Caring is a Critical Aptitude for Educating!

When I present to groups of pilots and experienced aviation educators and ask for key traits of great aviation educators, the most often mentioned attributes are never taught or tested by the FAA. These are the qualities of caring and compassion, patience and clear communication; the skills of emotional intelligence.

There are two very different components working together to create an amazing aviation educator. First are the obvious piloting skills and knowledge – the physical manipulation of the controls and associated skills. But more importantly, a great educator must be blessed with compassion, empathy and an ability to communicate clearly. A great educator has a well developed caring personality with a deep well of patience. A great CFIs is usually a  “people person” with a passion for seeing others succeed and a “warm heart.” Unfortunately, this personality trait can be hard to find in aviation. The ALPA analysis of the pilot personality lists pilots as most often controlling and dominant, somewhat intolerant and emotionally cold.

Pilots avoid introspection and have difficulty revealing, expressing, or even recognizing their feelings. When they do experience unwanted feelings, they tend to mask them, sometimes with humor or even anger. Being unemotional helps pilots deal with crises, but can make them insensitive toward the feelings of others.

If you apply this lens to “CFIs you know” you will quickly realize that some CFIs are really great pilots but are emotionally cold and fail miserably at the skills of empathy and caring. To these people, compassion and patience feel more like a burden or weakness; something required by the job but not central to their personality. Their teaching ability is often less than wonderful. The enigma for me is why a person like this would seek a CFI certificate since they actually dislike the time spent working through other people’s problems and inspiring insights. Part of the answer may be that the “aviation ladder” almost requires a CFI certificate to build the required hours for a career. Another reason is the CFI certificate represents another “pelt on the wall;” a certificate gained and perhaps required for advancement. In these cases, the unfortunate students pay the price for CFI aviation advancement and hour building.

In most cases, the physical manipulation of flight controls, knowledge and judgment can be taught to a wide spectrum of people so they reach commercial level flight proficiency. But can emotional/educational aptitude be taught? In 25 years of operating a flight school I would argue that there are definite limits in the success of conveying emotional intelligence unless you have a motivated learner. And in the FAA testing system there is no metric or ACS code for “warm heart and caring.”

This very same enigma is a central problem in the medical field. Some of the least effective physicians are impersonal technicians that lack warmth and “bedside manner.” They should be in the lab, not dealing with patients. Their technical competence may be impressive but if they fail to connect with the patient on an emotional level and their interventions are less successful.  Superior emotional intelligence not only improves the ultimate results in aviation and medicine, it enhances the quality of life for the caregiver (and CFI), preventing burn-out and depression.

For aviation educators, the  skills of caring and communication are most often more fully developed in a person with more life experience at work and in a family situation. The ability to interact, care and share develop with time and practice. Many aviators do not realize the heart of professional aviation CRM also requires emotional intelligence, creating a stronger flight deck team and crew environment. There is also in aviation an unfortunate confusion of strength and competence with the historic “military model” of toughness and stoic struggle.  Many people are not aware that the Marines now practice mindfulness and every Army recruit is now trained in emotional intelligence. These skills are now regarded as required for leadership and promotion in the Army.  (The traditionally understood model of “strength” is changing even in our military) These mental/emotional skills are worth learning for resilience, strength and certainly for successful educational effectiveness. Fly safely out there (and often).


Our next scheduled SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop is June 10/11th at Sporty’s Academy in Ohio. This is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Fancy Footwork; Yaw Canceling (for Safety)!

We had 45 professional aviation educators at the “You Can Fly Center” for our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop this week. These dedicated professionals (half with more than 20 years teaching) really inspired me to present some deeper flight fundamentals. Proper rudder usage – yaw canceling – is often skipped in early flight training but is critical to flight safety. Most new pilots can program a G-1000 but not coordinate a climbing turn. And unfortunately, misuse of the rudder here leads to the “stall-spin accident” (really a “stall>yaw<spin accident”). Understanding and compensating for yaw takes a little effort since rudder effects are very non-intuitive (stay with me here!) If you don’t develop this critical skill in early training, you are probably skidding all the way around the pattern (an “airplane driver” and not a pilot). Please check your skid ball as you make your next crosswind turn; here is the “how and why” of that maneuver.

First, please watch this short video from Gold Seal. Russ does a great job clarifying adverse (temporary) yaw.

Adverse yaw is a transitory yaw effect caused by aileron deflection and gone once the aileron is back to neutral again. By contrast, spiraling slipstream produces constant yaw on every plane as long as power is being produced. Airplanes fly in a continuous spiraling vortex of air created by the propeller. Manufacturers engineer out this force in level flight at cruise power by offsetting the vertical stabilizer and other mechanical tweaks. But spiraling slipstream must be compensated for in the climb; your plane is slower here and the forces in a climb are more prominent due to angle of attack.

To be coordinated while climbing straight ahead (spiraling slipstream plus torque and P-factor), there is a neutral point of rudder balance (yaw canceling) requiring constant right rudder pressure while the nose is up in a climb. As we roll our climbing plane left, some left rudder (or reduced right rudder) is required to compensate for the temporary adverse yaw of the aileron deflection. But once in a constant bank left climbing turn, we are back to the original right rudder pressure for spiraling slipstream and other forces. Constant right rudder is required in a climbing left turn. Rolling out of this left turn oto downwind requires a huge amount of right rudder (you often see noticable left adverse yaw as a novice tries to pick up the left wing with just aileron). Rolling right in a climb requires compensating for the additive effect of spiraling slipstream and adverse yaw. CFIs must carefully monitor their pilots in training to be sure both the understanding and actions are correct here.

 

Thinking-Doing
Two different cognitive domains; we need BOTH!

I know all of this seems complex and non-intuitive, but various simple rudder exercises practiced at altitude make yaw sensing more natural. These forces must be understood first on the ground with a briefing  then practiced and reinforced in flight (see a rough draft of our SAFE Extended Envelope Training) Keeping your eyes directly over the nose outside (guideing your student’s perception) makes, yaw more easily apparent. Another clue is your body’s natural leaning right or left to compensate for the yaw (very obvious from the back of a tandem aircraft). Once yaw canceling becomes natural it is transparent and habitual  and part of a safe pilot toolkit. A coordinated plane responds correctly and flies more efficiently. As an added benefit,  your passengers feel physically better without the yaw too.  Fly safely out there (and often)


Our next scheduled SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop is June 10/11th at Sporty’s Academy in Ohio. This is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Thank-You! Super Stars at SAFE CFI-PRO™

SAFE CFI-PRO™ is all set for next week and I am overwhelmed with both the attendance and the quality of our presenters. Thanks to everyone for supporting this important safety initiative, this is exactly the mission SAFE was created to address 10 years ago. We have five National FAA GA Award winners presenting (and several presenters have won these national awards in several different categories)! Both Doug Stewart and Rich Stowell have presented at the NTSB regarding Loss of Control-Inflight (one focus of this workshop). The SAFE CFI-PRO™ Workshop is off to a good start.

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We had a web snafu yesterday with SSL certificates (the site is back up now). For those registered, or curious, the info flier is here and the map here shows where everything is. We have added a happy hour at the Airways Inn and our amazing pilot BBQ is just down the road at the National Aviation Community Center  Attendees will get the best local BBQ in the presence of the AOPA sweepstakes RV-12 and some other interesting planes. MOre information is on the event website; available again!

Mike McCurdy from IFR6 had a family illness and will not be presenting (best of luck Mike) but good friends Bob Hepp and Adrian Eichhorn (both FAA National Award winners) graciously stepped up and will be presenting on Thursday. Adrian presents at all the AOPA Regional events but will be directing his comments specifically to the CFI-level airworthiness concerns. Bob operates Aviation Adventures with three locations in the DC Metro area.

A very exciting part of this show will be Community Aviation and Mindstar Aviation (the company that wrote the RedBird software) collaborating to demonstrate scenarios for LOC inoculation prepared specifically for the RedBird Simulator at AOPA. These will be broadcast from the sim directly into the auditorium with Billy Winburn and Stasi Poulos. There will be opportunities after the show to try the scenarios on the sim. This training is an amazing extension of the original SAFE Pilot Proficiency Project and we could not be more proud and excited!

If I created enough interest with the above description, be aware that we *can* accommodate a few walk-ins if you call soon (the catering order is already in so please call) We also have announced the date and location of the next SAFE CFI-PRO™ at Sporty’s Academy on June 10th and 11th.


Our next scheduled SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop is June 10th and 11th at Sporty’s Academy in Ohio. This is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Imagine the Worst, Plan for the Best!

Mike Patey very bravely took full respnsibility for his public crash of Draco this week: “this is on me, I made a bad decision.” We need to respect and honor that (rare) honesty. But Mike also clearly laid down the challenge for every pilot to practice better risk management and learn from his personal tragedy with enhanced risk-management awareness.

Personal honesty and accurate self-assessment (which Mike modeled beautifully after the Draco crash) are probably the most underdeveloped human skills; especially in aviation – “let me die first rather than dishonor myself.” This lack of honesty can clearly get us in trouble quickly in aviation when we are planning a flight and facing challenges enroute; are we up to the task or should we consider an alternate. Even a great pilot flying a super-powerful and capable machine can get caught by bad “mental math” when the P-A-V-E elements do not line up correctly. How can we protect ourselves from being caught in the same trap?

One proven antidote to risk taking and over confidence has been advocated by some of the bravest and best aviators; maintain a modicum of fear. Chuck Yeager wrote that fear was always a motivating force to goad him to exhaustively study  systems and carefully prepare for each flight. A Vietnam pilot I know (with 125 combat missions) advocates “nurturing fear” as one of the best pre-flight actions to defeat complacency and clearly surface the risks in a plan.  It is critical to carefully remind yourself before every flight that mishandling aviation can be embarassing, expensive and painful.

This “premeditation of evils” or “negative visualization” was practiced by the ancient Greek Stoics to avoid disappointment before every contemplated action. And though this totally gloomy  outlook can quickly turn you into Eeyore, there is value in reminding yourself, “I don’t want to end up like Draco here,” and exploring safer alternate courses of action. A take-off briefing with all the stated possible problems and reactions is a great example of “negative visualization.” Keeping the worst in mind (stoic attitude) makes us work more diligently to calculate a safe path and mitigate risks.

We all have a natural cognitive bias to rapidly “normalize” every life experience through repetition and stereotyping. This creates the two-fold problem of not properly seeing a “clear and present danger” through “predictive perception,” but also pushing harder to get the same excitement and adrenaline buzz. Without specific pessimism applied in every operation, we can easily forge blindly into risky circumstances with our baked in optimism. For example, remind ourselves that every take-off has an equal chance of engine failure and have a plan ready. (Though this seems like the simplist operation in flying, it accounts for 28% of fatalities.)  And if we are educators, it is necessary to both encourage and carefully develop risk management in our pilots during training.

A “safety culture” of standard, safe operating limitations (and trusted advice) is another great antidote to risky behavior. Some external oversight expands our limited viewpoint and can defuse our normalizing tendencies. Known normative standards and a friendly “what are you thinking” can break the illusion of invulnerability and surface the risks to which we all can become blind. “Friends don’t let friends fly unsafe.” Fly safely out there (and often)


Still time to register for the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop Oct 2/3 at AOPA. This is open to educators at every level (even working on your CFI?) There are four National “FAA CFIs of the Year” among the presenters!

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

 

GA “Extended Envelope Training” (Required For Airlines!)

This is from the road; if you are at the AOPA Fly-In at Tullahoma, TN. please stop by the SAFE booth and say hello.

CFR 121.423 requires “Extended Envelope Training” for all airline flight crews to combat Loss of Control-Inflight. Practicing outside of the “comfort zone” of ordinary, comfortable flying is good preparation for a surprise encounter with upset. Unfortunately, this training has not been implemented (or even suggested) for GA flying except by SAFE. But since the average pilot only flies in an estimated 7-11% of the available flight envelope, “Extended Envelope Training” should be practiced for safety. These maneuvers are not aerobatic (or even close to it) and can be flown with an experienced CFI in any GA aircraft. For CFIs these are your tools. They are designed to keep your “flight chops” sharp!

This final rule [121.423] adds training requirements for pilots that target the prevention of and recovery from stall and upset conditions, recovery from bounced landings, enhanced runway safety training, and enhanced training on crosswind takeoffs and landings with gusts. Stall and upset prevention require pilot skill in manual handling maneuvers and procedures. Therefore, the manual handling maneuvers most critical to stall and upset prevention (i.e., slow flight, loss of reliable airspeed, and manually controlled departure and arrival) are included in the final rule as part of the agency’s overall stall and upset mitigation strategy. These maneuvers are identified in the final rule within the ‘‘extended envelope’’ training provision.

These maneuvers have been the subject of previous blogs here (which are referenced below) and are designed to build skills and knowledge beyond the FAA minimums required for pilot certification. A more comprehensive program with sample flights will be presented for aviation educators during the SAFE CFI-PRO™ Workshops.”Extended Envelope Training” is exciting and fun and and will make every pilot safer (and every CFI more effective). The “yaw awareness” maneuvers” should be part of every syllabus of training for a certificate. The stalls and turns are appropriate for later in private training and also for certificated pilots as an inoculation against LOC-I during a flight review.


1) Yaw canceling practice demonstrations: full power in and out while on a long runway to demonstrate yaw – Initial training – also during climb-out, raise the nose from level to Vx aggressively to demonstrate left yaw.

2) Climbing turns right and left (20 degree bank) to build pattern coordination skills and understand the need for “cross-coordination

3) Level off >3000agl Pitch/accelerate/power reduction/trim (eyes outside: remove pressure- trimming could be a whole lesson for beginners) Vary power in level flight to illustrate yaw of power application.[reference]

4) Execute 30 degree bank turns 90 degree duration back and forth. Emphasize roll with eyes outside directly over the nose to sense yaw. (Be vigilant for “driving habit” of looking in direction of turn to clear then rolling the plane with the eyes on the wing)

5) “Dutch Rolls” left and right with eyes outside directly over the nose to see adverse yaw. If necessary demonstrate aggressive aileron only to show adverse yaw. This should be performed at progressively slower speeds with more adverse yaw. Also can be performed nose high on a cloud or low. [reference]

Yaw inducing maneuvers: slip/skid:

6) Horizon slide left and right with rudder; slow to approach cruise (top of white arc) and while maintaining wings level slide the aircraft nose L/R with rudder maintaining wings level with aileron (yes- skidding). [reference]

7) Normal stalls power on and off but let the nose of the aircraft fall through the horizon and recover with AOA reduction: aerodynamics 101

8) As above but in 30 degree banked turns, left and right.

9) Level at Vy initiate full slips left and right holding the nose on a point.

10) Steep Turn Reversals: start with 720s then 360/1 80 and finally 60 degrees bank reverse after 90 degrees turn 🙂

11) Teaching landings, demonstrating crab and slip for crosswinds: “Centerline Slow Flight”


We will cover many other skills at the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop include the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training. We need to fix our 80% drop out rate during initial flight training.

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Teaching Crosswind Landings (at Altitude!)

Yeah, sounds dumb right? Training crosswinds at 3,ooo feet? But those 5-10 seconds of terror right over the runway are not an opportunity for nuanced description and durable learning. Teaching rudder patiently and accurately at altitude builds basic skills that transfer perfectly to the pattern. Deconstructing any complex maneuver to teach the component parts first makes learning something complex like crosswind landings a predictable and efficient process. No more terror on short final and flare worrying if your student “will lose it?” And good crosswind landings are a rare skill in our pilot world.

In prior blogs we discussed rudder for basic “yaw-canceling,” first as a training exercise, then applied to real-world flying. We also emphasized the need for coordinated patterns (especially climbing turns) in normal operations. This blog covers the more advanced rudder demands where we intentionally create yaw for maneuvers like crosswinds and this is best learned at altitude.

Start by clearing the area while flying at a safe altitude. Then slow to approach cruise or top of the white arc and have your client move the nose of the plane right and left while maintaining the wings level with opposite aileron. Initially this is very difficult for most people, especially if you did your initial “coordinate or die” training correctly. Inducing yaw can initially just seem wrong. But moving the controls in opposite directions and yawing the plane is a critical skill in crosswind landings. Maintaining rudder pressure to hold the aircraft nose on a point is exactly what is required in a crosswind landing.

Once this basic “horizon sliding” is mastered, carry this skill development exercise further by raising the nose on a straight vertical line up to a Vx picture. As mentioned in a previous blog, this will require appropriate right rudder to cancel the yaw created. Try to also draw a straight line down to bring the nose back on the horizon. The finished form of this maneuver is sketching a complete square box in the sky with nice straight lines and no wiggling. “Rudder boxing” is an old school training maneuver that teaches very accurate control of the nose position. It is also a wonderful tool to remove the attention from the conscious manual control and direct attention entirely outside to creating a performance result.

Now try banking while applying opposite rudder pressure to keep the plane from turning maintaining the nose on a point on the horizon. Carry this right to the limit of the rudder travel (full slip) and perform it in both directions. Try alternating back and forth in a rhythmic fashion. Many good exercises are described nicely in Sammy Mason’s book Stalls, Spins and Safety. Review the previously mentioned coordinated “Dutch Rolls” too at speeds just above a stall where adverse yaw is more pronounced.

After a few repetitions of these skill-building maneuvers at altitude, fly a crosswind landing and try some low centerline slow flight passes all the way down the centerline as described in an earlier blog. Vary the airplane configuration from a coordinated crab, tracking the centerline, to a slip to compensate for drift. Finally demonstrate some crosswind landings on just one wheel. Maintaining  the landing on one wheel is quite easy with a little power and builds confidence while emphasizing the stability (and necessity) of this flight attitude. A very common error during crosswind landing for most new or inexperienced pilots is to release the control pressure countering the wind immediately on touchdown. The correct method is to increase the aileron pressure and deflection into the wind as the plane deaccelerates (especially after it has touched down). Lack of this essential follow-through creates a rolling motion away from the wind and creates a potentially dangerous situation; a bad habit to avoid.

The crosswind landing is one of the most difficult maneuvers to master and maintain proficiency in, and one of the primary sources of landing accidents. But ironically, it is not required to be demonstrated in any of the FAA evaluation standards. DPEs usually see a discontinuance if the crosswind goes much over 6 knots. I am not sure if that is good risk management or pathetic pilot preparation. A pilot will not get much utility from their pilot certificate with that level of landing skill (and it seems skills seldom increase after the test). I personally advocate for full crosswind proficiency in all pilots even though it is not required on any FAA test. Please let me know how these techniques work for you. More “radical rudder” soon. We will teach deconstructing as an instructional technique at our upcoming SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Other skills at the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop include the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training. We need to fix our 80% drop out rate during initial flight training.

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Creating Productive Scenarios; “Struggle Zone”

 

Scenario-based training has acquired a stigma in aviation though misuse. But if done properly, these experiences can be the most powerful tool in an experienced educator’s arsenal. And scenarios are the required core focus of all modern FAA ACS testing (what your good DPE is going to use during every evaluation). Every CFI must be an astute evaluator to be an effective educator. Proper application of scenarios requires discretion and creativity. Using the right tool at the appropriate time creates the most effective educational experience. Properly constructed scenarios add  a world of valuable challenge and motivation to training and more accurately resemble the real flight experience. Deployed properly, scenarios expand a small geographic area into the whole country (with no added cost!) and build higher level judgment skills making safer pilots.

The Misuse…

The misuse of scenarios comes primarily from imposing unimaginative (generic) scenarios onto every student without customizing the challenges to the proper level. Many scenarios are applied too soon and exceed the learner’s skill level.  Every flight operation requires some level of fluid skill – often acquired by drill and repetition – before the scenario can be effective (why piano scales are taught before Haydn!) Failure to consider the unique needs of each student wastes valuable time and money. “Learning opportunities” instead become “play time for instructors” building hours. Complex and inappropriate scenarios become an expensive burden for the pilot-in-training; 50 hour solos and 100 hour X-C levels.

The critical skill for the aviation educator is evaluation so the proper level of challenge is achieved. The heart of a successful scenario is customizing each learning experience to achieve optimal challenge (struggle zone). Creative generation and applicatiion of new experiences creates rapid skill acquisition, excitement and judgement (higher level learning). The result is versatile, resilient pilots (and often at a lower cost through efficiency). But in every case the pilot-in-training needs the prerequisite skills to adquately meet the scenario challenge -again – initially learned by rote and embedded through muscle memory, then extrapolated to each creative challenge with a scenario.

The Necessity…

The proven necessity of scenarios is simple. Your new pilot, or “rusty recurrent pilot”,  has the FAA privilege to fly day or night, anywhere in the country, for the rest of their life.  And this is despite being only trained in a small geographic area on good weather days, mostly in daylight.  To safely meet the challenge of real life flying, a student and educator must engage together in some “active imagining.” If done correctly, scenarios challenge the pilot and transport your learner to all the places and challenges they may encounter as a pilot.  Working together, you must mentally extrapolate from the local area to the challenges of the whole country, in different terrain and weather, encountered over the span of a lifetime.

Scenarios Done Properly…

If properly constructed and executed, a scenario puts your student into the “struggle zone” or what educational psychologists call the “zone of proximal development”.  An effective scenario presents the optimal level of personal challenge for an individual learner and enables an educator to both teach and evaluate at the highest correlation level of learning.  Done poorly, scenarios merely run up the flight training bill and become an excuse for extraneous trips to exciting lunch destinations on the client’s dime. Buying specialized scenario books or apps to deploy cumbersome generic scenarios usually fail; to be successful, each scenario must be personal and challenge each unique leaner. To present an effective scenario, it is essential to your student well so you can craft realistic challenges appropriate to their level of skill and realm of experience. Remember, a solid relationship of trust is the #1 ingredient to success in any learning situation.  Let’s unpack the “why” and “how to” of SBT  and also provide a sales pitch for this creative way to turbo-charge your teaching.

How to…Let’s get started!

Scenario training can be as simple as scrolling on Skyvector ( or ForeFlight) to a far off state and “mentally relocating” your student to a certain unique and surprising location with a mission and set of weather conditions. Active engagement and “buy in” from the learner is essential so adding a personal need to the mission is essential; make it personal! “You’re transporting your sick dog to the clinic and need to know what airspace we are in? And what viz and cloud clearance (radio/nav equipment) are required? Who do I talk to here and how will the plane perform at this altitude?” The more personally relevant and realistic each scenario is, the more actively your student will engage and the more effective their learning. (A previous blog revealed the learning benefits of practicing in the “struggle zone“) And all this can also happen effectively (and economically) on a bad weather day when flying might not be productive at your student’s level. If you have a simulator you obviously have an even better tool and the scenarios created for the EAA-PPC are available now on-line and available for FAA WINGS credit on faasafety.gov

So  if I am dealing with a Cornell aerospace student, a plausible scenario might start with “You are back at the Mohave Spaceport for Cornell and suddenly have an opportunity to do some personal flying in Mohave…how would you unpack the challenges of mountains and high density altitudes, unique “traffic”?” Or present the “Oshkosh Fly-In Challenge” with the Fisk arrival (this and others are in the EAA-PPC list) And remember these are also exactly the kind of challenges a good DPE is going to present during a practical test. Scenarios build a flexible, thoughful pilot that can unpack challenges and manage risks with skill, knowledge and imagination.

Creating mountains…

And how do you create those mountains? Perhaps after some low level ground reference maneuvering, impose a hypothetical “service ceiling” on your plane in MSL (2000 over the terrain but below the hilltops) Then limit the airplane power to 2100rpm (density altitude) and now transit the “mountains”. “Can we safely transition through the hills to our home airport?  Should we divert instead>”  Similarly you can impose a solid cloud ceiling and  leave the weather decision to the student. Then accept the client’s decision -good or bad- if conditions are within your minimums and you can keep the flight safe and legal. Once  you are flying with too much wind or too low clouds, the client experiences the consequences of their folly (and perhaps log some actual or get some good crosswinds) within a safe environment (watchful eye of the educator). Share your favorite scnarios in the comments below.

The essential element in all scenarios is allowing your client to make mistakes (while carefully maintaining a margin for safety) and supplying only minimal guidance.  Allowing this famous “learning opportunity” to unfold is critical and easily ruined by too much “helping” from the CFI. As errors add up, their struggle will clearly demonstrate the consequences of bad decisions and the “accident chain”  without the safety risk.

Motivating for students and educators!

Scenarios are exciting for both the pilot and the educator adding fun and variety to the training experience; this is how Master Instructors are built. Good scenarios beat “going to the practice area for some steep turns” hands down for learning efficiency and motivation. And there is a real difference between “one hour 2000 times” and “2000 unique hours of real teaching experience”. Attend our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop and  acquire expert instructor skills more rapidly (are we still learning as educators?). Fly safely (and often!)


 

Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to address the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Buffering “FAA Minimums” Aim For Excellence!

The FAA only specifies the absolute minimums (limitations) in their regulations and these are not recommended operating specifications.  This might sound silly to many pilots, but some people have not gotten this memo.  As one example, “one mile visibility and clear of clouds” in Class G airspace is an absolute legal minimum. All of aviation safety involves building (and maintaining) a personal margin above these FAA bare minimums. Minimum weather, fuel requirements, and even hours for pilot certification should have a margin applied to be safe and build better pilots.

I have been giving a lot of private checkrides lately and obviously a private pilot applicant must know Class G airspace and the basic legal weather minimums. But if they tell me they would go flying in this scary weather, they are not adequately managing risk. Similarly, FAA minimum flight instrumentation (day and night) requires only an airpseed indicator, altimeter (not even adjustable) and a compass. Again, every pilot should know this legal minimum, but should also be aware such primitive guidance is not adequate for most flights (especially at night). Building a margin by requiring more complete instrumentation, equipment, preparation and suitable weather is the basis for managing risk and building safety.

This paradigm of “FAA minimums vs safety margin” is an excellent method to understand (and teach) a risk management system (required in the FAA testing standards). Although a pilot applicant at any level must know the FAA minimums, they must also clearly define their personal “safety margin” for their  level of experience in a particular plane, environment and with unique external pressures of the situation. What examiners want to hear is “my thinking and safety margin in this situation is…”

The ACS defines specific areas to be considered when managing risk. This was developed straight out of the military’s “man, machine and mission” formula and is expanded and elucidated in the FAA Risk Management Handbook. P-A-V-E identifies the Pilot, Aircraft, EnVironment, and External Pressures that interact dynamically to cause (or mitigate) risk factors. Unfortunately, this subject is still given prefuctory coverage by many CFIs as they initially educate pilots or prepare them to take flight tests. In my opinion, this paradigm should be the primary vehicle used right from “day one” to expose new pilots to aviation. (Instead of a rarely mentioned “nice to know” addition “don’t forget risk management”)  Much of our aviation education system is still mired in the 1940s military curriculum of lesson planning. We need a cultural change that puts risk management as more central in our aviation education. P-A-V-E is an amazing safety tool for your personal flying and instructional focus.

And speaking of minimums, the current “rush to ratings” clearly is eliminating any “extras” and fun in the flight training experience. The required 5 hours of solo X-C for the private pilots now seems to often only involve one long flight on a very nice day. When I see a pilot applications with absolute minimum hours all I can think is “don’t you like flying?” Can’t we add a little more than the absolute minimum experience and build a margin of safety here too? Exposing students to more than one X-C flight or working with  more crosswind allows them to experience and internalize different weather, expand personal capacities and enhance their skills for a greater safety margin. They are going to need these hours and experience in the future anyway.

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The “minimums trap” seems to be increasingly common in pilot testing too, where applicants just just aim to pass with a minimum grade rather than striving for excellence. A 70% seems to make people happy and “mediocre” is too common in the current rush for ratings. But as proud safe pilots, our whole system of superior safety and professionalism is built on trying harder and striving for the best we can be. There is real safety value and satisfaction in exceeding the minimums and pursuing more comprehensive knowledge and skill when we aim for excellence. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Extend Your Skills! 60/90 Turns, Triple A Stalls

This blog presents some challenging flight maneuvers that build greater pilot proficiency, confidence and flight safety. It is essential to break out of our daily “comfort zone” or we will react incorrectly  – with the well documented “startle response” – when forced into an unusual attitude by surprise circumstances. Accident statistics reveal that unprepared pilots are vulnerable to the persistent Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I) accident. If you are a CFI this is the CFI-PRO™ toolkit from the savvy veteran instructors that result in superior pilot performance and safety.

Professional aviators are now required to practice “envelope extension maneuvers” by regulation. GA will benefit greatly from a similar commitment to advanced proficiency. This training is not  aerobatic and can be flown in any GA plane at your home field. Similar to “day one” in upset courses,  these maneuvers are extensions of familar flight training (“push the envelope” a little).  If these are presented correctly by a professional educator in a challenging but non-threatening method, pilots enjoy these new maneuvers and thrive on the increased proficiency. These maneuvers are the historical tools of savvy educators and made available again through SAFE CFI-PRO™ This is territory where straight-up “scenario-based training” never ventures.

An earlier blog described effective maneuvers for initial flight training; specifically to build yaw-canceling skills with the rudder. These are a good warm-up to “tune up” and get the feet moving if your skills have atrophied. For the more proficient pilot, this blog will present some more stimulating “envelope extension” maneuvers to build (or restore) advanced skills and expand a pilot’s “comfort zone.”

When I ran a flight school, I often used “steep turn reversals” for pilots who had just completed instrument training and were beginning commercial maneuvers. After 40+ hours of instrument reference and “standard rate/smooth” it was necessary to get the eyes outside and “yank and bank” to restore lost pilot skills. The “Triple A Stalls” prove basic physics to pilots and are useful for building up confidence and control skills. These maneuvers not only build LOC-I protection through “envelope extension,” they are also “aerodynamically educational.” They should only be flown dual with an experienced, PRO-fessional CFI.

“Steep turn reversals” begin with the simple well known private pilot steep turn at 45 degrees of bank maintaining altitude and airspeed with a crisp rollout on a defined outside reference. I encourage pilots to fly this maneuver without trimming so they can feel the load “lifting” their plane through the turn. Once this is proficient,  roll in 60 degrees of bank for 360 degrees of turn and reverse on the starting point into a 720 degree commercial maneuver. Then progressively shorten the turn duration to only 180 degrees and eventually 90 degrees of turn. To make these work, full deflection of the ailerons (and lots of rudder) make a very crisp maneuver. And thought his is entirely non-aerobatic by definition, it is a maneuver many Upset Training Programs utilize on “Day One” with the stated purpose of waking up the feet and restoring aggressive pilot in command control.

Another very useful (and aerodynamically educational) maneuver is alternating, turning power off stalls with “angle of attack recoveries” (“Triple A stalls”). Pilots flying this maneuver will benefit greatly from a “chalk talk” to understand (and trust) that lift in a coordinated turn is equal on the wings. Flying the maneuver demonstrates the applied physics from the chalk talk.

To perform “Triple A stalls”, climb to a safe altitude, bank 30 degrees, and increase AOA into a power off stall . Recover with only AOA reduction (unload pitch – no added power). Continue this through alternating right and left turns, building the muscle memory (and confidence) to unload the wing recovering the turning stalls with just pitch. Once alternating AOA is proficient, try a more aggressive secondary stall on a couple recoveries (it will stall with the nose much lower) and recover just with pitch reduction (very low attitude). All of these should make a true believer out of your client that a plane can stall at any speed or attitude; priceless!

Pilots who embrace these “extended envelope” maneuvers are less likely to be surprised (and become LOC-I statistics) if they are ever forced out of the “7% comfort zone” by weather or turnbulence (no startle/freeze-up). More to come on this next week as we roll out more of the CFI-PRO™ workshop extended maneuver catalog. Fly safely (and often)! Please comment and contribute your favorite maneuvers?


Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

WANTED: Angle of Attack Managers

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!

Aviators, airmen, aviatrices—a few of the other words used to describe pilots. Yet none of these words reflect what we really do. Ultimately, pilots are angle of attack managers. Let’s have another look at AOA.

As David St. George notes in “Invisible Angle of Attack,” AOA is the difference between where the airplane is pointing and where it is going. Wolfgang Langewiesche describes the importance of AOA thus:

“If you had only 2 hours in which to explain the airplane to a student pilot, [AOA] is what you would have to explain. It is almost literally all there is to flight. It explains all about the climb, the glide, and level flight; much about the turn; practically all about the ordinary stall, the power stall, the spin. It takes the puzzlement out of such maneuvers as the nose-high power approach; it is the story of the landing.”

AOA implies two things: wind and an object around which the wind is flowing. Most everyone has played with AOA before. Remember sticking your hand out of the car window when you were a kid? What happened when you tilted your hand into the oncoming wind? “It went up!” is the common response. Reflect more deeply on the experience, however, and you’ll notice that your hand actually moved upward and backward. If we want to get technical about it, we could call the “up” part Lift and the “back” part Drag.

We’ve all seen examples of unusual things being forced to fly, too. For example, tornado-strength winds can cause even the most reluctant Holstein to go airborne.

A high velocity jet of air precisely aimed at a Snap-on screwdriver can cause it to hover (courtesy of SAFE member Shane Vande Voort—please don’t try this at home!).

And though we might describe a wing as having a “top” and a “bottom,” Lift- and Drag-producing AOAs are possible on either side.

AOA is discussed primarily in the context of the airplane’s main wing. But at the correlation level of learning, we see the entire airplane as an assembly of wings all of which are subject to the principles of AOA. The propeller, for instance, is a rotating wing. Main and jury struts are often symmetrical wings streamlined to minimize drag. “Aileron” is French for “little wing.” And our primary flight controls are AOA controls. The elevator controls the AOA of the main wing (aka pitch control).

Ailerons control local AOAs (typically the outboard part of the wings, aka roll control).
Rudder controls the AOA of the fuselage (aka yaw control).

Our job as instructors is to teach our trainees how to manage these AOAs to achieve desired performance outcomes. Although AOA itself may be invisible, changes in AOA can be sensed and its trend interpreted. In the visual flight environment, this means coupling aeronautical knowledge with sight, sound, and feel to manage our controllable AOAs.

Before we climb into the airplane, for example, we know that the combination of a high power setting and a slow airspeed during the takeoff phase will yaw the airplane. But we want coordinated flight during this particular takeoff. That will require a certain amount of rudder to manage the AOA of the fuselage to cancel the yaw. What does yawed flight look like during takeoff? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What does it look and feel like if we try to use aileron to correct for the yaw instead of rudder? All of these questions can be explored in the practice area without staring at the slip/skid ball. The lessons learned can be applied during subsequent takeoffs.

Whether it’s pitch, roll, or yaw, changes in AOA manifest as changes in one or more of the following: attitude, G-load, control pressure, control displacement, and often sound. In the case of elevator inputs, add airspeed to the list of cues.

For fun, test your understanding of AOA with the following thought experiments. Imagine you are at an airshow watching a competent aerobatic pilot fly a capable aerobatic airplane.

1. The airplane makes a knife-edge pass from your right to your left at precisely 90 degrees angle of bank.
a. Where is the nose of the airplane pointing relative to its flightpath, and how is the pilot making that happen?
b. What is the pilot doing with the elevator to make the airplane fly down the runway?
c. What is the AOA of the main wing?
d. What is the pilot feeling?

2. The airplane climbs along a perfect vertical line.
a. In order to remain on the upline before pivoting in a Hammerhead, what is the pilot doing with the elevator?
b. Ultimately, what is the AOA of the main wing during the upline?

Want to learn more ways to push learning to the correlation level? Attend SAFE’s inaugural CFI-PRO™ workshop in Frederick, MD on October 2–3, 2019!

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).