Friday, February 2, 2007

Instrument Recovery Training

Back in January of 2002 I wrote an article titled, “Extra Maneuver Training.” In that article I lamented the minimal training on spins and upset recoveries received by student pilots and even instructors. Because of this, stall/spin accidents are responsible for about 25 percent of fatal general aviation accidents, and about 20 percent of those occur during dual instructional flight with an FAA-certified flight instructor on board. I also described the Emergency Maneuver Training (EMT) program available from Fighter Combat International (FCI), located at Williams Gateway Airport (IWA) in Mesa, Arizona.

The Instrument Recovery Training (IRT) was originally offered as a stand alone program, but FCI discovered that pilots attending the course did not have the basic recovery skills necessary and quickly became overwhelmed and frustrated. FCI now offers the IRT only as an add-on at the end of their two-day (three flights) or three-day (five flights) visual recovery courses.

The Instrument Recovery Training flight repeats many of these maneuvers with the pilot wearing glasses that limit vision outside the aircraft. The flight starts with steep turns, slow flight, and power on and off stalls.

This simple approach is important, because it may be years before a pilot actually has an opportunity to use the skills learned during EMT or IRT, and after that period of time only the most basic, simple instructions will be remembered by the pilot. The recovery techniques taught can be summarized in three or four words.

For the pilot this can be “upset” training in more ways than one. The airplane is stocked with a liberal supply of barf bags, referred to as “boarding passes.” I have never thrown up in an airplane before. I even used to teach aerobatics, but that was in a Great Lakes biplane, which has nowhere near the performance of the Extra 300.

I can heartily recommend FCI’s very professional approach to Emergency Maneuver Training and Instrument Recovery Training to any pilot. It is hard to imagine anyone not feeling much more capable of handling whatever might happen to them in an airplane, and FCI has stories from students who have literally found themselves upside down on final due to wake turbulence. It is a credit to the effectiveness of this training that they lived to send FCI a report on their successful recovery from a situation that has resulted in deaths of other pilots.