attended an eye-opening UPRT course of some kind. They are popping up with increasing regularity over the last few years as the FAA, owner-pilot groups and general aviation organizations turn a collective focus toward minimizing incidents related to loss of control inflight. If so, I would enjoy hearing about your training experience. UPRT safety efforts is an area I see us continuing to highlight in future issues.