With more than 13,000 hours of flight time, Randall Brooks has had one of those varied and interesting careers that most aviators can only dream of. Gliders, biplanes, corporate aircraft, executive jets, retired Russian military trainers — if it has wings, Randy knows how to fly it.
The son of an Air Force test pilot and an aerospace engineer, Brooks’ early career highlights include instructing in aerobatics, being an airshow pilot with teams sponsored by Red Baron Pizza and Holiday Inn, flying corporate jets with Schwan Foods (Red Baron’s parent company), and being the head of emergency situations training at the light jet manufacturer Eclipse Aviation.
“They really offered me amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t have had at an established aircraft manufacturer,” Randy says of his time at Eclipse. “I was able to assist with production flight testing and ultimately I demonstrated the Eclipse Concept Jet — forerunner to the 400 — at Oshkosh in 2008.”
It also was a chance for the experienced pilot to combine his formidable flying skills, using the company’s L-39 military jet trainer, with advanced flight simulators and to start developing ways to make pilots better using both.
Already an accomplished aerobatic pilot, it was during this time that his interest in emergency maneuver training across the spectrum of aviation began to grow.
In 2009, when the jet maker closed its doors, Brooks quickly landed a role at Opinicus, the manufacturing company behind Eclipse’s ground training devices. Using the experience gained from teaching upset recovery at Eclipse, he parlayed his unique background into becoming an international voice on the topic of Upset Prevention Recovery and Training (UPRT).
In 2010, as part of a working group with the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE), Randy, along with other aviation professionals, wrote a series of recommendations on how to better prepare pilots for emergency upset events.
Looking at the commercial aviation world, Randy and his team found that in the absence of the physiological effects of actual flight, “There was only so much that could be done through simulation.”
Simulators could help, the group insisted, but more manual flight training was needed.
Fast forward to today and now as vice president of training at Aviation Performance Solutions (APS), the expert instructor further emphasizes the importance of training in UPRT, noting that, “The NTSB has identified loss of control in flight as the leading cause of accidents in every sector of aviation.”
“We think of redundancy in aviation as being a good thing,” he said. “We have multiple electrical system buses, multiple engines…but when it comes to manual training in upset recovery we’re only teaching prevention. If a pilot goes beyond that narrow band they typically train in, they’re in no-man’s land.”
Clearly, he adds, “there are a lot of basic skills that pilots are not learning as part their typical licensing training.”
Utilizing a fleet of Extra 300s, teaching those skills to pilots from all backgrounds is the primary mission at APS and something that the team expects will eventually impact the entire aviation community.
Already with a client list of heavy hitters, including major air carriers and the military, Brooks reports a recent uptick among general aviation pilots and flight schools in the two-day, four-flight course.
“There is no other investment in flying that is going to make as large an impact in a pilot’s airmanship and understanding of their airplane as upset recovery training,” he asserts.
From a pilot who has flown just about everything, that’s something for all aviators to consider.
What I fly
It’s a 1976 Bellanca Turbo Super Viking. Everything is better when you put Turbo Super in front of it.
Why I fly it
We began with a mission profile: To fly from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to Durango, Colorado, where Linda, my then girlfriend, now wife, has a house.
We wanted transportation to be able to go back and forth on our own schedule. The turbo comes in handy when we’re in Durango. It’s a delightful airplane to fly.
How I fly it
My wife has two grandchildren in Austin, Texas, both of her sons live down there. And it turns a three-hour drive into a nice one-hour flight. So we go visit there. Austin Executive Airport is only five minutes from her son’s house.
Operating costs (based on 100 hours per year)
*Randy notes that his mechanic encourages pilots to do as much of the work as possible.
Before every takeoff, I do a takeoff briefing, much like I would have done as a corporate pilot.
Flying VFR, it might be very simple. For example, if I had an engine failure below this altitude, I’m going to go straight ahead, kill the mixture, get the mags, keep a certain speed, look for a place to land. I’m going to do whatever is necessary to keep control of the airplane.
It’s pretty simple and only takes a couple of minutes. Even though I have 13,000 hours, it’s still worth taking a second to think about what you’re going to do in those situations. When it happens for real, you’re not going to have much time to react.
That simple process would probably save a significant number of lives each year. It’s cheap and easy to do once pilots get into the habit.