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The recent reports about the Air Asia Flight 8501 crash mention that the plane was stalled and that the pilots could not recover from the stall. Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee apparently had this to say:

Subsequent flight crew action resulted in inability to control the aircraft ... causing the aircraft to depart from the normal flight envelope and enter a prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the flight crew to recover.

Online information that I could find suggests that Airbus pilots were not required to learn stall-recovery and other upsets recovery as part of training, due to the aircrafts "inability" to enter those conditions. This may have changed, at least for stall recovery, at some airlines, after the crash of Air France Flight 447.

Is stall recovery mandatory training for Airbus pilots? Was it ever not mandatory? How about for pilots of Boeing, Embraer, and other large passenger aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ I read the accident report and it says the PIC was pushing down (correct response) while the SIC was pulling up (incorrect response). My guess is that the SIC was spatially confused; they were in bad weather after all. The computer adds the two inputs but the SIC was pulling stronger so he won out and the plane crashed. $\endgroup$ – D_Bester Dec 3 '15 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ The official 209 page report (in English) from the Indonesia National Transport Safety Committee kemhubri.dephub.go.id/knkt/ntsc_aviation/baru/… $\endgroup$ – D_Bester Dec 3 '15 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ The official report says that training focuses on stall avoidance rather than stall recovery. But stall recovery is well taught in basic pilot training; just not in the Airbus 320 $\endgroup$ – D_Bester Dec 3 '15 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ From reading the report, the problem was not that the pilots did not know how to recover from a stall (push the stick forward) but that the pilots - or at least the SIC - did not realize the aircraft was stalled - despite the stall alarms. $\endgroup$ – RedGrittyBrick Dec 4 '15 at 21:04
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Stall training is mandatory for all pilots operating under CFR 121, albeit in a simulator. According to 14 CFR §121.423 Pilot: Extended Envelope Training,

(a) Each certificate holder must include in its approved training program, the extended envelope training set forth in this section with respect to each airplane type for each pilot. The extended envelope training required by this section must be performed in a Level C or higher full flight simulator, approved by the Administrator in accordance with §121.407 of this part.

(c) Extended envelope training must include instructor-guided hands on experience of recovery from full stall and stick pusher activation, if equipped.

FAA has not mandated in-aircraft in-aircraft stall or Upset Prevention and Recovery Training. ICAO's Doc 10011, Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training is pretty explicit:

On-aeroplane UPRT is not intended to be delivered while operating transport category aeroplanes or aeroplanes requiring two or more crew members; for those operations, UPRT should not be permitted to be conducted outside the confines of a suitable FSTD.

As a result of multiple stall related accidents ( including the Colgan Air Flight 3407, a Bombardier Q-400, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, a Boeing 737 and Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330 ), both the industry and regulators have taken a number of steps taken to improve the stall and upset recovery training. For example, Airbus has changed the operational documentation of almost all its aircraft, including A320 (via FCOM volume 3 Temporary Revision number 323-1 and QRH Temporary Revision number 727-1)

The basic template of the stall recovery training is as follows:

Immediately do the following at the first indication of stall (buffet, stick shaker, stick pusher, or aural or visual indication) during any flight phases except at lift off.

  1. Autopilot and autothrottle.............................. Disconnect

  2. a) Nose down pitch control... Apply until out of stall (no longer have stall indications)

    b) Nose down pitch trim................................... As needed

  3. Bank................................................................Wings Level

  4. Thrust................................................................As Needed

  5. Speed Brakes..........................................................Retract

  6. Bank................................................................Wings Level

These have beeen incorporated in the FAA Advisory Circular 120-109A which changed the core principles taught to the pilots for recovering from stall. Still, the trainings are expected to be carried out in Flight Simulation Training Device only.


It is true that the pilots of Air Asia Flight 8501 were not given upset recovery training. However, this is according to the Flight Crew Training Manual and the philosophy that the aircraft's FBW system will prevent any such condition from occuring in the first place. From the report:

  1. The flight crew had not received the operator upset recovery training on Airbus A320 as it was not required according to the Airbus FCTM.

and

  1. The FCTM stated that the effectiveness of fly-by-wire architecture and the existence of control laws eliminate the need for upset recovery manoeuvres to be trained on protected Airbus.
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    $\begingroup$ Airbus sure is confident in their FBW systems, telling airlines they didn't need to train their pilots for upsets. Loss of envelope protections and pilots' improper response has crashed at least 3 of their FBW aircraft killing 397 people. I'm glad to see they finally backed off of their "no need to worry about that, it can't happen in our planes" philosophy. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Dec 2 '15 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ According to the official report the PIC pulled the circuit breakers on the flight augmentation computer. This is completely crazy. The manuals state this action is not permitted in flight. Just because maintenance did it on the ground he thought he could do it in the air. So if the PIC didn't kill the computers the plane would've been fine all the way to the airport. No need for a plane upset. $\endgroup$ – D_Bester Dec 3 '15 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ D_Bester Granted, pulling those CB's was not a good idea, but even without the computers the plane was entirely flyable. It caused the a/p to disconnect and control laws to downgrade, but even withoutb the FAC there was no need for a plane upset. The upset was caused by pilot input. Other than the cause of the a/p disconnect this was almost a carbon copy of AF447. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Dec 3 '15 at 3:29
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According to the official investigation report, both the flight crew on this flight had received stall recovery training, but not upset recovery training, on the A320. The Flight Crew Training Manual for the A320 (issued by Airbus) did not mandate upset recovery training. The operator's training manual (issued by Air Indonesia) did mandate upset recovery training, but it was not delivered by the airline for pilots of the A320 because of Airbus's statement that it was unnecessary. Only upset prevention training was given. Both the below are from the linked report:

The approved Operation Training Manual covers the upset recovery training in Chapter 8. The module consisted of ground and simulator training. The ground training provides the flight crew with the background, definition, cause of aircraft upset, aerodynamic and aircraft systems in relation with aircraft upset. Recovery methods consider various aircraft attitude and speed including post upset conditions.

The upset recovery training had not been implemented on Airbus A320 training, since it is not required according to the Flight Crew Training Manual and has not been mandated by the DGCA.

and later

The Upset Recovery training was included in the aircraft operators training manual. The aircraft operator advised the KNKT that the flight crew had not been trained for the upset recovery training on Airbus A320, and this referred to FCTM Operational Philosophy: “The effectiveness of fly-by-wire architecture, and the existence of control laws, eliminates the need for upset recovery maneuvers to be trained on protected Airbus”. There was no evidence of DGCA findings for this incompliance of training.

Upset aircraft is where the attitude or airspeed is greatly outside the normal flight envelope, such as might happen after a mid-air collision or loss of control, or (as in this case) prolonged wrong inputs when fly-by-wire is disengaged. A stall is not necessarily an upset aircraft condition.

The report also notes that the stall recovery training doesn't necessarily cover the developed stall, but rather recovering when the stall warning sounds before actually reaching the stall. The exercise is carried out from level flight by reducing airspeed and pitching up progressively to trigger the stall warning, and then pitching down to recover. (This is the same way stall recovery is taught to private pilots in smaller aircraft.)

Recovering from a developed stall where the aircraft's attitude is level but it is descending rapidly (stall at zero pitch) is not mandatory training (p119), and this is the situation the flight crew were unable to recover.

As there are too many crashes resulting from unrecovered stalls, the whole industry has worked together to produce better training programmes. One of the Safety Actions resulting from this crash is that Air Indonesia now gives upset recovery training to all its pilots, to comply with its own policy. In addition, the airliner manufacturers have produced a new training aid (applicable to most airplanes) for teaching upset recovery, and Airbus has already issued an Operations Training Transmission with instructions for carrying out suitable simulator training.

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    $\begingroup$ I guess the poor aircraft would be pretty upset at that point........ $\endgroup$ – kevin Dec 2 '15 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ @kevin Is that in the sense of "you're pretty when you're upset"? $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Dec 2 '15 at 15:07

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