Flight Schools Lobbying DPEs

Collusion between flight schools and DPEs can easily create corruption in pilot certification; we have all seen this problem in action. There is a good reason to maintain a professional distance between flight schools and DPEs to uphold the high moral standard necessary for the honesty and safety of the pilot certification system. DPEs are the “gatekeepers” and there are always temptations and ethical questions. More than anything, the DPE function requires honesty and great integrity. Maintaining a professional distance between schools and DPEs removes temptation and protects the independence and integrity of this process. Geographical freedom, announced in October 2020, created chaos in the system nationally by suddenly shifting the balance of influence toward flight schools and creating a glut of DPEs in busy flight training markets.

Immediately following this change, solicitations went out nationally from larger training facilities seeking services from DPEs from across the country offering lots of tests, transportation and living accommodations. You can’t blame the schools, they need to get tests done in a timely fashion, but too close a relationship can create temptations (and bad public optics). WIth geographic freedom, DPEs from the frozen north aggressively invaded the southern states. Suddenly, long-time DPEs in states like Florida had no tests at all with DPEs from North Dakota and Minnesota testing in Miami and Orlando. In the private market, “DPE-hopping” became the new norm with applicants triple booking examiners then canceling at the last minute based on their changing schedules. The result of this change was all the leverage was in the hands of the flight schools with a glut of DPEs in the busy flight testing areas. Meanwhile, the northern states were languishing. The FAA’s attempt to create availability resulted in some surprising and unwanted consequences!

In an honest system, there will always be some distance (and occasional friction) between flight schools and DPEs, just by the nature of the relationship. Flight schools understandably want their students to pass and pilot examiners need to work. But integrity and independence are essential to assure an honest government standard (and protect aviation safety). Some applicants will always be unsatisfactory and need more training to be safe – no participation trophies in aviation! Good flight schools and CFIs understand this need for separation and work well with regular DPEs learning and improving their training. But this process requires mutual respect and professional distance; not cozy relationships.

The DPE system never envisioned professional full-time DPEs. The original system designated experienced, professional aviators offering part-time testing to assist the FAA in pilot certification. Full-time examining only became possible as the FAA got entirely out of the testing business. Some DPEs now conduct >300 evaluations a year. And most full-time examiner’s only income is conducting tests.

The FAA is working to create positive change right now, with listening post meetings at Oshkosh and lots of ideas in play. The free-market “money for ratings” system does not seem to be headed in a healthy direction Changes need to be well thought out and not improvised by industry. Success will ultimately depend on the hard-working, honest DPEs at the heart of the system. Fly safe out there (and often)!

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

Clear Up Control Confusion; FREE Course!

It is embarrassing to realize that most pilots (and even a majority of CFIs) don’t know which flight control powers the basic turn. Through no fault of your own, you may be among this group. Spoiler alert; the ailerons and rudder are neutral in a stable, coordinated level turn.  We are all victims of the negative transfer from driving. As Rich Stowell testified to the NTSB, “The status quo in aviation education is unacceptable.”

The reality is surprisingly straightforward: airplanes are relegated to flight along straight lines and curves, and those paths are controlled primarily with the elevator. At the correlation level of learning, the myriad flight paths possible at a given angle of bank become readily apparent…

Even though pilots can cause rudimentary turns to happen under normal circumstances, it seems they have not been given the indepth education and experience to master turning flight.

Given the confusion of most pilots, it is no surprise that Loss of Control is the resulting causal factor for so many aviation fatalities. This “stubbornly recurrent safety challenge” demands the antidote of correct understanding, followed by diligent practice. Danger lurks not in what you don’t know, but in what we think you know that is mistaken.

Flying doesn’t happen to us; it happens because of us. We interact with the airplane via the flight controls, and the inputs we make have performance consequences. Absent a complete understanding of the consequences of our inputs, we will be unable to apply the controls correctly, or to see the connections between the myriad forms of turning flight.

SAFE founder, Rich Stowell will launch his (FREE) “Learn to Turn” course on Community Aviation next week on Sept 10th (generously sponsored by Avemco and Hartzell Propellers). Please read the preview available  HERE carefully and share these free materials when they become available next week. As Rich emphasizes in his course, reading is not enough. We need to apply and practice these suggestions in flight to be safer and defeat Loss of Control. Read it, practice it, and pursue excellence in your flying. Fly safely out there (and often)!

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

The Confidence Trap: Hubris!

We all need a full dose of confidence to fly sophisticated aircraft in challenging conditions. There is, however, a very fine, but critical line, between confidence and hubris. Risk management is all about saying “no” to a plan or situation where hope or overconfidence would keep us moving forward – caught in the “mission mentality.” These are accidents where the risks are clearly visible with 20/20 hindsight; “what were they thinking?”

Hubris… describes a personality quality of extreme or excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence often in combination with (or synonymous with) arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities.

Hubris is clearly a primary causal factor in many aviation accidents where pilots part with reality and ignore all warning signs in pursuit of an unrealistic outcome. Achieving a balance of confidence, called the “Golden Mean” by ancient Greeks, is difficult but critical to safety. There are endless true stories from legends and fables of “heroes” stepping over the line from confidence into hubris and dying in stupid ways. It is essential to self-correct and embrace humility to avoid these tragic endings so common in ASRS and NTSB databases. Danny Miller coined the term Icarus Paradox to describe the ironic (and common) transition from confidence to hubris (and failure) in business. Ironically, the very trait that enables success can also kill you if you don’t know when to quit.

In mythology, Icarus flew toward the sun on wings his father Daedalus crafted of wax and feathers. So enchanted with his newfound freedom and the supernatural power of his wings, Icarus forgot both his father’s warnings and his greatest shortcoming: his own mortality.

On the one hand, we have all seen the overly timid pilot, fumbling and terrified of every operation; this is not successful, efficient, or safe. It takes skill and seasoning – experience and familiarity – to develop and deploy confidence wisely. As educators, 0ne of our primary jobs is fostering “incremental mastery” and building capacity and confidence so tasks can be accomplished efficiently and successfully in the face of challenges. Resilience and confidence are essential to successful piloting. We also need to carefully educate where this path can lead to (stupid) hubris.

It seems almost immediately after confidence, pilots (and some “learners”) can transgress almost naturally into the overconfident (YouTube?) “dude in charge.” Healthy egos can quickly become “self-made legends” in aviation – and digital media seems to fuel these self-anointed “heroes.” The hubris trait is harmful in aviation training and toxic for pilots. Unfortunately, over-confidence in aviation sometimes seems to be everywhere. “Professionals” in any field are very difficult to instruct. Overconfidence makes us blind to our frailties and our personal capacity for errors. Every pilot will stumble into hazardous conditions at some point in our flying. It is essential to know when to badk off and say “no.” Our teenage description of the overconfident mindset was “cruising for a bruising,” the Greek word is “hubris.”  Dr. Bill Rhodes defines this personality as a “Scary Pilot.

One success after another builds greater self-confidence. But in the same way, increased achievement can skew healthy self-confidence into hubris. Hubristic people can easily become hooked on their own egos, so confident in their own self-importance that they assume they can do no wrong. Naturally, the more wins an individual…accumulates, the less open they are to critical feedback: Why would a winner need feedback when they already have the code to success?

One antidote to hubris (before you scare or hurt yourself) is the social element of friends and family, as well as a compassionate pilot community, who buffer hubris with social pressure. Overconfident pilots do not socialize well. In the social context, warning signs are everywhere for the emotionally aware – if we are listening. One great advantage of the WINGS program is the social element where “friends don’t let friends fly stupid!” Unfortunately, this social self-correction does not get translated through the virtual world of Zoom and Facebook. In the virtual environment, every loud and overly confident participant becomes a cyber-bully or self-proclaimed expert. It is essential to remember that we all can be wrong, and we all need external, objective opinions for self-correction from time to time.  This is one reason why mentors (at every level) are so valuable; objective feedback. It is essential to socialize with pilots and listen. Objective outside advice is essential for learning and self-correction.

Another antidote to hubris is continually learning new skills. Being a beginner at anything important is always personally humbling. And embracing lifetime learning is one central element of the Master Instructor program. This program is not about celebrating personal achievement but about continually growing as a pilot and educator; challenging yourself. A participant in this program needs to demonstrate personal growth and continual service to the aviation community to recertify as a master; take a look here.

SAFE is exactly the kind of pilot community that encourages lifetime learning and self-correction because over-confidence is at the heart of many accidents. We are continually retooling our mentor program to provide encouragement, advice (and self-correction) for every pilot and educator. Good friends (and mentors) are courageous enough to step in and offer “helpful advice” when detecting a personality trend or piloting procedure that will lead to harm. Join SAFE and stay connected to a caring community; fly safely (and often)!

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 facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).


Fix the DPE Problem? Start Here!

Our aviation industry is once again trying to solve the persistent “DPE problem.” The highly-publicized FAA ARAC has considered this issue for over a year and generated a report with many good recommendations. There is even a “DPE Symposium” being marketed to potential DPEs to “fix the DPE problem,” like some airline hiring job fair. The central problem is, however, so obvious that everyone is missing it entirely. (And this is only my personal opinion and does not represent my designation as an FAA DPE – every designee represents the FAA administrator in public).

To become a DPE or renew your designation, every examiner is required to sign a remarkably one-sided agreement with the FAA. The DPE process, as well as the daily job, is completely colored by this legal contract. It basically states that every designee is potentially temporary and can be legally removed,  immediately and capriciously, for absolutely no stated reason or cause. This contract is obviously designed to protect the FAA from bad actors without excessive legal costs but offers no trust and security for the DPE.  Instead, it poisons the designation relationship and discourages many qualified individuals from applying. Every DPE serves entirely at the pleasure of their local FSDO and the ax can fall at any time for no reason at all: done – gone, thank you, and goodbye (this is clearly stated and agreed to by every DPE in the guidance)! To be designated or renewed as a DPE, this is (among other things) the required statement in the application:

It is hard to believe that good-hearted, committed professionals would sign onto a “job” where the terms of engagement are so capricious and one-sided (it is technically not “employment” but contract work that often becomes a DPE’s sole income – a problem in itself). What kind of people would be attracted to this kind of contract or career? The FAA obviously did not engage the HR department here; “if you want this ‘job,’ these are the terms.” Yes, it is an honor to serve the FAA as a DPE, but a contract like this is a huge disincentive to attracting committed, compassionate professionals.

There is a huge scarcity of qualified DPEs right now. But every qualified aviation professional I have approached about becoming a DPE cites the horror stories of DPE termination and the “political nature of the job” as primary reasons for not getting involved; there is no trust and security in the system for DPEs. How can a competent, lifetime aviation professional be serious about this occupation, if it literally can go away in a day with a notification from the local FSDO? And if DPEs, are basically treated as temp. workers, how can they be expected to conduct their business professionally and honorably while serving the FAA?  We need to attract committed, compassionate professionals who focus on putting the applicant in a positive testing environment if we are going to grow aviation.  To “fix the DPE problem,” this “employment agreement” should definitely be the primary and immediate focus for positive change. Fly safely out there (and often).

Thanks to everyone that was able to attend #OSH21 and visit our SAFE booth – or attend our amazing “SAFE Gathering!” What a wonderful experience after a year of quarantine. Tune-up your flying chops and join SAFE for more resources and savings (most members save MORE than they pay in dues). Our SAFE Toolkit app is free and brings ideas and tools to your daily flying: “Mastery not Minimums!”

Teaching Safety Margin (and Culture)!

Earlier this week I was conducting a CFI renewal with a very experienced charter pilot getting back into flight instruction. What came up in the discussion was a consensus opinion that 121/135 regs, though burdensome, can provide great cautionary ideas for Part 91 safety. This was seconded later i the week by an Aviation Safety Mag article.  Extra care, extra training, all provide a great buffer from “regulatory minimums.” Unfortunately, many pilots still seem to follow the shocking FAA minimums available in part 91 as “operational guidance.”  Who would do a zero-zero take-off or a “look-see” approach? Demonstrating a margin above minimums (and teaching the same) is critical for safe flying.

The ACS is carefully constructed so flight tests look for exactly this procedure in all pilot candidates. Every applicant must know the FAA minimums but also demonstrate their personal margin of safety above and beyond these minimums. If “one statute mile, clear of clouds” is your personal minimum, you better have some good justification to support your risky behavior.

The diagram below was developed by David Bowden when he was with US Air and was disseminated more widely later when he ran the Rochester FSDO, then FAA Eastern Region. This was 30 years ago and this paradigm (combined with extensive CRM and other operational changes) helped create the amazing safety record in the major airlines over the last 20 years. Demonstrating and teaching safety margins must be part of every flight lesson.

The second half of creating greater safety is bringing everyone into compliance with this viewpoint of “safety culture!” As pilots, we are very protective of personal freedoms. Piots almost religiously defend every other pilot’s right to their own personal methods and standards (and some wild flying is increasingly popular on YouTube). But we have an obligation, when it comes to people potentially hurting themselves and others, to help rehabilitate “rogue pilots,” and bring them around the campfire of “safe operations.” I again cite Dr. Bill Rhodes and his “Scary Pilots” pdf here. The two questions he highlights at seminars make this clear: “Who has lost a friend in a flying accident?” followed by “Who was really surprised this happened” makes clear our obligation. Please spread the safety message… fly safe out there (and often)!

Thanks to everyone that was able to attend #OSH21 and visit our SAFE booth – or attend our amazing “SAFE Gathering!” What a wonderful experience after a year of quarantine. Tune-up your flying chops and join SAFE for more resources and savings (most members save MORE than they pay in dues). Our SAFE Toolkit app is free and brings ideas and tools to your daily flying: “Mastery not Minimums!”

Become a Flight Instructor (At Any Age!)

Aviation needs more dedicated educators, especially mid-life professionals with a personal passion for teaching. Mid-life professionals with some history in aviation, are a perfect fit for GA flight instruction (and the transition to CFI is quicker and easier than most people think). People in this demographic group are usually financially stable and have already acquired the essential “people/life skills” to become effective educators. Some years of experience and diverse flying experience are great backgrounds to share with future students – don’t let the youngsters have all the fun. Mid-life CFIs most often stay in GA and become Master Instructors and DPEs since they are not building hours toward a corporate or an airline piloting career. Many”FAA CFIs of the Year” are in this group too, since they are also experienced “corporate climbers.”

FAA statistics reveal that 2/3 of flight instructors have taught for less than a year and frequently have very little broad aviation knowledge. Many were trained entirely in the limited “hot-house environment” of a flight academy acquiring the minimum number of hours to move on and acquire ratings. When I ran a flight school, I regularly hired young CFIs from academy programs who did not know how to tie down a plane and had never even fueled one; pretty “green!” Though most of these “hour-builders” do a great job teaching and bring great energy into their daily flying, this continual industry flow-through has a damaging effect on our GA flying community. There is often little senior pilot supervision and mentoring in local clubs and flight training operations. Young CFIs disappear at a regular rate into their professional careers. If you are an experienced pilot, financially stable and committed to the GA aviation community, please consider acquiring your CFI certificate. (MCFI Greg Brown wrote a great article in a similar vein here) If you are a CFI already, mentor your experienced aviator friends along the path to aviation educator.

SAFE members are the “movers and shakers of the aviation education community” – Former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt 

SAFE CFI-PRO™ was created to enable and encourage new and potential CFIs to grow their CFI professionalism. This program provides resources and mentoring, stand-up seminars and on-site training for flight schools and college aviation programs. SAFE has a  long history of mentoring CFIs (Recently reinvigorated with modern online technology). Though getting the CFI certificate is easier than most people think, becoming a really effective aviation educator is a lifetime pursuit (I am a 12X Master Instructor and still learning every day). If you are in this group of hopeful new mid-life CFIs, join our online CFI-PRO community. If you are already well-experienced and want to help mentor, sign up here as a mentor (we need more). SAFE is all about sharing and growing educator professionalism. Fly safely out there (and often)!

Thanks to everyone that was able to attend #OSH21 and visit our SAFE booth – or attend our amazing “SAFE Gathering!” What a wonderful experience after a year of quarantine. Tune-up your flying chops and join SAFE for more resources and savings. Our SAFE Toolkit app is free and brings ideas and tools to your daily flying: “Mastery not Minimums!”


Teaching “Thin Air” Operations SAFEly!

Flying is a wonderful adventure, but unfortunately, many of our most important “lessons” come from surprise “experience” after certification  (if we survive the “lesson”). It is critical to remember that all our new pilots are “hot house plants,” raised in a very controlled environment (but their certificate permits them the whole country). Our obligation as educators is to safely expose them to as many potential real-world “surprises” as possible so they have the tools to cope and the awareness to avoid these hidden hazards. “Chalk talk” is great but lacks the power of real demonstrations.  Density altitude operation is a perfect example of an insidious killer that is remarkably easy to demonstrate.

Most educators are failing their students here. The ground school discussion does not reveal the true surprises and hazards of high density altitude operations. This environment is easy to demonstrate, even for flatlanders, but must be conducted very with careful preparation to stay safe.

Combine a tailwind take-off with slightly reduced power (carb heat on?) on a long, unobstructed runway to provide the exact same surprise as “Telluride on a hot day.”  At the usual lift-off groundspeed (60K?) in this condition, your plane refuses to fly. This is “the surprise that kills” when a pilot encounters it solo for the first time (cognitive dissonance). In this condition – simulating thin air – a  plane needs another 10-15 knots groundspeed to achieve the indicated airspeed for flight. The combined surprises of the longer take-off roll, faster GS for lift-off, and a pathetic climb angle is what creates accidents.

Just like in Telluride on a hot day, you will be going remarkably fast over the ground before your plane gathers enough air molecules under the wings to go flying. The disparity between groundspeed and airspeed (TAS/IAS in real thin air conditions) is remarkably unsettling the first time you see it. This simulation is even more surprising for experienced pilots with a deeply embedded TLAR (That Looks About Right) sense of performance. If a pilot forces a plane into the air too early, this slow-flight (behind the power curve) demonstration can get “very exciting.” Only by carefully lowering the nose, to reduce induced drag, will your wing get enough air lift to fly (think “soft-field T/O technique).

When demonstrating this maneuver as a CFI, practice carefully solo first, and select a very long runway with no obstacles for an adequate safety margin. Watching a learner mishandle this experience reveals why there are so many craters at the end of high-altitude runways. Be especially vigilant dual because your learner *will* mishandle this simulation. Thoroughly brief the expected operation (and surprise) and proceed with great caution. Brief and practice a positive exchange of controls too. The “reduced power take-off” (POH says “full power?”) might be controversial, but how many pilots comply with preflight regulations (91.103) and calculate their performance on *every* take-off.

Reduced power is important for two reasons  (just pulling carb heat works to drop 200rpm). One is to demonstrate the insidious loss of performance every plane experiences during high/hot operations (expect to use LOTS of runway). The other reason is that this extra power margin will be available when your learner mishandles this simulation (almost guaranteed). It is essential to fly the IAS not just what you see out the window; the angle of climb with a tailwind can be shocking (I own a 7AC Champ though…) Landing with a 10K tailwind is also tricky and can be visually confusing. Every pilot will initially drop in the landing – getting slow from the (TLAR) view out the window. This simulates the high density altitude trap.

This demonstration shows the disparity between take-off and landing “appearance” (TLAR). How fast the plane is actually moving over the ground in both cases is the shocker. You can talk about this all you want, but you have to see it to appreciate it. Reduced climb rate and angle of climb are the second takeaways here. As in all training, acquired humility and respect are important take-aways here. This demonstration also debunks the myth that a high-power machine will fix the density altitude problem (plenty of wrecked Big Cubs litter the high country too). Thin air operations are not (entirely) a power problem. At their root density altitude accidents are a misperception problem (surprise!) followed by a lack of operating experience. A full mountain flying course is recommended for every pilot if you plan real mountain operations. Fly carefully out there (and often)!

Thanks to everyone that was able to attend #OSH21 and visit our SAFE booth – or attend our amazing “SAFE Gathering!” What a wonderful experience after a year of quarantine. Tune-up your flying chops and join SAFE for more resources and savings. Our SAFE Toolkit app is free and brings ideas and tools to your daily flying.

“SkyDisplay” @SAFE Dinner #OSH21

With every change and technological advance, “you expect results but get consequences!” The promise of each new development is hard to predict as we move onward. But I am increasingly optimistic about the newly-approved “SkyDisplay” from MyGoFlight. This amazing device will be available for you to demo at our annual SAFE dinner on Thursday, July 29th. Readers of this blog are invited to attend; grab a ticket and stop by if you are at Airventure. But the big question – “Is this new step forward in aviation technology or the newest “tech toy? – is really in the hands of the CFI that teaches this new device. Charlie and his team from MyGoFlight will be at the dinner to answer your questions. If you are *not* attending in person, watch our SAFE Facebook Live from the show at 7PM.

When I met Charlie with the prototype of this device at OSH several years ago I was skeptical for two reasons. One was the huge challenge of bringing something this innovative to market (and achieving FAA certification) in a very competitive field. The second challenge I saw was that a GA HUD could just become another “geek gadget” or “tech toy” if not properly presented. This second question is a challenge for every CFI. We all know how pilots like the “newest shiny thing.” Is this a tool or a toy? Can a GA HUD be effectively integrated into flight training and create serious safety improvement?

After watching the promo video of this device in action, (and the AvWeb test flight) I am more optimistic about the safety potential of a usable HUD for GA pilots.  And I appreciate the “safety first” presentation in their marketing. You do not have to teach too long to see how much time early students (and even veteran pilots) focus “inside,” grasping for numbers instead of looking up for the bigger picture outside the windows. This becomes an unfortunate habit for pilots at every level that has to be broken for safety (and smoothness). This problem grew much worse when we added glass panel displays and tablets into aviation (consequences not results). Maybe if a GA HUD was integrated early in training and taught correctly (the aviation educator is at the heart of this question) this device could become a safety game-changer.

The one huge negative “consequence” I think we all can anticipate is the “gamification” of aircraft control. “Just put the jelly in the donut and even a chimp can fly a plane” would be the wrong approach. A thorough understanding of energy management is critical to achieving truly safe aircraft control. (Like many of you I suffered through the pitch/power war and the answer is “both”) I would like to see a prominent AOA depiction in view (like we have in jets and in more GA A/C) to integrate the energy state into every pitch attitude. Again, the way this is taught and integrated into the market will be critical to its effectiveness as a “tool not toy!” Kudos to the team at MyGoFlight for bringing this device to market. Fly safely out there (and often!)

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM for our SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks, and dessert (also FUN!) The presentation segment will be on SAFE Facebook Live at 7PM.


Training In Experimental Aircraft!

The FAA Warbird Adventures legal decision set off a firestorm of panic and confusion in the aviation community. All this grief originated from a single P-40 operation in Florida. Instead of accurately litigating against a single operator, the FAA legal wizards completely reinterpreted “flight training” contradicting their own published policy and making a whole area of flight operations illegal.  CFIs were also caught in the crossfire. The significant immediate result is that >30,000 experimental aircraft (and <100 “primary A/C” and <500 “limited A/C”) become illegal for any dual instruction as of July 12th unless each aircraft has a deviation letter! Downstream consequences for CFIs are still to be determined.

This all resulted from the FAA suddenly redefining flight instruction as “flight for compensation and hire” after years of legal precedent classifying CFIs as “educators only.” When this new legal interpretation is published in the Federal Register on July 12th  it becomes law. It will immediately be illegal to teach in experimental, limited, and primary aircraft until you get a LODA. And legal questions are on the table regarding the medical requirements and additional liability of CFIs “flying for compensation and hire.”

SAFE objected to this legal error and the FAA responded on July 8th. Though they tacitly agreed on the historic CFI role, FAA legal continued to define flight instruction as involving flight “for compensation and hire.” All the “alphabets” met on Zoom but it is clear that this error is about to become law July 12th when it is published in the Federal Register  – get your flight review this weekend. Pilots of experimental aircraft will be illegal taking flight instruction in an experimental, limited or primary aircraft without a “Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA).” (CFIs conducting flight training in these A/C will also be illegal). Thanks to some dedicate FAA people, a LODA can now be more easily be acquired with a new e-mail system. Each LODA is linked to an aircraft N# A pilot owner or a CFI can apply for a LODA but this exemption is linked to a specific N# like an MEL.

To be clear, the only restriction affects only paid flight training in experimental, primary and limited aircraft categories. Any pilot can still legally fly their plane provided both pilot and plane are legally compliant.


To continue to get training in your experimental the new FAA workaround is a very simple e-mail:

Write to this address: 9-AVS-AFG-LODA[a]faa.gov

Include: name, address, e-mail, pilot certificate number or flight instructor certificate number (if applying as CFI), aircraft registration number (if applying as an owner), aircraft make/model in which you will receive or provide instruction, aircraft home base airport (if applying as an owner). The FAA promises expedited service through the new system.

The bigger issue (long-term effect) on flight training “for compensation and hire” has been obscured by the immediate chaos caused by experimental aircraft dual. SAFE is also focused on the bigger picture of downstream consequences affecting all flight instructors; legal liability and medical . Fly SAFE out there (and often)!

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited  to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM for our SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks, and dessert (also FUN!) We need a few drone pilots too.

Essential Rules for IFR Safety!

Successfully meeting the challenge of flying safely in the clouds requires all kinds of technical knowledge, skills, and proficiency. But what often gets lost in this forest of details are the overriding principles that ultimately keep us safe. Missing these larger “big picture rules” leads to failures on flight tests, or worse, accidents. And IFR accidents are not fender benders but tombstones all the way down final (game over, no replay). Let’s zoom out and look at the bigger concerns to be safe.

First, when flying IFR, you are always on some mutually agreed-upon guidance, either a heading or a surveyed route; there is precious little free-form wandering like we enjoy in VFR flight. If you ever do not know exactly where you are and exactly what comes next, figure it out immediately (and don’t be afraid to ask). If you are ever in doubt about a clearance, resolve this with ATC ASAP. Command authority is critical to safety; an IFR pilot must be totally aware and in charge of every flight, not along for the ride. (Maybe “the meek shall inherit the earth” but they make terrible instrument pilots…)

Second, in IFR flying, precision is essential for safety. All the surveyed routes are based on exact courses and clearances, so if you are not exactly on altitude or needle centered, you should be working to remedy this immediately; flying the plane precisely is always job #1. (and as you get better at this, smoothness is valuable too)

Third, maintain the larger picture of where you are at every moment in that larger game plan. Situational Awareness is critical to safety. This means not only where you are in the original plan, but also what the weather is doing, what has ATC assigned and is expecting as well as how our resources are holding out; fuel, data, pilot energy. Monitoring these trends and noting changes is critical to safety. This awareness allows flexibility and resourcefulness rather than slavish conformity to an original plan which might be outdated. Also, “energy management” in IFR is often your own personal endurance and resilience.

Fourth, always enforce a margin of excess capacity/capability when you are in flight. If you are just barely managing the workload or depending entirely on automation where you could not personally hand fly the profile, you are over your head. This means you either need more training to bring up your skills, or you need a less challenging mission (you bit off too much). When you are functioning at full capacity, with no reserve for metacognition (where I am in the big picture and what is next?), you are a “mouse in a maze,” and bad things are probably next- yellow light (master caution) on! It is time to modify the plan and slow down, divert, or land.  Some time on the ground brings a fresh perspective and needed resources: refresh and reboot.

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Fifth, the real rule of alternates is the “essential Rs;” radar, restrooms, restaurants and rental cars. Pick several large and attractive alternates along your route that have big services and good equipment to make your diversion a sure bet and attractive option. Pushing too long and far or continuing into unsafe weather defeats the #1 rule of all flying; stay alive and have fun! It is essential to always maintain this bigger picture of why we fly (we are not at war after all). At every sad accident site I have visited, we were picking up the pieces on a sunny day wondering, “what were they thinking?” Fly safely (and often!)

Join us at our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh (we have a great big room this year!) Admission is only $20 for food, drinks, dessert (and fun)! Come network at the at the Oshkosh terminal, Thursday 6-8 during Airventure. Maybe enough room for some drones in the “Atrium?”

Read the SAFE eNews (and subscribe!) This issue covers the DPE-ARAC and CFI resources from the FAA CFI/DPE Forum in Washington, DC.