Avoid the Panic Pull & Control the Startle Effect – The Making of a Safer Pilot


(Photo provided by Denise Saylor)

“Loss of control in flight is the number one killer in airplanes,” said Mike Kloch, chief instructor pilot and director of safety for Advanced Flight Dynamics (AFD) of Redmond.

AFD recently opened a specialized flight school to teach upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT), stall/spin, aerobatics, and formation training. AFD also provides aerobatic adventure flights for non-pilots. Sean VanHatten, David Robinson and Kloch all teach at AFD, and Kloch is also an adjunct instructor at Central Oregon Community College, where he teaches aviation. Kloch was a Major in the U.S.M.C. and spent much of his career flying F/A-18 fighter jets.

“Unless you’ve ever done aerobatics, you’ve never flown upside down. To be upside down is a completely foreign world,” says Kloch. “If a pilot inadvertently gets rolled upside down and only sees dirt, then that pilot has to avoid the ‘panic pull.’ Normally when you see dirt, you pull up. This is because all of your training has taught you this. But, when you are upside down, if you see dirt and you pull ‘up,’ you’ve pulled yourself right to your death.”

Kloch’s point is that pilots have to be taught that when they are upside down and they see brown (“dirt”) on the attitude indicator, they have to push on the yoke or stick. Until pilots learn this, it is counterintuitive to what they have been taught and to their natural instinct.

Kloch explained, “Aerobatic training is a planned maneuver, where you know what the outcome will be; however, a pilot can end up in an inadvertent spin or upset. In such a situation, the ‘startle effect’ can degrade your performance for up to 30 seconds, which is a long time when you’re close to the ground.”

AFD also provides courses for a spin endorsement. Kloch added that the training that AFD provides for spin endorsements far exceeds the national standards.

So what is involved in taking such training? Kloch explained that he teaches these UPRT courses at AFD. For the COCC course, students receive 14 hours of ground school and nine flights. The flights are filmed, allowing students to watch their flight and their performance, aiding in critiquing, training and learning.

AFD offers a variety of UPRT courses for pilots of all ratings and experience levels, from the Airline Transport Pilot to the general aviation private pilot.

Advanced Flight Dynamics has two Fouga jets. These jets are used for teaching upset recovery, spin, and Fouga-type ratings. Kloch added, “Jet UPRT is great for pilots who fly turbine aircraft, although any rated pilot can get jet training.”

Kloch concluded, “Ending up in an unusual attitude isn’t desired, but what if it’s a reality? Will you be prepared? With the proper training, yes, a pilot can be prepared for such a circumstance, and more.”

Mike Kloch
Advanced Flight Dynamics
701 Salmon Avenue
Redmond, Oregon 97756


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