Pilot Training in the Expanded Envelope

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E3 pilot training adds exposure to areas pilots may not usually fly

The FAA has published its new guidance for pilot training deadlines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we’re not going to turn into pumpkins when our currencies expire.

Some of us are not flying at all right now and it might be several months or more, until we buckle up again. With so many of us falling out of currency, and more importantly, proficiency, maybe when we go back to our simulators and training facilities, we should go a little bit beyond current training, and add a bit of traditional training back in the mix.

Have you ever heard of E3 training by Ed Wischmeyer? E3 stands for Expanded Envelope Exercises®. Basically, the theory is that there is an intermediate area of the flight control envelope that needs to be explored more in pilot training. E3 intends to help prevent loss of control by focusing on stick-and-rudder skills that may be overlooked in the current digital and automatic cockpit environment.

Most loss of control accidents occur at the outer edges of the flight control envelope, not in our familiar middle of the road, safe area so it makes sense that more training is needed there. E3 focuses on the middle of the flight envelope area (where we do almost all of our flying) and the outer edges of the envelope, where spins, aerobatics, and upset training are found. 

In loss of control accidents, a pilot must unknowingly transition from the safe area of the envelope to the outer edges, where disaster awaits. If we can be trained to safely fly in the intermediate part of the envelope, then recovery would be more probable. Teaching pilots how to fly in this area would include non-traditional exercises designed to be flyable in almost all standard category aircraft.

Examples include full aileron deflection at traffic pattern speeds, stalls with recovery in turns, very challenging slow dutch rolls, and deliberate runway overshoots and recoveries, all with appropriate risks presented and mitigated. 

The original idea behind E3 is that loss of control occurs when a pilot has so much going on that some sensory inputs and certain tasks get degraded or dropped entirely. The E3 solution is to increase the pilot’s ability to handle those situations. And how do they do that? By expanding the pilot’s comfort zone into more of that intermediate flight envelope and increasing their cognitive availability during stressful situations. 

E3 was developed as part of a submission to the “EAA Founder’s Innovation Prize”, which strives to reduce loss of control accidents. With hundreds – even thousands – of us becoming less and less proficient every day as this lockdown continues, I’m hoping that E3 can make its way into pilot training curriculums all over the world. We could all use some help getting back into the saddle.

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