These days it sometimes seems like there’s a lot that might upset anyone who is paying the least bit of attention to what’s going on around us. However, we need to remember that there’s a whole lot for which we can be thankful. A good example is our freedom to fly whenever to where-ever we choose here in the United States.


The “upset” I’m thinking about is the unexpected upset we can experience during flight. This event is the sudden and unexpected loss of aircraft control. It can be something of a bother or life threatening. The most dangerous upset is the one which occurs when you are near the ground that is, near enough to the ground that recovery may not be possible.

Windshear is an example of a surprise upset since you can’t see it. You may have clues as to its potential from weather reports and PIREPS. Wing tip vorticities following a large, heavy, slow aircraft is an example of an upset which is very predictable and you know where it will be.


The true upset is violent and may cause your airplane to rotate to inverted even with prompt application of rudder and aileron to the opposite direction of the roll.  Such a dangerous situation exists behind and slightly below every aircraft. The heavier and slower the airplane the more extreme the wing tip vorticities. Those spiraling tornado like currents of  air which spill off the wing tips will slowly descend and spread away from the departing or arriving aircraft for as long the wing is supporting its weight. When this occurs near the ground it is a serious hazard for aircraft in trail. A cross wind will carry the wing tip vorticities moving them away from the runway. Delay your takeoff or landing to mitigate the risk of upset.

If you find yourself in an upset recognize what has happened and know to do. Roll the wings level to the nearest horizon. This may involve continuing the roll created during the upset to wings level. If the aircraft was nose down reduce the power and pitch up without creating excessive “G” forces. A nose high attitude will require a decrease in the angle of attack, usually nose down related to the horizon, and an incase of engine power.

I invite you to learn more about this important subject by going to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook, Chapter 5. There you’ll an in depth study of Up Set Recovery Training (USRT). The Handbook is available on line at FAA.GOV and at most of the flying equipment stores. Also, check out the AOPA video on the subject:  You will see what a Cessna Caravan can do to an Extra!

If there is enough interest in USRT,  perhaps VFA could offer a course this summer.  Let us know!

Fly Smart and be SAFE,  Jim Leavitt