Upset Recovery Exercises

The video below shows a series of practices I use with students in my stall/spin/upset recovery course. They fly modified barrel rolls to become familiar with all-attitude flying, to fly the airplane through its speed range, and to develop G-awareness. Next, we fly the same maneuver, but we deliberately stall the airplane at the top of the loop/roll, first in coordinated flight, then in skids and slips. These practices show the student what happens during botched maneuvers and they’re also great practice should they ever experience an upset due to wake turbulence, disorientation, or other factors. Students also learn about accelerated stalls in the vertical–the effect of abruptly increasing angle of attack, even when diving toward the ground.

You can find more videos at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying. The Stalls and Spins playlist focuses on those exercises.

To learn more about making aviation videos, see Aviation Video Tips.

Videos: Quick Takes on Aerobatics

I recently created several short videos that highlight specific aerobatic maneuvers that I demonstrate during rides and instruction in the Extra 300L. Here are few; you can find more at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.

To learn more about making aviation videos, see Aviation Video Tips.


Slow Roll

Four-Point and Aileron Rolls

Inverted Flight

Flight Information Service (FIS-B): Weather and Info in the Cockpit

Like many pilots, I have long used portable GPS navigators with SiriusXM aviation weather to display NEXRAD, weather reports and forecasts, and TFRs in the cockpit. Having regularly updated (if not truly real-time) information about the weather has been a boon to safety and efficiency, making strategic decisions about weather-related diversions and other changes to the original plan for a flight much less cumbersome.

The introduction of aviation apps for the iPad and other tablets and the completion of the ADS-B ground infrastructure has more pilots using the free Flight Information Service (FIS-B) products that can be integrated into products such as ForeFlight, WingX, FlyQ, and Garmin Pilot–provided you have an ADS-B receiver, such as the Stratus, Garmin GDL 39, or Dual XGPS170, among others.

(SiriusXM has announced a new, stand-alone receiver for its subscription services. It works with the iPad and a dedicated app. Details here.)

SiriusXM and FIS-B: What’s different?

If you’re switching from the satellite-based weather and information services to FIS-B products, it’s important to understand several key differences between the information each provides, and the limitations of the FIS-B services, especially for typical general aviation pilots operating below the flight levels who want to check the weather more than 375 nm ahead.

Of course, it’s also important to understand that SiriusXM information is available even on the ground, assuming the antenna has a clear view of the sky. FIS-B services, based on line-of-sight transmissions from ground stations, typically are available only after you climb at least above pattern altitude; higher minimums often apply. You can view a map of and learn more about ADS-B coverage here.

First, the set of weather reports and forecasts available via FIS-B doesn’t include all of the products from SiriusXM (depending on the subscription plan you choose).

FIS-B includes the following text reports (see AIM 7-1-11):

  • Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) and Special Aviation Report (SPECI)
  • Pilot Weather Report (PIREP)
  • Winds and Temperatures Aloft
  • Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) and amendments
  • Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Distant and Flight Data Center

FIS-B includes the following products in both text and graphic forms:

  • Airmen’s Meteorological Conditions (AIRMET)
  • Significant Meteorological Conditions (SIGMET)
  • Convective SIGMET
  • Special Use Airspace (SUA)
  • Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) NOTAM

FIS-B also displays graphical regional and national NEXRAD composite reflectivity information.

Update Schedules

AIM Table 7-1-1 FIS-B Over UAT Product Update and Transmission Intervals shows the intervals at which fresh information is transmitted via the ADS-B network.


Look-Ahead and Altitude Tiers

To avoid overloading the ADS-B transmitters, the amount of information sent to aircraft depends on the altitude of the receiver. The altitude tiers are described in AIM Table 7-1-2 Product Parameters for Low/Medium/High Altitude Tier Radios:


Figure A-2 in AC 00-63A defines the altitude tiers:


Most of us flying normally aspirated, piston aircraft fit into the medium altitude tier, which means that some information (e.g., METARs and TAFs) is available only when the reporting airport is within 375 nm of our present position.

The advisory circular notes that:

Pilots need to consider the performance of the aircraft as well as the update rate for a specific product. For example, a pilot of a light twin aircraft, flying at a medium altitude with a tailwind could easily have a ground speed in excess of 200 knots. Thus, traveling at over 3 NM per minute, a pilot may not have enough time to receive and decipher a pop-up TFR based on the 100 NM look-ahead and a 10-minute transmission interval.

Future FIS-B Products

AC 00-63A notes that FAA plans to add five new FIS-B products “in the next few years.” These products include:

  • Lightning. Graphical representation of each lightning stroke in a past 5-minute period.
  • Turbulence NOWcast. Two-kilometer resolution grid containing an eight-value turbulence intensity scale in each grid cell. The intensity scale depicts a weighted average turbulence for flight levels (FL) of 10,000 ft and above.
  • Icing NOWcast. Two-kilometer resolution grids, where each grid represents one of the eight 3,000 ft ranges from FL 030 to FL 240. Within each grid, each grid cell contains the four-value icing indication and the presence or absence of Supercooled Large Drop (SLD) formation.
  • Cloud Tops. Two-kilometer resolution grid indicating the altitude of the cloud top to an accuracy of 3,000 ft, ranging from FL 030 to FL 480.
  • One-Minute Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS). More frequent updates of METAR-formatted information.

More Information and Key References

You can find detailed information about FIS-B in the following key references:

In June 2012, NTSB released a Safety Alert about the limitations of NEXRAD displays in the cockpit.

AOPA ASI offers a free online course, IFR Insights: Cockpit Weather, to help you learn more about datalink weather.

Simulating Partial-Panel with a G500/G600

I schedule an annual instrument proficiency check before the Pacific Northwest skies turn gray as fall arrives. The tasks that you must accomplish to complete an IPC are outlined in the practical test standards for the instrument rating and in an appendix to Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) Guidance, published by FAA.

Instrument Proficiency Check. 14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(d), sets forth the requirements for an instrument proficiency check. The person giving that check shall use the standards and procedures contained in this PTS when administering the check. A representative number of Tasks, as determined by the examiner/instructor, must be selected to assure the competence of the applicant to operate in the IFR environment. As a minimum, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to perform the Tasks as listed in the [chart below]. The person giving the check should develop a scenario that incorporates as many required tasks as practical to assess the pilot’s ADM and risk management skills during the IPC. See Appendix 2 for IPC AATD Credit Table. (FAA-S-8081-4E with Changes 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)


As you can see, the required items include VII–Emergency Operations, Task D: Approach with Loss of Primary Flight Instrument Indicators. The notes for that task in the PTS specify that the pilot, “Demonstrat[e] a non-precision instrument approach without the use of the primary flight instrument using the objectives of the non-precision approach Task (Area of Operation VI, Task A).”

In an airplane with conventional instruments (the so-called steam gauges), the instructor covers the attitude indicator with a suction cup, business card, or sticky note.

Like many pilots, however, I’ve updated my instrument panel. It now features a Garmin G500 electronic display that replaces six traditional primary flight instruments (airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, heading indicator, and turn coordinator). I have a backup attitude indicator, ASI and altimeter in the self-contained Mid-Continent SAM.


Now, avionics manufacturers and the FAA have advised against pulling circuit breakers to simulate failures of electronic displays the behind-the-scenes gizmos that drive them (e.g., attitude-heading reference systems). Plastering expensive displays—especially touch-screens–with sticky notes isn’t a good idea. So, how to simulate the failure of the PFD (the left side of the G500)—or, indeed the entire GDU 620, the two-panel display that shows the flight instruments and a map?

For more information about using CBs to simulate failures, see Garmin’s G1O00 Guide for Designated Pilot Examiners and Certified Flight Instructors. That document notes in part:

Cessna does not recommend pulling circuit breakers as a means of simulating failures on the Garmin G1000. Pulling circuit breakers—or using them as switches—has the potential to weaken the circuit breaker to a point at which it may not perform its intended function. Using circuit breakers as switches is also discouraged in Advisory Circulars 120-80, 23-17B, and 43.13-1B. Additionally, a circuit breaker may be powering other equipment (such as avionics cooling fans) that could affect the safe operation of other equipment.

For the map side, it’s easy—select a page that shows, say, A/FD information or one of the AUX pages. They’re useless as references during an approach.

After much deep thought, I came up with the following solution for the PFD side: A piece of cardboard taped above the display. Here’s the item lying in wait in the holder that I use for my iPad.


And here it is in place, covering most of the PFD.


Inelegant to be sure. I’ll trim it to size next time. But it’s simple, non-destructive, cheap, and easy to put in place and remove. In a aircraft used primarily for training, I’d consider a strip of Velcro above the PFD.

If you wanted to “fail” just the attitude indicator and leave the ASI, altimeter, VSI, HI, CDI, bearing pointers, and other information visible, you could trim the cardboard so that it covers only the AI portion of the PFD.

Today, however, I wanted to simulate a complete failure of the GDU 620 to see how well I could fly an approach using the SAM and the navigation information on the GTN750 and the chart on my iPad. Per the PTS, I was flying a non-precision approach, so I didn’t need a glideslope indicator.

To set up descents on each segment of the approach, I applied the Pitch+Power+Configuration=Performance equation, knowing that at a specified power setting and pitch in a given configuration (flaps and landing gear positions), I would descend at approximately 600 fpm at a stable airspeed. Tracking the courses was a bit more difficult than when using the HSI, but this was a simulated emergency, so I used all available sources, including the depiction of my airplane on the GTN750 moving map and the approach chart displayed (via ForeFlight) on my iPad. By making small, coordinated turns based on the SAM, I never wandered more than about a dot off the centerline of any segment of the approach. The graphical information made meeting altitude restrictions easier. And the trend vectors that show how your current track relates to the required course were also a big help in making smooth, small heading changes.

I plan to use this high-tech failure simulator in the future when I practice flying instrument procedures (in VMC, of course) to maintain my proficiency. Note that this device would also work well in ATDs and FTDs that feature glass cockpits.

“The AIM is not Regulatory”

"The AIM is not regulatory" is an often-heard refrain among pilots and flight instructors. And technically, of course, that’s correct.

From the introduction to the Aeronautical Information Manual:

This publication, while not regulatory, provides information which reflects examples of operating techniques and procedures which may be requirements in other federal publications or regulations. It is made available solely to assist pilots in executing their responsibilities required by other publications.

However, when aviators say, “The AIM is not regulatory,” they generally seem to argue that the procedures and guidance in the AIM (and related FAA publications, such as advisory circulars), are suggestions that pilots, at their discretion, may adopt or ignore.

I’m certainly not an attorney. But I offer this background on the authority of the AIM from AOPA Flight Training. That Legal Briefing (written by an attorney) notes in part:

…In older NTSB cases, both the FAA and the airman have used sections of the AIM to assess whether an airman’s conduct was in violation of the FAR or not. For example, an airman attempted to justify a right turn during his approach to the airport as part of a "straight-in" approach as set forth in the AIM. But the case did not rely on the new statutory language of deference.

In a more recent NTSB case involving a pilot’s misunderstood readback of an ATC instruction that ATC failed to correct and which resulted in an altitude deviation, the NTSB found that because the pilot acted as best he could to understand and comply with the ATC instruction, he could not be held responsible for the deviation. But the FAA appealed the NTSB’s decision to the Court of Appeals, which held that the NTSB must defer to the FAA’s interpretation that the pilot is responsible for accurately understanding and complying with an ATC instruction absent an equipment malfunction or an emergency. The court sent the case back to the NTSB, which then had to find the pilot in violation.

These cases suggest that you may be held responsible for complying with FAA guidance. Or, you could find yourself defending against an interpretation of a regulation that the FAA announces, for the first time, in response to your conduct. In any event, while it may not be a regulatory requirement to comply with any FAA written guidance, you can certainly expect any such guidance to be used in a FAA enforcement case. And, you can expect that the NTSB will be bound to defer to the FAA’s interpretation of your conduct as a violation of the FAR, unless you are prepared to show the FAA’s interpretation to be arbitrary, capricious, or illegal.

So, while it’s true that guidance in the AIM is, technically, just that–guidance–the information in the AIM, ACs, etc. isn’t just the FAA’s suggestions or a matter of procedure. If you choose to invent techniques for complying with the letter of the regulations, you may find the "AIM isn’t regulatory" a weak defense.

Three Views of a Barrel Roll

This short video shows you a barrel roll from several perspectives. First, you watch it as I cut between different cameras; next watch the entire maneuver from the wingtip perspective; finally, you see the complete roll from my perspective in the rear seat of the Extra 300L.

As I explain in the video, this barrel roll is not the textbook maneuver. Typically, you start a barrel roll by offsetting the nose 45 degrees left or right of a reference. Then you pull up and roll around that reference point.

I use this modified barrel roll (which is similar to those flown by formation teams such as the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, and Snowbirds) with students to help them become accustomed to all-attitude flying, develop awareness of how 3-4G feels, and to fly the airplane throughout its speed range. Because it’s a slow, graceful maneuver, students have lots of time to watch the roll develop, and it’s a smooth, coordinated maneuver throughout.

More videos on my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.

Vertical Roll and Hammerhead

A short clip of a vertical roll to a hammerhead, followed by a roll on the vertical down line. It was a lovely day to fly in the Pacific Northwest. For more videos, visit my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.


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