Our training is carefully crafted to teach specific things. Upset Prevention and Recovery Training addresses loss of control scenarios. Advanced Stall and Spin Training teaches high angle of attack and load factor awareness. Sometimes though, we find the best lessons are not the ones we intended to teach at all.
On a recent UPRT flight I was fling with a pilot that was nice enough to write up his experience. Read it here:
"The most important lesson for me during this training was actually not a planned part of the curriculum. I read about accidents all the time and I wonder how the pilot got himself into the situation. I sit and think sometimes that I'll never have that accident because i never do this or do that, yada yada. On one of our training flights, i really pushed my body to the limit doing some intense unusual attitude recoveries that required some solid G-force and then finishing with some spin recoveries. I started feeling a little sick but having never been motion sick in a plane before i pushed myself a little further. Finally, I hit my limit and decided it was time to put my feet back on the ground. I made a radio call stating my intentions to come back to the airport to land, but i called out the wrong tail number and gave an incorrect position call. I stated NE of field when i was actually NW. Then i tried to start descending to pattern altitude but noticed that as i started talking with Dennis that i began climbing instead of descending. A simple basic maneuver, i was struggling with. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I fly the plane with ease like i always do? My brain had hit the limit. I don't know exactly why, but because of all the stress from the flight conditions i had put my body under, all of a sudden i couldn't think and perform the way i always do. Dennis realized that i was struggling and he took over the controls as we turned final and landed the airplane. Once on the ground we discussed and debriefed my condition. I was overwhelmed, physically and mentally. I had a mission to complete, get my feet on the ground asap, and I let that mission and the way I felt cause me to continue trying to get to the airport although I truly just needed a few minutes to recover and get stabilized. I learned in that moment that if I ever feel that way again, the most important thing for me to do is fly straight and level and regain my bearings. If talking to ATC, just tell them I need a minute and do whatever it takes to calm down and get comfortable again. In Dennis' words, "Walk it off in the air!" Take whatever time you need before proceeding with the mission."
What we were able to unintentionally do was put this pilot in a very high stress situation, probably the most stress he has ever experienced in an airplane, and learned how he responded to that stress. This pilot found himself unable to focus on simple tasks; he simply froze up. No problem with the safety margins built into this kind of training; a deadly situation in IMC or night.
I want to be very clear that I'm not saying anything negative about this pilot or his skills or abilities. I am saying he is human, and we all handle stress differently. His subconscious method of coping with stress by freezing isn't ideal, but that's ok. The important thing here is he discovered how to recognize and evaluate his own stress level and know that it is potentially debilitating. We worked together to establish a method of preventing unexpected and high stress situations. That came in the form of planning periodic recurrent training (not necessarily UPRT, all types of training is important), evaluating his personal minimums, and reinforcing standard procedures. He must avoid especially high stress situations, and I'm certain personal safety margins that allow him to avoid situations he may respond unfavorably to while he works to improve his piloting skills to handle difficult tasks with ease.
This is how safe pilots are created and I wouldn't hesitate to put my family in an airplane with him.
Could you benefit from this kind of training? Learn more by clicking the link below to receive a free copy of the training syllabus we use.