Unusual Attitude Recoveries

Unusual Attitude Recoveries


For a VFR or an IFR pilot, an unusual attitude can be one of the most dangerous situations to get into.  That is one reason so many new autopilots are being developed with a level button.  The concept behind the level button is if the pilot gets into a disorienting situation, press the level button and the autopilot comes on, holding the airplane in a straight and level pitch attitude.

What about all those planes without autopilots that have a level button?  That’s who this article is for.

First off, what is an unusual attitude?  The Airplane Flying Handbook on page 4-17 gives the following definition:  “An unusual attitude is commonly referenced as an unintended or unexpected attitude in instrument flight.”  The AFH also goes on to say that an unusual attitude in training has no defined bank and pitch parameters, but “for training purposes an instructor could place the airplane in a 30 degree bank with a nose up pitch attitude of 15 degrees and ask the student to recover and that would be considered an unusual attitude….”

We now have a basis from the FAA.  VFR Pilots are now saying, “Oh, instrument flight, that doesn’t apply to us.”  Not so fast.  The Private Pilot ACS (and before it, the PTS) has a requirement for Basic Attitude Instrument Flying, including unusual attitude recoveries.  Why?  Because VFR pilots still inadvertently fly into IMC conditions and can get into an unusual attitude.  Plus, a private, non-instrument rated pilot has a higher chance of not recovering from an unusual attitude since he isn’t used to relying on his instruments.

At each training event I do, whether it be private pilot training, a flight review, IFR training, transition training, or pretty much any kind of recurrent training, I like to do unusual attitude recoveries with my customers.  It’s one of those things that the recovery procedure wanes over time since it isn’t routinely practiced solo (for good reason!).

I see people have the most trouble with the nose high unusual attitude recoveries.  Let’s start with the recovery procedure, then I’ll discuss the common errors (notice that the nose high unusual attitude recovery procedure mirrors a stall recovery).  Remember, this is in IFR conditions:

  • Breathe
  • Pitch Down to a level pitch attitude on the Attitude Indicator (or lower if the stall warning horn continues to go off)
  • Simultaneously add full power
  • Roll wings level
  • Flaps up and recover to a level pitch attitude if not there already

The order is important, especially the breathing part.  What happens if a pilot goes straight into a recovery and doesn’t pause for a second or two to absorb what’s going on is the recovery isn’t executed properly.

Our brains see the wings banked and set off all kinds of alarms to roll the wings level first before doing anything else.  Adding any kind of aileron input with the nose close to the critical angle of attack is a bad idea.  You are adding adverse yaw (since you probably won’t be coordinated) and load factor which increases the stall speed.  Then we all know that Stall + Yaw = Spin.  That’s something that is best avoided in IMC.

We have to teach our brains to ignore the bank angle until the pitch and power come in.  Once the airplane is far away from the critical angle of attack, then the bank can be rolled to neutral.

Let’s look at the nose low unusual attitude recovery.  The order is still important on this one too:

  • Breathe
  • Power Reduce (to idle if necessary)
  • Roll Wings Level
  • Pitch up to a level pitch attitude
  • Add Power back to cruise

The theory with the nose low unusual attitude is your speed is accelerating.  By reducing the power first, that helps reduce the load factor experienced when the pitch is increased.  Same with rolling the wings level.  Neutral bank is a lower load factor than some kind of a bank angle.  We are trying to prevent overspeeding the airplane.  The lower the load factor, the less of a chance we have to rip the wings off.

The most important step in either recovery procedure is to breathe first, allowing the brain to process exactly what is happening.  That way, the proper recovery can be executed.

Flying Eyes Sunglasses


I am on a mission in flying for my head to be as comfortable as possible.  I’m currently going through the process of experimenting with different ANR headsets to see which ones squeeze my head the least (which I’ll be writing a future article about).  In the meantime, I decided to focus on sunglasses.

I wear glasses (can’t do contacts anymore since they irritate my eyes), so anytime I have a headset on, I have frames running underneath my ear cups.  I had a pair of prescription sunglasses for years that were okay, but still caused soreness above my ears after more than 3 hours of flying.  I routinely fly 4-5 hours a day in training folks, so I had to find a better solution.

I saw an ad in Flying Magazine one month for Flying Eyes sunglasses.  It was a relatively new company with a cool concept.  A pilot started the company with the goal to create as thin a pair of sunglasses frames as possible to increase the comfort and decrease the ANR loss when wearing sunglasses.  What the company came up with is pretty cool.

The ultra-thin frames on the all the different Flying Eyes models are made out of Resilamide.  The material is so strong that the frames can be bent back and forth while not breaking.  The company even brags that the frames are virtually unbreakable.  I had to try these out.

I ordered a pair of the Golden Eagle Sport sunglasses.  The process of getting prescription lenses in them was no big deal and took about a week.  The eyeglasses shop initially thought the shape of the lens could be an issue, but it proved no problem at all.  The lens manufacturer even managed to chip the frames, but Flying Eyes sent a new set of frames for free, even though it was not at all their fault.

In about a month and a half of flying with them, they are very comfortable.  Some squeeze on the side of my head after extended periods of wear underneath a headset, but I’m exploring headset options currently (see above).  Much improved over my last set of sunglasses.

Flying Eyes offers several different frame models, some of which are prescription compatible and some which aren’t.  The Golden Eagle Sport frames run about $180.  Orders can be placed on the Flying Eyes website.

Ordering new sunglasses from Flying Eyes?  Use this link to receive 10% off your order.

Cessna TTx Production Ceases


Sadly, in January, a pretty great airplane was put out to pasture.  Textron (the conglomerate that now owns Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, and Lycoming) announced it was ceasing production of the Cessna TTx.  With the end of the Cessna TTx production, an airplane that was the main “competitor” to Cirrus (if you can call it competition; Cirrus consistently outsold the Cessna TTx by a wide margin each year), it leaves the SR series to stand alone atop the High Performance piston single market.

I got to go through Cessna’s FITS Accepted Instructor (CFAI) course back in 2012 and have flown in the Cessna 350 and 400 (which is what they were known as at the time; the Cessna TTx name came around in 2011) for about 120 hours.  I really like the airplanes.  I’m partial to the Cirrus, but the Cessna 350 & 400 are fast airplanes and great for 1-2 people.  I flew a 350 (the non-turbo charged version) from New York to San Antonio last fall and routinely saw 170 knots at 12 GPH.

Columbia started out making the 350 & 400 (the turbo-charged version) in the early 2000s, but went bankrupt in 2007.  Lancair started Columbia to make a certified version of their popular kit planes.  If you see a Lancair ES floating around, you would swear it’s a Columbia with only 1 door.  Cessna bought the design from Columbia in 2007 to begin manufacturing the airplanes themselves.

Cessna then made a huge mistake as they moved the production facility from Bend, Oregon to Mexico. Production completely halted in 2009 as the planes coming out of Mexico were found to have defective composite work.  The sales never really recovered, even though Cessna put the Garmin G2000 panel in the Cessna TTx, complete with a touchscreen key pad.  A FIKI system was added as an option in 2012.

A prospective buyer can still get a great value on a used 350, 400, or TTx, as they are valued a little lower than a Cirrus.  The 350, 400 or TTx all make excellent single pilot or two person speedsters with very comfortable amenities.

Information for this article was taken from Flying Magazine’s website.

PIREP: Austin Executive Opens a Control Tower


Austin Executive Airport opened a control tower on Friday, February 23rd 2018.  The airport is now officially Class D airspace.  The charts and A/FD are not updated yet to reflect the tower, but there is a NOTAM with the tower and ground frequency information.  The tower hours are from 6am to 10pm.  The weather frequency remains the same.

Make sure you check those NOTAMs if you are headed to KEDC anytime soon!

KEDC Tower Frequency:  120.3

KEDC Ground:  119.45

Bruce’s Custom Covers


I have used a few different sun shields in airplanes in my flying career.  I have found one that I really like. Bruce’s Custom Covers knocks it out of the park for usability and ease of storage.

Let’s start off with functionality.  Like other window sun shields, Bruce’s Custom Covers fit very nicely into the airplane glare shield and side windows. Depending on the type of airplane you have, some of the window covers use the suction cups and others don’t.  I recently had 2 customers order from Bruce’s, one that owns a P210 that uses the suction cups for all windows, including the glare shield, and the other owns a Cirrus which doesn’t use the suction cups on anything.

They work great.  They do the job of blocking the sun and keeping the cabin much cooler while the airplane is sitting on the ramp.

The thing I like best about Bruce’s Custom Covers is their storage.  Other sun shields require you to roll them up and lash a tie around them. Bruce’s, on the other hand, come folded very neatly in a black canvas bag.  The folded covers don’t take up nearly as much room as the rolled up covers, plus they are really easy to just fold up and store.

Bruce’s Custom Covers also sells plugs for cowling, pitot tubes, etc., as well as aircraft exterior covers.

Bruce’s Custom Covers gets my recommendation for anyone wanting to get some new sun shields.  For those of you in Texas, you know you need them!