Teaching “Invisible Angle Of Attack”

Angle of attack (AOA) is the most misunderstood concept in aviation – just raise the topic casually in a hangar flying session to sample the confusion. Our previous two blogs on tail-down force and the basics of a turn demonstrated the many scary gaps in the average pilot’s knowledge.  Some CFI somewhere has failed these pilots in training. Ignorance and misunderstanding, along with lack of solid skills are at the heart of many of our fatal loss of control accidents. Most pilots are fine and happy in the limited “comfort zone” of their 5% flight envelope, but terrified when forced by surprise events to maneuver. (I highly recommend Rich Stowell’s Emergency Maneuver Training to every pilot. This book will fill many “gaps” and is written in wonderfully clear language)

Controlling AOA is the central tool in the generation of lift and essential to everything we do as pilots defying gravity. Understanding and managing AOA is indisputably the most important knowledge and skill set we (should) learn as students. But unfortunately, if AOA exists at all in a pilot’s vocabulary it seems to represent only  the feared excess of the stalled condition. And even the simple stall is clouded in mystery and fear and hidden behind an over-reliance on technological protections. Now that  minimum controllable airspeed (MCA) has been removed from the private pilot ACS, educators often don’t teach this important skill and sample “the feathered edge” of critical AOA. Learning to maneuver in MCA not only teaches coordination, it teaches all the kinesthetic cues of the impending stall.

I have been privileged to own a 7AC Champ for the last 30 years. This plane has no stall warning device at all – and no blue button or “envelope protection” either. Demonstrating AOA and teaching stalls is so easy in a Champ or Cub (or glider); pilots in training learn it early and fairly painlessly. Add all the distractions of a technologically advanced airplane and the slow flight/stall process can take longer and be disguised by distractions. Don’t get me wrong, technology is wonderful and necessary in a “go fast” machine, but the physics of lift is identical and more easily learned in a simple plane.

Angle of attack is most commonly confused with flight attitude (an aircraft’s relationship to the horizon) but there is no relationship between AOA and attitude. I think this misconception is a deeply embedded “natural” human assumption. And it is essential to eradicate these misconceptions during flight training. This requires knowledge, demonstration and practice; but we often don’t get there. Any plane can be in level flight attitude and stalled, be pointed straight down and also be stalled (both exceeding the critical AOA). Air France 447 was a landmark case study of a very experienced crew mishandling AOA.

As illustrated above, in a still photo of an aircraft, you just can’t determine the AOA from the outside view; it is invisible. To discern AOA you need motion and trend; it is the difference between where the airplane is pointed and where it is actually traveling. And that is another good reason for a pilot to keep their eyes outside for more than infrequent glances; you need to see the trend to achieve control. If it’s going down out of control you need to unload and push it further down to recover. “Unloading” (reducing AOA – especially when nose down already) is so unnatural and at first it is incomprehensible to new pilots.

A secondary stall is a excellent tool to illustrate the difference between AOA and flight attitude and train unloading – the student is confused p“the nose is down below the horizon but the plane is stalling? How can that happen?” This initial confusion (cognitive dissonance) is a “learning opportunity” for full explanation, full understanding and training muscle memory in the learner. And here the aviation educator has to be patient and kind but also somewhat relentless in achieving understanding and proficiency (DPEs do not evaluate this skill on flight tests). If pilots do not fully grasp this “unload” concept, they will never be safe in emergencies.

 

My personal familiarity with AOA is largely from many hours of “dual given” watching people misunderstand and mishandle the physics of flight. And my passion is guiding them back to comfort, knowledge and control in their aircraft. But this takes commitment on both sides of this instructional relationship. Our natural human tendencies (called “naive rendition”) of how flight works is initially all wrong. Our intuition fails when it tries to “do physics.”

Everyone seems to “know” the nose high aircraft is “high AOA” (the crime of flight school demonstrations). But nobody seems to comprehend that a nose-low A/C can have an equally “high AOA” and be just as close to a stall (it mistakenly appears safe). The untutored knowledge that is “natural” to new pilots does not work and only gets worse when fueled by fear in an upset (pull away from the ground). Flying is largely applied physics and requires proper counter intuitive knowledge and understanding. Flight training is a careful process of discovery as we overwrite what humans intuitively guess is going on. And that takes trust and willingness on the part of the learner and requires a strong CFI/learner relationship to work through these issues completely – also rare.

After many years of flying and teaching, we know most people can drive a plane down the center of the flight envelope with very little guidance  – “look mom I learned to fly in a week!” We’ve all seen this on the cover of Popular Mechanics and I would love it if it was that easy. Unfortunately, if these marginally trained pilots experience displacement from “normal” or are startled, loss of control is a certainty. Even the most experienced pilots can fall into AOA traps. The video below is of an Air Force Thunderbird F-16 that suffered a very predictable LOC  problem. Watch carefully and see if  you can figure out why this happened (no one was severely injured here and the pilot ejected in time)

I often present this video at gatherings and call this “the perfect stall.” It demonstrates that even the most amazing military machine with endless power can’t make an airplane do the impossible and defy physics. Below is a screen shot that looks like a “fly by” – but in a static picture AOA is invisible – it takes motion and trend of a video to reveal the 7G stall.

And the question we left you with in last week’s blog; What is the AOA device installed in every airplane? AOA corresponds with how much chrome you see on your yoke (how far you are pulling back); and how much back pressure you feel on the stick (right side up). “Unloading” (overcoming that dangerous “monkey pull”) allows the reduction of AOA and is the first step to recovery of control (or don’t go there in the first place). To me personally, this huge, universal AOA device is more obvious and compelling in an emergency than a small electronic AOA device hidden somewhere in a busy panel.  But there are many good Upset Recovery Schools for you to try this for yourself and decide while experiencing upsets safely.  There is also excellent technical guidance on LOC-I in our SAFE public resource center (available to everyone) and in the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook. We will have a full syllabus of skill-building maneuvers at our SAFE CFI-PRO™ Workshop at AOPA, October 2&3. Fly safely (and often)!


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Basic Physics of Flight Control!

Basic center of gravity is critical to aircraft  control but this is another important concept  most pilots (and some CFIs) don’t solidly understand. And confusion about stability and basic flight dynamics seems to be at the root of many of our LOC-I accidents. To simplify all this concept for students, I call it “balancing the teeter totter.” And this is obviously a “donuts and coffee” level pilot discussion, not a “graphs and Greek letters” deep dive. My hope is to generate some awareness, surprise and more questions for further deep study. Once there is surprise there is learning and these concepts are best learned and mastered in a calm environment (not upside down).

I know from speaking presentations to assembled fliers that this question; “where is the CG” creates consternation and confusion – and half the pilots get it wrong! So obviously this is an “opportunity for growth and learning” if you join in and participate. Ask yourself honestly and pick an option please. Experienced CFIs please use this with your students – you will be surprised. Which end is heavy (and then we will talk about why it matters).

It’s ironic that in pilot training, we spend endless hours calculating and explaining the minutia of moments and moving imaginary baggage around to get into the approved CG range, but we miss the bigger more important picture – the basics of how every familiar GA airplane works. And I can corroborate this from giving flight tests over the last 20 years. Please make your choice…where is the weight? Then click here for the answer.


The nose of the plain vanilla, part 23 GA aircraft is the heavy end and the tail of every plane you fly is “lifting” DOWN. The implication of a heavier nose for most LOC-I situations is that the pilot is (usually) the responsible party creating the LOC-I problem with excessive back pressure. To restore control, step one is to stop pulling on the yoke (which creates and maintains the excessive angle of attack) and RELEASE, to reduce the angle of attack (AOA). There is inherent stability built into a well-designed aircraft if we do not over ride it with a fearful, startled pulling force. Reducing power is also critical (for reasons we will explain later). To simplify, planes don’t stall, but pilots stall planes by pulling. (The one exception being a batched go-around – trim stall!)

So why is it the pilot initiates this problem by pulling and stalling? There is no sure answer available but it seems to be a human tendency that occurs as part of the startle/fear experience. I personally call it the “monkey pull,” since it is an atavistic survival mechanism somewhere in our (ground-based) DNA. Pull away from what is approaching? Unfortunately for flight dynamics, this instinctive reaction in LOC-I is completely wrong for aircraft control and overrides the stability built into the machine. Much of our initial flight training involves attempting to train out this fear/startle response and overcome the pulling response in emergencies. I do not think personally we can ever entirely succeed and the training gets faint if we do not practice continuously.

Bold Method Graphic; click for CFI Tool

Adding a durable intellectual understanding of the how basic CG and angle of attack work on an aircraft (tail force down/heavy nose) is essential, but obviously often missed, in flight training. When you screw up an aerobatic maneuver (and I’m good at this) my mentors always counsel, “reduce power, and let go, the heavy end comes down.” The power part is obvious if you again click here for the CG diagram. High power (often added inappropriately in panic situations) creates induced airflow over the tail that further drives the tail down (and increases AOA). Power also compounds the LOC problem with yaw and torque.

The bigger CG picture and the inherent stability of the plane should be explained and demonstrated to all pilots in training by the professional aviation educator in a very careful and non-threatening manner. We discussed an airplane’s stability in  a turn  – trim and fold your arms and your plane will keep happily turning until it is out of fuel. A stable GA trainer in a stall will recover very nicely if you just reduce power and release back pressure. I personally think this is how the first stall should be demonstrated in training; start gliding power off- gently increase AOA (raise nose too high – not even above the horizon) and the plane will stall gently. Simply release back pressure and the plane starts flying…easy peasy! It is counter productive (and often permanently detrimental) to scare and confuse your new aviator with a complex procedure and wild flight attitude. We want to convey the concept and all the variations can be added later. No learning occurs in a terrified student and we perpetuate the fear that prevents proper recovery later.  The first stalls can be a great confidence builder. When I do that procedure with students they breathe a sigh of relief and comment “that was a stall?” and they can’t believe it. The often also comment “All the other students told me I would hate them and be terrified…”

Next week we will dig further into AOA. For a quiz question to lead that discussion, which of these airplanes here has a higher AOA?

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that EVERY aircraft actually has an AOA indicator on board? And it might be more reliable than that techno-wizardry you just paid to install? Stand by for that… Fly safely (and often)!


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Is “Cross-Controlled” Dangerous?

We discussed the turning stall in the last SAFEblog and revealed the (often surprising) fact that in coordinated flight, with lift equal on both wings, a stall simply falls away from the lift vector and is very benign. There is only a burble and a drop of the nose, but no rolling or sudden departure from controlled flight that many people expect (and fear). This maneuver is in the private pilot ACS and should be comfortable for every aviation educator. This maneuver not only builds skills and confidence, but also creates a powerful opportunity to promote the need for coordinated flight and the value of correct rudder usage. Since there is no spin tendency in a turn when we are coordinated, this has a super safety value to every pilot; it opens their minds and gets their attention. But we then need a method to achieve better intuitive rudder coordination.

There is lots of confusion about the airplane’s rudder and its function in flight.  Remarkably, when Rich Stowell surveyed pilots he found 70% thought the rudder was used to turn the aircraft. This is dramatically wrong and should be a wake-up call to every CFI. Quite simply, the rudder cancels unwanted yaw created by the adverse effect of ailerons, power application, or rapid pitching moments. Most commonly, the downward moving aileron creates yaw, pulling the airplane away from the desired turn direction with “adverse yaw.” This can be *very* pronounced in an older (often tailwheel) aircraft but is largely designed out of modern (control blended) aircraft. That is a nice way of saying modern planes mostly tolerate and disguise “flat-footed flying.” Unfortunately, moving the rudders appropriately and learning coordination is the key to safety and preventing LOC-I.

The critical skill is to anticipate yaw not just reactively cancel it after it has occurred. That’s why the advice “step on the ball” – though correct – is too late and creates more problems than it solves. “Step on the ball” means you already created the yaw problem – slewing the plane – and are subsequently forcing it back into balance with a time-consuming, mechanical input. People who utilize this advice not only have their eyes inside but also fly like bad robots in a jerky and uncomfortable fashion. In addition to being clumsy, we just do not have enough mental bandwidth while flying to be cogitating about “stepping on the ball” (which lags badly anyway). It is essential to tune up our kinesthetic yaw sensing and develop automatic anticipation of adverse forces. This will also makes you an amazingly smooth pilot that your passengers will appreciate.

I recommend all flight instructors (and pilots who want to get sharp) demonstrate (observe) a brisk application of power, aileron, or pitch applied independently at a safe altitude. In each case you will see the nose yaw in reaction to this force applied (physics in action).  With practice you can predict which way this will occur (physics!) and discern how much rudder to apply to maintain coordination. I have my primary students initially move the throttle hand and the right rudder together to develop some “muscle memory” while on the ground sitting in the cockpit (works for “chair flying too). This yaw correction will become automatic pretty quickly with directed focus and practice (but is much easier to teach initially than to correct from a bad habit). There is a lot more to this art of learning/teaching rudder and our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop has many time-honored CFI tricks to tune up rudder usage.

“As the power increases, you’ll simultaneously press on the right rudder pedal knowing that the entire universe (specifically the airplane’s power induced left turning tendencies) is doing everything possible to yaw the airplane’s nose to the left. But you’ll have none of this nonsense because you are in command of your airplane, right? Right! So step on that right rudder pedal.” Stick and Rudder Mutter, by Rod Machado

But let’s get on to this “cross-controlled bogeyman” we started with. If after we demonstrate that turning stall we ask why the plane did not spin (as expected) in the turn the logical follow up question is “what would cause a stalled plane to spin?” And I guarantee the answer will be “if you stall when you are cross-controlled.” So I demonstrate a stable full slip (power off) and bring the plane to a stall. I love this demonstration, because though the plane is balanced and stable, every pilot anticipates a violent spin entry. In fact with a well rigged trainer, nothing at all happens (except the student finally begins breathing again). Another learning opportunity; why no spin? Because the slip configuration is stable (with no power) with the rudder yaw opposing aileron roll force (perform this only with an experienced instructor and know your plane). This illustrates that the obvious bogeyman is not “cross-controlled” but rather the pro-spin inputs of a skidding turn (ironically the force 70% of pilots think turns the plane) The skid is an excess rate of turn. This usually is created with the rudder but can also be uncompensated force from a go-around attempt (well represented in the NTSB files). The skid is the evil form of “cross-control” and often occurs when people fight yawing force inappropriately with aileron (“driving” again). If there is one aerodynamic principle every pilot must understand this is it; understand thoroughly the difference between a slip and a skid and why one is safe and one will kill you . This is the essence of safety in the pattern. More detail is in this Aviation Safety article I wrote.

Three incidents personally persuaded me to demonstrate these maneuvers and promote this understanding to every pilot. First was repeated flight tests where applicants did not want to “slip to land” because it was “cross-controlled and dangerous.” Then I discovered a website by a respected airline pilot (with great popular following and gravitas) that advised (completely incorrectly) to convert the base to final turn into a slip by applying aileron out of the turn as you lined up on final; “you already have the wing down.” This is of course a skid and very dangerous (pro-spin: do not try this!). The final incident was a young CFI applying for a job at our flight school who demonstrated a massive skid (intending to slip) and confessed he thought you “just cross the controls” to create a slip. This level of confusion is obviously killing pilots and needs to be corrected by every conscientious aviation educator. Again, more here.

Next weekend SAFE will be at the AOPA Fly-In at Frederick, MD (and we would love to meet you there). This blog will cover another misunderstood (and potentially dangerous) aerodynamic force; AOA, CG and pitch (“planes don’t stall, but pilots stall planes”) Fly safely (and often).


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Surprising Airplane Control Facts!

Presenting seminars at public events like Sun ‘N Fun is a fascinating opportunity to both meet people and also sample the aerodynamic understanding of our pilot (and CFI) population. Having been a DPE for many years, I often ask a lot of questions while presenting to get a sense of the understanding level of my audience. Reliably, 70% of pilots are usually confused about which control actually turns an airplane. Pilots (and CFIs) are unfamiliar with the actual aerodynamic forces at work on our wings during a basic coordinated turn. And no one seems to know that *every* aircraft has an AOA indicator installed – which every pilot controls. Let’s unpack a few of these ideas; because they are essential to the safety of every pilot and especially essential for every aviation educator to understand completely.

I usually ask audiences about the balance of lift on the wings of an airplane in a stable, level altitude turn:  In a level, coordinated 30-degree turn, is the lift equal on both wings?Please make YOUR choice at this point before going further.


Reliably, more than half of the pilots in every audience will say lift is unequal on the wings in a level coordinated turn. For an educator, this is the classic “learning opportunity” to present a startling follow-up question. If lift is unequal in a stable turn, wouldn’t your plane would still be rolling? Presented that way it seems to make sense to pilots; lift is equal on the wings. Inevitably, someone always posits that the outer wing has “more lift because it is traversing a longer arc” (over banking tendency). But obviously if this was true your plane would still be rolling. I think what confuses pilots is the asymmetric lift used to create the roll initially, and I think also (surprisingly) the flight attitude is still somewhat scary to many pilots since we all spend most of our time straight and level. The fact that 70% of pilots are confused is also an opportunity to improve the understanding of our flight training community (see SAFE CFI-PRO™) We have great tools for teaching this area of flight.

So simply prove this to yourself the next time you go flying. Roll into a 30 degree bank and add enough nose up trim (and a touch of power) to maintain a stable level altitude hands off. Fold your arms and smile; your plane will happily continue to fly in a hands-off stable turn until it runs out of fuel (assuming it is properly rigged). Every CFI needs to  demonstrate this stability and explain the underlying aerodynamics very early in pilot training. This is not an automobile or a boat and ignorance of essential aerodynamics is responsible for many LOC-I accidents.

The natural follow up question is of course, what will happen if we stall in a coordinated turn? This is a very powerful question for every aviation educator to ask (and demonstrate) as soon as a student is comfortable with straight-ahead stalls. Student pilots predictably grab the seat cushion and start to sweat when I first demonstrate a turning stall in an aircraft during training (despite a full ground briefing). >70% of pilots (and CFIs) predict a spin entry as the inevitable result of a turning stall. But if lift is equal on the wings (we are coordinated), a stall in a turn will very simply drop away from the lift vector. Try this with an experienced CFI and you will see that the stall break is even less pronounced than the straight-ahead stall. This is a way of expanding your flight envelope and proving to yourself how the basic aerodynamics of turning an airplane works. A turning stall is a very empowering maneuver for every pilot to experience. And the turning stall is an element in the private pilot ACS for this reason; it is an essential learning experience for safety and understanding.

And for that last mystery question; which control is active in a level turn? The ailerons are neutral in a 30 degree turn – take a look out at your ailerons while turning and try wiggling them. And the rudder is also neutral  – because all it does is “cancel the adverse yaw” as ailerons are added to roll the plane. The active control responsible for the turn is what you added with the trim; your elevator! And over 25% of pilots guess the rudder is turning the plane – and that would be a skid and responsible for pro-spin force – a dangerous assumption. The actual control responsible for turning in level flight is the elevator. A more complete explanation of  the aerodynamics of turning are on Rich Stowell’s “Learn To Turn” course on community aviation. The fact that pilots are confused here is one reason we are providing expanded education for CFIs during our  SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop. A YouTube of Rich Stowell at the NTSB is available here.

The (largely unknown) AOA indicator we all have in an upright airplane is how much chrome is showing on your yoke (how far back you have pulled the yoke or stick). This will reliably show your angle of attack and also is the first thing to reduce in an upset – unload! Next week we will talk about the fact that planes don’t really stall – but in fact pilots are responsible for stalling planes.  Stay tuned – and fly safely out there.


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Calibrating Confidence

More than 100 people die every day on the US roads in their automobiles.  An active co-conspirator in this carnage is the fact that 90% of drivers believe they are “better than average.” As a species humans are notoriously overconfident! Perhaps this trait keeps us humans forging ahead and accomplishing amazing things but it sure leads to a lot of fatal accidents in mechanized devices. We need to recognize this hazard in flight training and manage it during every preflight assessment. I-M-S-A-F-E-(C)?

Overconfidence is not specifically recognized as a “hazardous attitude,” by the FAA but lies  somewhere between invulnerability and macho (and is also well represented in our pilot population).  Calibrating our confidence is critical in every pre-flight self-assessment. Pilots do some crazy things in planes and seem to just believe/hope it will work out – hope is never a good planning strategy!  Every aviation educator should be alert for overconfidence in their students, it is a sure killer and seems to be increasingly popular (or is that just YouTube making bad judgment manifest?) The well-documented Dunning-Kruger Effect states that “low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence.” We often need an independent analysis to reveal how risky we are being. When you read articles like the accident below,  consider how many endorsements a CFI has to put into this student’s logbook to make this flight remotely legal.

Calibrating confidence is of course a matter of achieving the healthy balance between hubris and doubt. Every pilot must maintain some level of assertiveness and bravery to fly appropriately “in command” because continuous doubt is equally dangerous to safety. Accepting peer review and maintaining objective standards help achieve the proper balance; staying humble and accepting curated advice is essential.

One of my mentors in aviation flew 125 combat missions over Vietnam. And though “you do not walk out to a $16M fighter with your tail between your legs”, his personal flight rules dictate that every mission needs to start by consciously encouraging some fear and doubt.  The “premeditation of evils” sharpens our situational awareness and maintains vigilance. At a minimum, every flight should at least begin in “code yellow.” This is, of course, easier when you are dodging SAMS but not too common in our daily “fun flying.” Complete a full briefing and add some “healthy doubt” to every flight.

Peter Garrison’s “Aftermath” column in Flying Magazine this month is a shocking , over-the-top, tale of misplaced optimism. (App direct link HERE) This article starts almost predictably with the classic VFR pilot caught over a solid overcast; hoping to find a hole. However, deeper examination reveals the “pilot” (in a turbo Saratoga) was not even certificated as a pilot, but just a student with slightly over 2 hours of instruction logged. He just bought an airplane and started flying. The fatal result was pretty predictable and definitely preventable. In cases like this it seems incumbent upon the aviation educator to alert authorities before the inevitable occurs. Both of these pilots could be alive today if someone said something and stopped the process. (See Dr. Bill Rhodes on “Pilots Who Should Scare Us“)

Attitudes are notoriously difficult to shape as an educator. Running a busy flight training operation for 25 years, despite our best efforts, we had to “uninvite” a few people who just could not face the reality of managing risk and were a danger to themselves and the rest of the group. Rick Durden wrote a great article on this dilemma in flying clubs; painful but necessary.

Enjoy spring and visit SAFE at the AOPA Fly-In at Frederick, MD May 9&10. This will be a bigger event celebrating AOPA’s 80th anniversary – we are at booth #52. Fly safely (and often)!


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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

IFR into “Non-Controlled” Airspace!

Once upon a time, long ago, only an ILS got you to the ground in seriously crappy weather and the FAA protected that arrival from local “VFR” traffic with a 700agl echo transition airspace (and even a surface area echo). This assured some legal separation for IFR from VFR traffic. But now we fly LPV approaches into almost every small county field right down into the weeds and the FAA provides no airspace protection. You are IFR in the clouds down through the uncontrolled airspace into all kinds of local flight possibilities; potentially operating “one mile clear of clouds” with no radios!

Let’s review this quickly so we understand the problem clearly. When Orville and Wilbur were flying, everything was G airspace or “go for it”; no IFR, no serious restrictions. But as the instrument flight system was created, the 3 mile visibility minimum was created in controlled (IFR) airspace and the “buffer” of 2000 horizontal, 1000 above and 500 below was created to provide separation VFR/IFR. Visual separation was at least possible for faster moving IFR plane transitioning into visual at a smaller, non-tower; and remember no communications are required. These fields look like Watertown if an ILS is in place with weather protection to the surface. On the other side of the equation is the IFR approach plate which seemingly insures a safe descent from the clouds.

But with the advent of the many wonderful RNAV IFR letdowns into smaller county fields – right down to the ground – our current airspace now provides no separation for IFR operations from the local traffic potentially operating “one mile clear of clouds.” The even scarier issue is no requirement for communications at these non-tower fields. (And remember, I own a 1946 7AC Champ and love “low and slow”). Take a look at Raleigh Executive Jetport (KTTA) with only a 700agl Echo transition airspace. This field has an ILS approach that goes right down to 200agl in the clouds and records 172 operations a day at this busy reliever airport. You are “flying naked” into the “go for it” (G) airspace!  This is just crazy.

This all was all precipitated by the latest VFR sectional, where the 700 agl transition around my local airport mysteriously disappeared on the last issue of the VFR chart. With RNAV approaches down into the weeds, anyone could be flying up to 1200agl “one mile clear of clouds” (and don’t think this does not happen). The FAA needs to get serious about this IFR/VFR separation problem. We have fast movers shooting these approaches everyday and the potential for collisions is definitely an “accident waiting to happen”. Fly often (and safely).


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SAFE CFI-PRO™ Released @ SnF!

Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ initiative was well received by the press and industry on April 3rd at Sun ‘N Fun and we had an  amazing show here in Florida. See all the industry visitors to our booth on our SAFE Facebook. There are many livestream videos from our booth with manufacturers like Piper, Cirrus, Lightspeed, Bose, Appereo and industry partners like Patty Wagstaff and Richard McSpadden.

We announced the date for our initial CFI-PRO™ workshop on October 2nd and 3rd at AOPA in Frederick, MD. This ambitious program is the ultimate expression of our SAFE mission of elevating aviation educator excellence. The purpose of these workshops is to codify and transmit the knowledge and skills that make a CFI professional truly proficient – far beyond the perfunctory FAA initial training. We are addressing the “CFI Gap” between “good and Great!” The heart of this workshop is our “Envelope Expansion Maneuvers.” We will present these in detail and explain the aerodynamics behind them. We hope to also fly them at the workshop so we can ultimately transmit these to every pilot at every airport (though our  CFI-PRO™ cadre) and expand pilot’s abilities to reduce the incidence of Loss of Control accidents.

There are great learning opportunities at this two-day course for every CFI. For new CFIs we will provide the “missing manual” of skills and techniques to elevate each educator from “good to great” taking you far beyond the FAA minimum standards. For the more experienced CFI we will reveal new and modern concepts of scenario-based training and testing and also focus on client-centered instruction. Everyone will also love the networking opportunities with some of the best educators in the country. A passion for excellence is energizing and a shared mission for improvement is  contagious.

What we mean by “expanding the flight envelope” is getting away from just scenario-based training and exploring flight outside the standard 5% “comfort zone” where we all fly. By definition “scenarios” are pretty tame flying. Envelope expansion maneuvers are non-operational, skill-building techniques and focus on full control authority. As an example, take a normal steep turn at the commercial level and reverse the heading after 180 degrees of turn. After you gain proficiency with this, reverse after only 90 degrees of turn. These 60/90s have been a standard tool of senior CFIs to build proficiency for many years.

As another example, perform a standard power off turning stall and recover in the turn without adding power – just reduce the angle of attack; what a confidence booster for both CFI and pilots. A normal turning stall is a required maneuver on the Private Pilot ACS but seldom taught by CFIs or well known by most students sent to a private pilot test. How about a power off stall in a full slip…what will your plane do? If you don’t know you are a good candidate for SAFE CFI-PRO™. We will cover the aerodynamics of this situation and also teach the maneuver in flight. You will become a more proficient CFI-PRO™. As we travel this program, we will depend on our growing cadre of professionals to spread these SAFE Expanded Envelope Maneuvers to other CFIs and our general aviation pilot population. Moving every pilot out of their complacent “comfort zone” by refocusing on confident “yank and bank” maneuvering is the antidote for LOC-I.

More people die in every sector of aviation due to LOC-I than to any other cause. The NTSB has been excellent at keeping this fact in front of the public until we figure out how to change the way we train pilots.” Realistically, however, Brooks adds, “If we look at how we spend our training time versus the LOC problem, there’s a huge gap, yet we continue training pilots the way we always have.”

The secret of success for SAFE CFI-PRO™ is teaching a syllabus of maneuvers that can be flown in a any standard part 23 training aircraft (no parachutes or exotic aerobatic planes required). This program is scalable to every pilot at every airport in the hands of a skilled CFI-PRO™ and ends up being highly effective at building skills. Pursuing an Upset Prevention and Recovery Course as the next step would be a great addition. Find more information here and please enter your contacts to receive more details as they become available. Registration will be available in about a month; stand by for a great educational experience.

In the meantime, fly safely (and often) and keep in touch. Together we are going amazing places.


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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

 

Visit SAFE @ Sun ‘N Fun C 53-55

It’s beautiful here in Florida as we count down the days to Sun ‘N Fun 2019 (2K overcast and 1 celcius back home…). The SAFE show booth this year (C building 53-55) will be a triple with the full Gold Seal Studio *and* a Redbird Horizon TD (3 Screens) for CFIs to practice teaching scenarios for the Pilot Proficiency Center. Thanks to collaborators Redbird Flight Simulations and Community Aviation for making this happen. Please stop by and try this fully provisioned simulator (Cloud Ahoy, ForeFlight all operational in a virtual flightscape). Jon Harden who writes the SAFE CFI Insurance Program will be at the booth every day from 1-2PM also.

The big news for SAFE is the release of the CFI PROficiency™ program. This amplifies and expands the core mission of SAFE; elevating the excellence of aviation educators. The release to the press will be at 11am on Wednesday and we will send the SAFE eNews shortly after with full details. If a connection allows we will livestream this event on SAFE FaceBook and YouTube to our channels. Very exciting. If you haven’t read previous issues of this blog click here for a couple of blog summaries. (The specific core websites are not active until our Wednesday release though)

Show specials include a FREE FIRC from Sporty’s for all instructors joining SAFE at the show. All SAFE members get the 1/3 off ForeFlight and CloudAhoy (along with a whole list of promotions and free subscriptions). Gleim publications has been a longtime SAFE sponsor and is again providing a free FAR/AIM to joining members. One of the huge opportunities to SAFE CFIs is FREE membership in Gold Seal Groundschools This not only gives you access to all the training materials, you get to create your own CFI website (with a dedicated url) and can track all your students in training (in detail; progress, quiz scores and wrong answers on quizzes!) Gold Seal was the first online groundschool.Stop by and see SAFE at the show! Fly safely (and often)


Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

 

“Mind the (CFI) Gap!” Go “Good to GREAT!”

FAA pilot certification is a carefully monitored pass/fail process, but surprisingly, only minimal performance is required to earn a pilot certificate or rating.  The PTS/ACS standards only ensure that all elements are completed successfully and that applicants meet at least the lowest acceptable level of skill, knowledge, and judgment. And by regulation, if the standard is met, the DPE must issue a temporary pilot certificate, despite any personal misgivings. So it is entirely possible to get a 70% in every area of operation – achieve a “minimum viable product” – and achieve certification. Not only does this system permit mediocrity, but that low level could also theoretically persist since the flight review is only designed to restore the same low standard. (See the AOPA Focused Flight Review for better). Excellence in aviation is entirely voluntary and a function of good people trying harder. The old joke about the person at the bottom of their medical school class still being a “doctor” comes to mind.

Thankfully, most pilots do much better than the bare minimum standards on tests thanks to their CFI’s extra preparation and a motivated applicant pursuing a higher personal standard. The important point here is that the impulse and effort to do better is voluntary and must be supplied by a good aviation educator and a culture that promotes excellence. Also notable here is the conspicuous lack of any official testing mechanism that requires “correction to 100%” of weak areas discovered (as occurs with the knowledge test). Since the FAA requires neither real proficiency over time nor personal improvement, aviation safety depends entirely on a pilot’s personal integrity and an urge for excellence. And this is where professional organizations like SAFE are critical; inspiring and enabling this excellence. Our modern cultural obsession with minimal effort (and also minimal time, money, and hours) is directly at odds with our aviation safety system. We also all realize that know most well-intentioned safety seminars and excellence programs end up “preaching to the converted” and often do not reach those in need of improvement.

I have seen disparaging remarks on social media for anyone getting more than a 70% on the FAA knowledge test; “you left a lot of effort on the table dude!”  Anything more than “minimum” requires the inspiration and effort of a good aviation educator and willing client. To create a safe pilot it is essential to embed this personal standard of lifetime learning and continuous improvement; an urge for excellence.

Now let’s consider the new CFI applicant who has just passed their flight evaluation (and perhaps only marginally). They certainly worked hard and attained a minimum level of skill and knowledge, but are they truly equipped to go forth and teach flying without seasoning or supervision? The new CFI certificate is a dramatic example of a “license to learn”.  But surprisingly, it is not regarded this way by the flying public. I am continually amazed by the trust and confidence the public grants every new FAA instructor. Extending the medical analogy, they might be putting their lives in the hands of an intern. But since the FAA says they are “good to go” so we are off to the races.

The Canadian aviation system, by contrast, requires all new CFIs to initially teach under the supervision of a senior CFI (seasoning and supervision). I have a sarcastic helicopter buddy who takes my new CFIs down a notch with his cynical advice; “Now all you need are five new students to mess up as you can learn how to teach.” SAFE CFI-PRO™ is designed to eliminate that kind of “trial by fire” learning. We are providing the tools and resources to address that gap between minimal and excellent. Both our 80% drop out rate and the Loss of Control epidemic are implicated in our current system of minimal education. Thankfully, many thoughtful, diligent new CFIs join professional organizations – like SAFE – (thank-you!) but these are usually the already the superior performers. Our membership roles are a “who’s who” of aviation professionals. Now we intend to more actively leverage this CFI experience and excellence.

As a though experiment, mentally compare a newly certificated CFI to the best veteran aviation educator you know. The huge unaddressed gap between “good and great” is the target of our CFI-PRO™ initiative. (And we have had diligent new CFI members asking for this kind of program-thanks!) Our goal is a more efficient path to the master performer that psychologist Anders Ericsson says takes 10,000 hours to develop. We know, careful training by our senior educators, national instructors and pilot examiners, and deliberate practice can accelerate the new or rusty CFIs’ transition to mastery by providing the “missing manual” of teaching tools, knowledge and maneuvering capabilities. There is no longer a need to flounder seeking resources. Loss of Control in particular requires specific “Envelope Expansion Maneuvers” (in lieu of Upset Training) to build proficiency and confidence. These work in non-aerobatic planes so are scalable to your local field and pilot. Every senior CFI employs some version of these maneuvers but they are often unknown (and not taught) to “modern” CFIs.

In aviation, every educator is the “impingement point” of aviation safety where improvement can be exponentially spread to raise all boats. If we reach out and improve each aviation educator, we also touch most pilots in the process. Safety is a group effort and that is the plan. Support our CFI-PRO™ initiative  (announced in detail at Sun ‘N Fun). Fly often – and safely! And LMK your thoughts?


Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

SAFE CFI-PRO™: Scenarios, Maneuvers, or Both?

This is one in a series of posts by special guest authors about SAFE's new CFI-PROficiency Initiative™ (aka SAFE CFI-PRO™). The goal of the initiative is to make good aviation educators great!

Rich Stowell authored many articles in the early 2000s on “The Problem with Flight Instruction” that helped precipitate the SAFE Pilot Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta. That SAFE initiative spawned the current FAA ACS. Now the focus is on raising the level of excellence among aviation educators with the new SAFE CFI-PRO Initiative.

Top instructors and examiners continually debate and lament the state of stick and rudder flying skills. The FAA flight training pendulum has swung from the traditional WWII maneuvers-based training (MBT) to the newer scenario-based training (SBT) standard. And though SBT is a vital part of risk management training and testing, inflight loss of control (LOC-I) continues to top the list of fatal accident categories. The number two occurrence category isn’t even close.

Should we resign ourselves to accepting LOC-I as inevitable? Or maybe the current focus on scenarios is as short-sighted as the focus on maneuvers once was? Perhaps aviation educators need to adopt a more balanced approach.

…what is chiefly needed is skill rather than machinery. – Wilbur Wright

Flight instructors teach in the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains. Maneuvers-based training falls in the psychomotor domain. It’s where pilots learn stick and rudder skills (aka manual flying skills). Scenario-based training overlaps the cognitive and affective domains. It’s where pilots learn aeronautical decision making skills.

Most anyone can learn specific patterns of movement. For instance, a person can follow steps laid out on the floor without ever looking in a mirror, getting a critique from a dance teacher, or listening to a beat. Does that make the person a dancer? Similarly, most anyone can learn how to apply a solution model to a scenario. A baseball fanatic with a grasp of analytics can choose statistically better options without having played the game. Is the fan a baseball player?

What does it take to train pilots capable of integrating body, mind, and emotion so the successful outcome of a flight is never in doubt? Memorizing a series of control movements without context, purpose, or rhythm won’t do that. As cognitive load increases, performance deteriorates and inputs become more spastic. Tackling complex scenarios without a solid foundation of stick and rudder skills won’t do it, either. Preoccupation with the mechanics of flying deflects mental focus from aeronautical decision making.

The psychomotor domain is the bridge to the other domains. We entice potential customers into aviation through the physical act of intro flights. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate is our most repeated mantra, with “fly the airplane” our default rule. The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook puts “Acquiring Skill Knowledge” several sections ahead of “Scenario-Based Training.” If word count is an indication, the skill section has nearly 40 percent more words than the scenario-based one. The handbook says skill acquisition is “the ability to instinctively perform certain maneuvers or tasks that require manual dexterity and precision [allowing] more time to concentrate on other essential duties such as navigation, communications with ATC facilities, and visual scanning for other aircraft.”

Developing competence in manual flying skills breeds confidence; injecting realistic scenarios counters overconfidence and develops better judgment. A path to follow to improve stick and rudder competency includes:

• Building from fundamental movements of the controls to skilled movements;
• Practicing manual skills often and with clear educational intention for growth; and,
• Striving to be able to do complex patterns of actions skillfully and automatically. [More here]

Could more technology be the answer to LOC-I? Is the purpose of technology to help well-trained pilots achieve peak performance with greater precision, or to conceal deficiencies in piloting skills?

Blue Threat author Tony Kern advises: “Error control will never be engineered out of existence with technology.” In fact, manual flying errors have increased because of overreliance on technology. This compelled the FAA to remind pilots to hand fly their aircraft more often in SAFO 13002 and SAFO 17007

Advisory Circulars 120-109A and 120-111 include templates for recovering from stalls and nose high and nose low attitudes. The first action listed in each case? Disengage the automation. The next steps in the procedures require (deeply ingrained) manual flying skills. And only greater proficiency and envelope expansion will give pilots fluid and immediate access to these often counterintuitive skills.

While the above ACs primarily target air carrier operations, they provide sound advice for general aviation pilots, too. When the time comes to prevent or recover from upsets that could lead to LOC-I, our lives, the lives of our trainees, and the lives of others will boil down to what the pilot does with the flight controls.

Stick and rudder skills will be relevant as long as flying involves pilots touching controls. Pilots interact with instructors throughout their flying careers; thus, improving the manual flying skills of instructors—and their ability to pass those skills on to others—is essential to reduce loss of control. This is why instructors are at the heart of the SAFE CFI-PRO Initiative.


Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).