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Unusual Attitude Training

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Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
I don't know if I should post this as a question or just a discussion topic, but the other day I was giving some unusual attitude training to a pvt student and had a problem. We'd gone through the discussion a couple of times on recovery sequences, and decided to give it a shot in the air. I got my student scrambled and left the plane heading uphill. No problem. Fairly quick, good recovery. So I decided to give a downhill UA a shot. With a little disorientation maneuvering, I ended with a wingover. When the nose had reached about 20-25° downhill, I told my student to recover. She delayed what seemed like forever. I finally took over and recovered. About the time I was approaching level, I noticed the airspeed indicator meeting the red line!

I just kept moderate backpressure until the nose was headed uphill slightly to bleed off that airspeed. As I saw the AS indicator at redline, I started imagining us shedding parts and that 10-20 seconds or so of fluttering to the ground afterward. I know most planes can probably exceed AS redline minimally and have no ill effects, but it still bothers me thinking I let it get out of hand like that. Overloading or overspeeding planes is not my thing at all.

For the sake of realism, I had the power set at low cruise when I turned it over. The way I see it, if you pull the power way back, you're not really simulating the downhill UA as well as it should. Nor do I think you should have a high pwer setting. Maybe the risk of actual overspeed isn't worth the realism in the exercise?

I've been instructing on the side a couple of years with about 300 hrs dual given and have never had this problem in the past. But obviously something was different this time. Now that I'm typing this out, I'm thinking my student may have pushed the throttle in, instead of pulling it out... I don't recall seeing or hearing that, but it would make sense. I pulled her hand away when I took over, but don't recall the exact throttle position when I took over. A couple of things I probably did wrong was not bleed off enough airspeed at the top of the wingover before heading downhill and decending at too steep of an angle.

Any similar experiences or thoughts on providing some good unusual attitude training, but not breaking the plane?!
Unusual attitudes

Vne, of course, is Never Exceed speed. You probably didn't overstress the airframe.

Go over the nose-procedure again with your student. Make sure she understands that she should reduce power in a nose-low unusual attitude. That keeping power in makes the airplane go faster, which she doesn't want.

Maybe start one step at a time. Start with wings-level nose-up and wings-level nose-down, with no hood. Have your student correlate the visual references with the instrument references. Once she's getting it, then discuss recovery and have her try it. Then, start adding bank, emphasing the wings must be level for a nose-down recovery in particular. That pulling back exacerbates an already-bad situation by tightening up an incipient death spiral. After all these unhooded demos, have her put on the hood and have her try it. You could begin in the sim if your school or FBO uses one.

You don't want to devote an entire lesson to unusual attitudes. It's not that much fun and does a number on your stomach. It's a good idea to take a little time from flight to flight if you can to review unusual attitudes. It's essential to teach them as part of night flight training.

FlightSafety has a whole unit of training on spins and unusual attitudes. When I was there it used Aerobat 152s. Now, it uses Zlins. Spins aren't required for the Private, but I think it's a good idea to at least introduce spins, if not having students recover from them outright, during Private training.
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Sounds like both of you learned something. I think it is good that you teach both nose high and nose low unusual attitudes. Just be sure to brief up the maneuvers before you fly and be prepared if your student doesn't react as planned. Briefing the maneuver will not only prepare your student but will also prepare you mentally as the instructor and it sounds like you did brief the lesson.

In my opinion, you did the right thing by not over stressing or over speeding the aircraft. Sounds like you were very aware of the dangers of excess speed and the possibility over "G"ing the aircraft. The only thing you might consider changing is how you are going to enter the maneuver. Again, it sounds like you have already considered modifying how you are going to enter the maneuver.

In small airplanes, I set up a nose low unusual attitude by puting the aircraft in a steep bank (about 50 to 60 degrees) and allow a sprial to develop. With about 2 G's on the aircraft and excess speed the student will experience a real world scenario that has been the cause of many accidents.

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