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Super-Learner: Head, Hands, and Heart

To be an effective educator, it is essential to honestly and accurately assess every learner in terms of capabilities and potentialities, starting with the very first meeting. Each new and unique learner is a potential project embodying the burning question: “are we, working in partnership, going to be able to successfully get this “pilot project” over the goal line of full and safe pilot certification in a reasonable amount of time?” Also, though they may achieve an FAA minimum passing grade, will they become a safe member of the pilot community? Remember, some CFI created every one of Dr. Bill Rhodes’ Scary Pilots. There is the two-edged problem of being both honest while also remaining open-minded; “surprise me!”It is our professional duty to be honest. We do not want to close the door of possibility too soon, but we also do not want a 200 hours solo. After years of facing this question, with numerous diverse learners, I realized I tend to break this question into the three categories of mental capacity, skill, and motivation; head, hands, and heart.

From the beginning, we have to accept the fact that a few people for reasons of physical skill or mental capacity, are not capable of becoming safe pilots. And others are not willing to honestly invest the required time and money and effort; the “immediate results” group. The sooner the educator (hopefully in consultation with other CFIs) determines these functional problems and honestly conveys this bad news to the potential learner, the less grief and anxiety you will experience attempting “mission impossible.” The good news is that this represents only a very few people. And it is almost impossible from even the first five hours to know this for certain; initial impressions are frequently wrong. People can endlessly surprise you and make up for very limited physical and mental capacity with great motivation and grit.

The erroneous initial assessment of pilot capability – “I can tell if someone is pilot material in the first hour” – is one of the classic “instructor fallacies.” Usually, this rapid determination is more a demonstration of a “self-fulfilling prophesy” than an honest assessment. Patience is everything in these early lessons. But being very honest is also essential; revealing to the learner that compared to averages, this person may not be gifted in coordination or rapid uptake…this is going to take “more time and money.” Honesty is essential.

My most gifted early learner never became a pilot. He had classic “golden hands” but was basically a “box of rocks” upstairs. This client was a heavy machinery operator and could easily have soloed (beautifully) after only five hours. “Bulldozer Bob” had spent his life jumping onto different machines and making them do exactly what he wanted; classic “golden hands.” As soon as I demonstrated what was needed, he could make it happen (apparently without fear too). The long-term prognosis was not good though because he really was not running a real fast processor and money was also limited.

Another learner possessed the most brilliant mind I have ever seen (Nobel prize level) but also was so painfully scripted and almost autistic that anything out of the ordinary pattern made him totally unhinged and confused. Visualizing this person alone facing a challenging and ever-changing environment aloft brought this project to a close. We had “the talk.”

Lastly, every educator’s enigma is the seemly unmotivated learner. Many times a pilot spouse or an over-eager parent desperately wants a candidate to be a pilot. But working this learner daily, it becomes painfully obvious that there is no personal motivation. Achieving success in aviation takes a little “fire in the belly.” Nothing is more frustrating as an educator than dragging an unmotivated person through the required maneuvers while continually attempting to light this fire.

Over the years, the most important qualities in learning well seem to be a passionate curiosity, easy humility, coupled with a personal honesty that easily admits to error. These qualities can make up for some pretty severe deficiencies in other areas. Add all these qualities combined with some confidence – hopefully some hand-to-eye coordination and mental capacity – yields the proper “head, hands, and heart.”

An eager learner who is not ego-driven but instead is ready to reassess and reformulate in the face of contrary evidence is a powerful learner. They are largely self-powered and as an educator it is like watching “Jack’s magic beanstalk” grow. These people progress the fastest and usually become the best eventual pilots. Unfortunately, the classic “pilot personality” trends the other way toward surety and overconfidence. Jamie Beckett had a great article on this in GA News available here. As both educators and pilots, we too often make a decision and stick with it dogmatically past a realistic point; “mission mentality.” As in most educational pursuits, a healthy dose of emotional intelligence again rules the day. Fly safely out there (and often)!


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13th Master CFI Renewal-David St.G

Thanks to MCFI for approving my 13th Master CFI renewal; a great honor.  MCFI is how I became a DPE 25 years ago (I never applied). After my Master certification, 3 FAA ASIs from the FSDO walked into my 141 flight school (that is usually not a good thing...) They smiled and announced "we want you to be a DPE." Pursue excellence, it pays you back!

 

Master Instructors is honored to announce that David St. George of Ithaca, New York has earned his 13th Master Flight Instructor accreditation from the original MCFI program (accrediting professional aviators for 25 years). David also serves the FAA as a Designated Pilot Examiner and is privileged to still fly as a jet charter captain. He is the current Executive Director of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) and is the author of the popular “SAFE Toolkit” App.

David is only one of three active Master Instructors to achieve this extraordinary level of excellence. He has been recognized as a Master Instructor for twenty-six years of his career as an aviation educator.


Please support our not-for-profit safety mission and join SAFE. The 1/3 off ForeFlight pays for your membership (and more) all by itself👍 Download our (free) SAFE Toolkt App and get safety content and amazing articles every day (“allow notifications” for fresh content.


Visit SAFE at EAA Airventure (Oshkosh)  in Hangar B booth #2092 for renewal benefits and a chance to win sweepstakes prizes. Our dinner will be 6PM on Thursday (more info TBA soon).

Reflective Learning; Immediate Pilot Improvement!

The US NAVY wisely called a halt to all flying Monday for a Safety Stand-Down after a series of fatal accidents. This “time out” allowed the necessary pauseto review risk-management practices and conduct training on threat and error-management processes.” This should sound familiar to every pilot at every level since self-aware risk management is built into every FAA ACS. All safety is built on a skill called “reflective learning.

As safe pilots and educators, we must always be self-monitoring our risk profile (“is this getting dangerous?”) A safety stand-down is a more extreme version of this continuous 3P assessment/mitigation model; “perceive, process, perform.” When things get too intense and scary, it is time to shut it down, pause and reflect (land and reboot?) It is critical for every pilot to also be able to “break the accident chain” in this manner. Fortunately, large organizations have safety management systems with many layers of oversight to detect and correct errors. A safety stand-down stops the negative vector or action, creating time for operators to honestly analyze the situation to “reflect and redirect.” Both the ongoing 3P and the stand-downs require awareness, analysis, and honest self-critique to modify a system for greater safety.

Inertia

An object in motion with a certain vector wants to continue moving in that direction unless acted upon. This is a fundamental physical principle of motion; however, individuals, systems, and organizations display the same effect. It allows them to minimize the use of energy, but can cause them to be destroyed or eroded.

Unfortunately, single-pilot operations lack the sophisticated safety management systems (SMS) required for airlines and charter operations. Solo pilots usually have no outside objective oversight for personal flying to call a halt to unsafe actions or habits. Single-pilot operations can easily acquire “negative inertia.” Consequently, every pilot needs to be humble and self-aware enough to detect and call out personal errors and personally break the accident chain. The widely replicated Dunning-Kruger effect repeatedly demonstrates that people on a negative vector are also the least aware of their deficiencies (and also the hardest to change or teach). To fight this proven tendency, we need analysis and redirection after every major flight activity if we want to achieve effective safety and improvement. The military enforces this with “after-action reporting.”

Relativity

Relativity has been used in several contexts in the world of physics, but the important aspect to study is the idea that an observer cannot truly understand a system of which he himself is a part.

The critical safety skills required for honest analysis and improvement are humility – admitting mistakes – and “metacognition” – self-aware monitoring. Humility is rare in pilots because by nature   (and need) pilots are pretty self-confident. The “inner voice” of metacognition can easily get pushed aside with the “mission mentality” (get ‘r done). Pilots can rapidly slide into the dangerous “Icarus Realm” of hubris. Additionally, the time-critical nature of aviation means a pilot in motion tends to stay in motion…until the sudden stop at the end.

Honest Analysis + Redirection = Learning

it is important to reflect on the events that happened and to be able to have self-criticism and to think from different points of view of a situation in order to have a variety of knowledge and to be able to lead to positive learning from the actions and decisions an individual made.

An excellent way to build a successful self-monitoring system is to create a new habit embedded in your daily operation. One method (I use) to “reflect and redirect” is to write a summary of +/- when logging each flight; “what went right (and wrong)? And “was the success here a result of pilot skill, knowledge, and judgment or was luck responsible?” Properly executed, this quickly becomes an integral part of something you already do (habit stacking). An effective “after-action report” requires self-criticism, and leverages reflective learning to create improvement after every flight. Honest self-assessment leads to successful reflective learning.

Reflective learning is the difference between one hour of flight repeated 1000 times and 1000 unique hours you learned and benefitted from; full awareness!

“Review and redirect” makes every hour of flight more memorable and fun: fully lived and definitely safer. Fly safely out there (and often)


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FAA “Forgiveness?!”

The FAA “Compliance Program” is the “kinder, gentler” face of the FAA that is unfamiliar to most pilots. In our increasingly polarized society, we usually only see the ugly enforcement side of the FAA; certificate revocations and sanctions. But there has been a tectonic change in the FAA that promotes pilot re-education and  improvement, accommodating “honest mistakes.” The old “don’t hesitate, violate” attitude is finally fading.

The overview is that every honest, diligent pilot, that breaks a regulation inadvertently, should not face FAA “legal enforcement” but rather can (and should) be counseled and educated to be a better pilot creating a safer total system. Harsh punitive action has proven to create the opposite result. This recent change grew out of the “Just Culture” ideas of Sidney Dekker and others. Programs like this have been highly successful in the airlines. Compliance is a HUGE philosophical change following the lead of innovations like the ASRS, and ASAP reporting program. This all finally became approved FAA guidance about 6 years ago. There has since been an emerging culture shift in the FAA and the way they handle pilot violations.

FAA_Order_8000.373A: “The FAA recognizes that some deviations arise from factors such as flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills. The Agency believes that deviations of this nature can most effectively be corrected through root cause analysis and training, education or other appropriate improvements to procedures or training programs for regulated entities, which are documented and verified to ensure effectiveness.” 

This program should not be interpreted as the FAA “going easy” on intentional noncompliance. Willful regulatory violations and repeated offenses will still be handled with strict enforcement. The compliance program is for pilots who accidentally violate a regulation and also demonstrate a  “history of compliance” (participation in the FAA WINGS program helps too). These ‘honest mistakes’ will most often be handled with counseling and additional training rather than enforcement.

To implement this approach, pilot cooperation is required; both admitting responsibility and sharing information. Legal counsel may still be engaged, but the goal is a more open and positive “problem sharing” discussion (sometimes difficult with even well-intentioned lawyers). The open exchange of information leads to better overall system safety. Admittedly, trust is difficult when talking with “the authorities,” but there is a defined process established with legal assurances for the safe resolution of issues. This is why the FAA Pilot Bill of Rights is now so prominently embedded in the FAA regulatory system. An FAA Compliance Action also does not constitute a “finding of violation” on your pilot certificate.

The FAA Compliance Program (pdf) is part of FAA‘s larger Risk-Based Decision Making (RBDM) strategic initiative that is integrated into the ACS testing standards and Pilot Proficiency Program (WINGS). The increasing level of complexity of the aviation environment no longer permits safety improvements exclusively through following a purely rule-based approach. A safer system requires creative risk management and lifetime learning. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Please support our not-for-profit safety mission and join SAFE. The 1/3 off ForeFlight pays for your membership (and more) all by itself👍 Download our (free) SAFE Toolkt App and get safety content and amazing articles every day (“allow notifications” for fresh content.

Visit SAFE at EAA Airventure (Oshkosh)  in Hangar B booth #2092 for renewal benefits and a chance to win sweepstakes prizes. Our dinner will be 6PM on Thursday (more info TBA soon).

Commercial Flight Maneuvers for Everyone!

Commercial-level pilot maneuvers provide a wonderful fresh challenge for every pilot seeking to improve. These are fun and teach correct rudder usage when flown properly. Many pilots at the private level do not understand or apply correct rudder inputs. “Rudder deficit” is a primary reason for LOC-I. Search out a qualified instructor and take your flying to a higher level of proficiency with some commercial maneuvers. Learning new skills and extending your flight envelope creates greater flight safety and is also great fun! These maneuvers are a gateway to an upset recovery course and aerobatics – but these should be mastered first to get full value from this kind of advanced training.

Mastering commercial maneuvers requires an eyes-out aggressive flying style at the edge of the flight envelope. This begins with a thorough aerodynamic knowledge of the forces at work. The heart of all the commercial maneuvers is a concept called “cross-coordinated.” When you are climbing in a chandelle or navigating your way through a lazy eight you are often applying “crossed controls” to create coordinated flight. The control inputs and forces at work are not initially intuitive. Mastery requires study and practice to internalize a solid “feel” for the airplane during this more aggressive commercial-level maneuvering. And though all these maneuvers are “non-operational,” but you will be rewarded with much more precise (and safer) flying skills as well as a greater sense of confidence and control.

Step one in discovering commercial maneuvers is getting the eyes outside and rediscovering aggressive VFR flying; “yank and bank.” Most pilots in a normal flight training progression just completed an instrument rating (smooth standard rate turns with reference to their trusted instruments). Commercial training can come as a shock, requiring outside visual references and a “tuned up butt” to properly sense and correct yaw. Try some private pilot steep turns at 45 degrees and work up to 60 degrees. Then reverse at 180 degrees of turn and work up to “60/90s” (reversing a 60-degree banked steep turn after 90 degrees of turn). This is “old school” flying – find a good instructor to help you. This will get a little sweat going as well as demonstrate the need for an outside sight reference and positive control usage.

Step two is serpentine climbing 30 degree turns right and left with full power and a Vx attitude. This will quickly demonstrate the need for right rudder while climbing in a left turn and left aileron while climbing in a right turn. Initially, this feels “unnatural” for many private pilots, but this is the beginning of understanding “cross-coordination” and will progress into chandelles. Your pattern crosswind turns will be immediately safer with your newly-mastered “cross-coordination.”

A series of  climbing and descending (coordinated) wingovers – working toward a lazy eight – will demonstrate the need for quick and accurate rudder usage as the wing loads and unloads. Suddenly pilots are “flying again” after 40 hours of instrument standard rate turns (or years of rope-a-doping around the pattern); fun! These climbs and descents also illustrate the changing yoke forces necessary to maintain specific flight attitudes as the speed of the aircraft changes the effectiveness of the flight controls.

The last step in this introduction to commercial flight maneuvers is some slow flight and stalls first straight ahead, then turning. Flight training is an opportunity to fly at minimum control speed with the horn blaring (just don’t do it on a flight test – the FAA is sensitive about this). Bank 30 degrees right and left aggressively at the edge of a stall. Coordination is essential and LOTS of rudder is required to pivot left and right on the edge of a stall. Then demonstrate an old-style power off stall recovery letting the nose fall through the horizon with the yoke all the way back (stay stalled till the nose is down). As an instructor, when your pilot-in-training sees this dramatic nose-down attitude (while still feeling the stall) some understanding of angle of attack will be immediately built. (The angle of attack indicator in every plane is how much chrome is showing on the control yoke shaft).

Turning stalls recovered without power (just releasing AOA) are the last maneuver in this sortie as you descend turning right and left while stalling and recovering. This again shows the need for coordination and the power of AOA for recovery. Turning stalls are part of the Private Pilot ACS and often missed during initial training. Engage a qualified instructor and master some commercial maneuvers. SAFE has a catalog of “Extended Envelope Maneuvers” free to all. Soon you will add finesse, safety (and FUN) to your regular flying. Fly safe out there (and often)!


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Visit SAFE at EAA Airventure (Oshkosh)  in Hangar B booth #2092 for renewal benefits and a chance to win prizes. Our dinner is 6PM on Thursday (more info soon).

 

 

What The FAA Commercial Test Needs.

The current commercial pilot test standard, as administered, is often a joke. Jumping into a C-152 or DA-20 and doing the same private pilot maneuvers to the same PPL tolerances does not really “test” anything. There is no added challenge or demonstration of superior skill required at the “commercial pilot level” unless CFIs and DPEs step up and apply the ACS standard more rigorously. Remember, the next step for most of these pilots is as a flight instructor (to your children?) or flying in the right seat of a transport plane (with your loved ones in the back?). Maybe *real* skills are acquired during “on-the-job training” – or not?! Look at the flight track above to see how well this is working; that AIrbus was nearly a CFIT.

In many cases, the FAA commercial flight test is the aviation industry’s version of a “participation trophy.” It only assures that a pilot showed up and flew 250.1 hours – usually with only 5 hours total actual solo – and is rebranded as “commercial” under diminishing test standards. First, commercial lost the +/-50 ft tolerances, then the requirement for retractable gear (complex) airplanes, then minimum controllable airspeed (SAFO 16010), then “supervised PIC” under 61.129(a)4 became the norm for all “solo.” Now, most new CFIs have only been alone in a plane for 5 total hours (private pilot solo) and they are the primary purveyors of all future aviation wisdom.

a pilot must choose to log all ten hours as solo flight time in a single engine airplane or, in the alternative, log all ten hours performing the duties of a pilot in command in a single engine airplane with an authorized instructor on board. A combination of hours is not permissible under the rule.

Pilot examiners can only test what the FAA standard provides and there are pretty limited tools for the DPE in the current ACS to assess a higher level of proficiency. It is incumbent upon every CFI to teach beyond the FAA minimums and for every DPEs to dig deep and test comprehensively; our lives depend on this.

The rudder challenge of the chandelle or lazy eight is appreciated, but 200 feet of altitude gain with the limited power of trainers does not require huge skill. The 180-degree power off landing certainly does sort out a few pilots but luck and rote recitation often prevails here (and its pass/fail)/. AThis pathetic process demonstrates how badly flawed our flight training system has become. For the initial CFI, the passing rate is now the same as the private pilot test. We need teeth in these evaluations (teaching and testing) to provide challenge and inspire a higher standards of performance.

AIrbus 321 leaving Bozeman, MT last week; LUCK avoided CFIT?

I would encourage every CFI teaching at the commercial level and every DPE testing potential commercial pilots to spend a moment here and examine the FAA Commercial ACS in more depth. Some areas to focus on are the take-off briefing (II, F) to assure safety during this most dangerous phase of flight. “No comprehensive take-off briefing, no approval” has to be a red line. Rejected take-off and engine failure during take-off are in the ACS, but unfortunately, not explicit and seldom tested except perhaps orally. The cross country *could* be flown entirely with pilotage if an early failure takes out the “GPS magic” (ACS VI, A). Do any DPEs adequately test VI. D (lost procedures)? Headed back to home base, have the applicant find the airport without any “geo-location.” Situational awareness (SA) is a complex skill and hard to calibrate or “prove” on an unsatisfactory evaluation. But SA is mentioned 45 times in the commercial ACS. This can be a headache for DPEs because some aggressive flight academies protest every unsat.  requiring unpaid time for DPEs who have to support their judgment calls.

Here are some basic knowledge questions every pilot at the commercial level should be able to answer at the correlation level. This is essential knowledge but not often tested – because it’s not specifically stated in the ACS. These questions also provide good knowledge for all pilots who want to be better and safer in aviation.

1) What is the most efficient altitude to fly this flight at? Few commercial applicants are aware of the bigger picture outside of the performance tables (which are usually perfunctory in small trainers). Dig into ACS section I, F or VI, d. PIlots at the commercial level should know that IAS remains essentially the same as we climb at a fixed percentage of power but TAS increases at approximately 2% per thousand. (Fewer molecules of air=less friction and drag).  This provides the performance benefit of flying higher than the usual student cross country. Available power decreases with altitude at a rate of approximately 3% per thousand in a normally aspirated piston plane. Consequently, the optimal altitude will be where the desired percentage of power is full throttle (and best volumetric efficiency). Headwinds will obviously have to be considered (but let’s not get involved with “weather ignorance here). Graphing the 3% power loss against the 2% TAS gain usually provides ~ 8K density altitude cruise in calm winds at ~65% power.

2) Extrapolating from the above understanding, what are the effects of this disparity in TAS and IAS (and loss of performance) for high density altitude (DA) pattern operations? Approaching to land at Centennial Airport in Denver on a hot summer day (10K DA) might show an indicated 65K on final when actual TAS is 75K. Most pilots are going to drop their plane onto the runway due to their unfamiliarity with this high-speed visual illusion. (CFIs can easily simulate this in training with a tailwind landing on a long runway). High DA take-offs are even more dangerous when a plane can get airborne in ground effect below (IAS) stall speed. Rotating when it “looks about right,” puts the plane airborne in ground effect – still not able to fly. A pilot must be able to lower the nose to climb in this situation, just like a soft field take-off (and most don’t). High DA accidents often sail off the end of the runway in ground effect. And your C-172 is a C-152 in Denver on a hot day.

3) What is “stall speed” if we can stall at *any* speed? Why does Va change with weight? “Stall speed” is a 1G determination at max gross weight. “Stall speed” changes with a/c weight (and G force) and CG location. And if we multiply 1G Vs times the square root of the load factor, we can derive that variable Va. Unfortunately, most commercial applicants don’t even know normal/utility G limits. Another way of saying this is a plane will stall before it breaks at speeds below Va (a safety valve? – above Va we are test pilots). What is the effect of weight on Vx and Vy (hint – they meet at the service ceiling of the airplane). Most commercial applicants have never seen a Vg diagram.

4) Expanding on this discussion, how doesa pilot experience/induce G force in normal flight? Most commercial applicants never thought of G force as just another form of weight. When this ligh bulb goes on it all starts to make sense – why don’t most CFIs teach this stuff? The increase in stall speed from G force (bank) is non-linear (square root function) and this can surprise pilots. In repeated surveys, the majority of pilots overestimate the G force and stall increase at 45 degrees of bank (only 19%) and fail to appreciate how quickly this exponential force increases past that angle. The recent jet accidents while circling to land clearly illustrate this ignorance. We do accelerated stalls at the commercial level, but few applicants can calculate the effect of bank angle on stall speed. Slip/skid/spin is an under-appreciated knowledge area (but required: VII, E “spin awareness). This will be a future blog…

5) Most commercial applicants do not understand the effect of forward and aft CG on stall speed, stability and controllability (I, F). The CG is forward of the center of lift and provides a variable lever-arm of controllability. The tail providing the downward balancing force surprises most pilots. Controllability and stall speed become easier to understand once this force is understood.

6) There is no mention of type certificates, supplemental type certificates or 337 forms in the current commercial ACS. Most new commercial pilots will be flying old beasts with 15 STCs modifying the original type certificate. This has an obvious effect on the airworthiness of the airplane (see FrankenPlane).

These are just a few basic items that come to mind that are seldom tested at the commercial level. This knowledge is critical for every pilot’s survival as they fly more unforgiving airframes (those Lear 35 examples). Let’s prepare our pilots better and we will have fewer unnecessary deaths as a result of ignorance. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Please support our not-for-profit safety mission and join SAFE. The 1/3 off ForeFlight pays for your membership (and more) all by itself👍 Download our (free) SAFE Toolkt App and get safety content and amazing articles every day.

Visit SAFE at EAA Airventure (Oshkosh)  in Hangar B booth #2092 for renewal benefits and a chance to win prizes. Our dinner is 6PM on Thursday (more info soon).

 

Land Safely, Forget “Super-Smooth!”

I remember distinctly discovering the secret of obtaining a super-smooth landing in a PA-28; just carry extra speed and “drive it on.” Eliminating the flare made landing amazingly simple – why had my CFI not figured this out? This occurred during the solo cross country phase of my flight training (50 years ago) after suffering through the usual first solo commands – “hold it off, don’t let it land!” Needless to say, my instructor disagreed with my new “smooth landing” technique and righteously explained, that a smooth landing was not the objective, safety was. Extra energy on touchdown and the three-point attitude were, he said, an invitation to disaster (something about square root functions and porpoising).

You may be surprised to learn that “smooth touchdown” is nowhere to be found in the FAA test standards (the closest is “minimum sink rate” in the soft field section). The more important objectives of a good landing are clearly described: an accurate touch down on the centerline (aligned with no lateral drift) and properly configured and stabilized. Also, arrive as slow as possible touching in the “landing configuration.” For a pilot, “smooth” is a reward, but not the sine qua non. Make your landings proper and safe first and after some practice, “smooth” will be easily achievable. Many smooth landings are actually not safe at all.

But of course, it’s the *passengers* who disagree. The *only* tangible non-pilot standard to judge piloting skill is a super-smooth touchdown. Pilots really need to push back here and get over this imposed illusion for the sake of safety! Smooth landings can often involve extra speed and improper technique. It is much safer to stabilize, control the centerline and land in the proper attitude, even if it touches with a little bump.

The “smooth landing mandate” naturally carries onward into professional jet operations – something about “primacy?” We all want to be the “hero pilot,” and it’s easy to consume a mile of runway milking the last few feet to touchdown in search of the “super-smooth” arrival. You will indeed impress their clients in back when you run off the end of the runway? Not surprisingly, overruns on landing are the #1 cause of accidents in turbine aircraft.

Whether trying to minimize the “bump” felt by passengers or lulled by landing often on runways much longer than needed, business aviators tend to carry excess speed and float into long landings. The average business jet touch down point is about 1,600 feet from the threshold, and nearly 20 percent touch down beyond 2,000 feet, well past the aim point that is the basis for predicted aircraft landing performance

Admittedly, there are a variety of causes of overruns in turbine landings, most notably the extreme weight and energy at play and contaminated surfaces. But ironically, the solution to hydroplaning is actually a “firm touchdown” to create positive contact with the runway surface.

And to be very clear, I am not condoning (or recommending) hard landings. I am just advocating for less of a focus on “super-soft” touchdowns as an end in themselves. Go for “safe” first (as described above) and smooth will follow after some practice. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

ATC Assist in Florida Landing!

Controller Robert Morgan, pictured above, was the calm voice that guided a non-pilot, Darren Harrison, from over the ocean to a safe landing recently in Florida. Fortunately, Robert is a CFI  – and was available to help [MORE] Congratulations on another “first solo” Robert – you made every CFI proud! This success also clearly highlights the importance of ATC assistance during an emergency.  Air traffic controllers can provide amazing resources. Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) was recently featured in the SAFEblog and is required in the FAA certification standards. One important point to remember, however, is that not all controllers are CFIs – or even pilots (more on this below).

The availability of ATC as a resource should be emphasized in all training and should be part of every flight review for safety. Both Sullenberger in the “Miracle on the Hudson” and Al Haynes in the United 232 Sioux City crash, emphasized the importance of a calm and efficient air traffic controller as a key component in their successful emergency landings. Many applicants on flight tests forget to “call a friend.”

“We worked together seamlessly in one of the most dire situations anyone can imagine to try to save every single life.

Every year, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) awards the coveted Archie League Medal of Safety to controllers who go above and beyond the call of duty to save pilots in distress.

“The ability to think quickly and remain calm under pressure while maintaining situational awareness are all unique qualities that air traffic controllers and flight service station employees possess.

They all have a willingness to jump right in to resolve complex situations, offer a reassuring voice to those on the frequency and coordinate their efforts with other controllers.”

SAFE member Dean Brown is a committed educator – Indy Center Controller and CFI – working to improve both controller training about emergencies and pilot understanding of how ATC can best help during emergencies. The correct initial (and continuing) response is critical to a successful outcome during emergencies. Frequently, a controller lacks a full understanding of how busy and disorienting emergencies can be for a pilot. Dean is working on rolling out a comprehensive training course for controllers covering a wide variety of emergency situations. If you have suggestions or are a controller wanting to collaborate in this important work, reply in the comment section please (we will get in touch). Fly safe out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

Velis Electro Trainer

In full disclosure, I’m really new to the world of aircraft that have a lighter empty weight than my motorcycle. And I’m used to having at least a couple of seats behind me. I recently had the opportunity to join a small group of pilots – those that have flown electric airplanes!

The Pipistrel Velis Electro – is the only certified electric aircraft. This was a full-up, ready-to-buy, take-home and start flying in the national airspace system, not a prototype of something that may be ready and certified in the future.You can find the specs and details on the Pipistrel website but that doesn’t tell you about the experience. Simplicity – the most accurate description of what its like to get started and go. Four switches, some self-tests, a check of available battery charge and spin the prop to make sure all is good and you’re ready. No waiting for the oil to warm, no run-up/mag check /prop manipulation – you get the idea. It was a bit strange sitting at the hold line checking for traffic and getting set to go with no prop spinning out in front. When ready, push the throttle forward, and the prop spins propelling you forward. The application of power is smooth and instant. Airspeed is alive and you notice a little motor whir and the ground passing underneath. It’s quiet! Not silent, but very quiet.

Liftoff comes at about 45kts, climb rate is around 700 – 750 fpm with 1 pilot. Your results may vary – I have only had one flight. Controls are smooth and quick but not twitchy. Small control movements and the aircraft goes where you point it. The wind was a little blustery (central Florida acting like summertime), so I kept it below VA which was 100kts. Stalls were docile as you would expect, recovery straightforward – lower the nose, pick up airspeed, and fly level. The landing was gentle, keep the airspeed under control or you float down the runway. From taxi, out to shut down my flight time was about .8 and consumed 50 -55% of battery power.

Impression: Fun to fly!! If you are close to the practice area, would make a respectable trainer. Obviously, loiter time is limited. I’m looking forward to making more flights and push it a little harder.


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

Gut Check: Caution Vs “Courage!”

Confidence is a necessary pilot attribute and timidity can be a hazard. If we did not dream big and overcome reasonable challenges, we would never succeed in aviation. But carrying this too far is often the root cause of accidents. “Over-reaching” our skills creates operations whose success depends on luck. The correct balance of caution and confidence goes back to the ancient Greek “Golden Mean.” Please listen to this brief YouTube audio and tell me honestly if you have never “bit off more than you can chew?” in terms of your perceived and actual abilities? Without honest reflection and revision, we all can slide down the slope of normalizing these dangerous activities. “Experience” is often defined as “learning that occurs when the test comes before the training.” But just because we survived does not validate your (sometimes overconfident) decision.

How can we more reliably achieve the correct balance of confidence and caution? Can we even accurately assess our own skills without the assessment of others? Maybe this is the primary reason crewed flights are 8X  safer than solo flights and pro pilots require recurrent training? Skill obviously plays a big role and accident data reveals we all could use more practice in the landing phase of flight:

The first necessary step when facing a challenging situation is the calming ability to say “no” to impulsivity and create a pause between action and reaction. Once we have stopped the impulsive inner child, we must honestly appraise and reflect on all options and consequences, weighing the risks. Merely visualizing the worst outcomes (the stoic philosophy) sometimes is all that is needed to move more slowly and choose sensibly in a better direction. Two huge forces in aviation that actively collide with fight safety are perceived time savings (efficiency)  and pilot ego; “how will I be perceived by others.”  Getting past these psychological barriers immediately makes every pilot safer.

The reasonable “sounding board” of a trusted advisor is a sure way to add safety to any decision and one reason Part 135 and 121 usually require two pilots. So if it’s a tight decision, expand your resources and solicit some advice from a trusted pilot friend. A worthy motto, borrowed from MADD, is “friends don’t let friends fly stupid.” This requires both seeking and listening to the opinion of others but also advocating to prevent “the accident waiting to happen.” As pilots, we are often so reticent to intervene we allow others to unnecessarily come to peril.

Let’s agree to work together cooperatively and prevent accidents; “safety culture.” The pilot above ignored the wise counsel of ATC; “how about a different field with less wind and a more favorable alignment?”  It takes more humility and less “courage” to fly safely but that way we will be around to enjoy more flights!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

 

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