As pilots we spend almost all of our time in a very small corner of the available flight envelope (perhaps less than 5%!) It is amazing and illuminating to watch a well flown aerobatic routine and see what a talented pilot and capable aircraft can safely accomplish. These highly trained pilots thoroughly understand the aerodynamics of flight in all three dimensions and have honed their skills to operate safely at the edges of the flight envelope. Their flying during extreme maneuvers is automatic and precise (even “comfortable”) freeing up mental energy to deal with surprises. Although I don’t think all pilots must pursue aerobatics to be safe, it is essential to flight safety that we mere mortals challenge ourselves regularly and explore new areas of aviation. Pushing the edges of their “personal flight envelope” with regular dual training is essential for safety.
It is too easy to become complacent and dull with repetitive droning flight. Even our “experts”, the CFIs develop “right seat rust” continually “watching and not flying!” The majority of flight in cruise is not even hand flown. Deteriorating pilot skills is clearly implicated in the NTSB’s recent “Most Wanted List” where 47% of fatal accidents involve pilots losing control of their aircraft!
Without regular practice and challenge, our comfort zone shrinks daily, our skills deteriorate and we are vulnerable to startle response and loss of control. Dual flight with a competent, current instructor, out of our comfort zone, will both rekindle the passion for flying and also tune up our skills. Exploring new flight challenges during a flight review or adding a new rating is an excellent safety prescription for continued safety (and fun!) All of this can be part of your FAA Wings credit.
For a useful knowledge review, I highly recommend AOPA program Essential Aerodynamics. There are no Greek Letters here and the video presentation is excellent. Then get out and “yank and bank” a bit with a competent CFI. Hopefully, slow flight with turning and accelerated stalls will again become “comfortable” and ready for deployment if an upset catches you by surprise in flight. Master instructor and founding SAFE member Rich Stowell demonstrates this all beautifully (while inverted) in his amazing YouTube video. He calls it a “Public Service Announcement” for pilots. Please get out there and expand your “personal flight envelope” with some additional training. I guarantee you will enjoy it!
Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles and also write us a comment if you see a problem (or want to contribute an article). We always need more input on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun.
Many SAFE members are professional educators teaching on a daily basis but also we have pilots at every level who help us build aviation excellence. For pilots at every level, one very simple and rewarding daily action can move aviation further than all our large advocacy projects. Share your aviation passion and knowledge at every opportunity. Bring new people into our world of flying! This article in Air Facts precipitated blog post.
Unfortunately, I see many pilots who keep their love of aviation largely separate from their daily lives. They only “light up” when they come to the airport or meet with “pilot friends.” I would recommend you to do just the opposite. Display those airplane models and pictures at work and let people know you are a pilot; encourage a dialogue and answer every question. Each person we touch and get interested in flying is going to help build aviation and perhaps also be one less detractor. Especially with young people you will still find a natural curiosity and excitement. What I discovered in my life (40+ years and thousands of hours of flying) is that sharing continually rekindles your original love of flying and keeps it alive. We need more young and growing minds involved in aviation. EAA Young Eagles is an excellent program to support aviation growth and geared precisely to sharing and growing aviation. Carry this further and mentor your new excited protege. (We are in the process of retooling our mentor program at SAFE right now) Without these new and excited pilots filling the ranks we will soon time out…share your love of aviation! Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
“Between 2008 and 2014, about 47 percent of fatal fixed-wing GA accidents in the United States involved pilots losing control of their aircraft in flight, resulting in 1,210 fatalities” [full report] This sure does not help GA’s public image and certainly is not on our list of “fun flying activities.” Those who have followed this blog might detect a pattern emerging…a focus on positive aircraft control, thorough aerodynamic understanding and engendering a passion for aviation excellence in all pilots and educators. Proper education and discipline can greatly reduce our accident rates. SAFE is committed to improving our safety record in aviation by empowering flight educators with superior resources, supporting their passion to teach professionally and comprehensively, and changing the industry to support their vital mission. Please view SAFE member Rich Stowell’s testimony at the NTSB hearings Oct. 14,2015. [pdf here] There are many more resources on our website. Please support our mission with a donation (it’s quick and on-line) or join our team to create meaningful change in our aviation training and regulatory system. We have made great progress…more soon. Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
We are seeing a significant increase in accidents involving the overuse or misuse of cockpit automation. If you have not watched the American Airlines video “Children of the Magenta” please do that now. (What I am going to write here is perfectly captured by this talented presenter.) We have forgotten that in flying we are first and foremost pilots, not automation managers. The wonderful tools that are increasingly found in our small aircraft have the purpose of reducing workload…not making it harder to fly! And certainly not flying the plane because we are unable to do so. We must maintain the necessary skills to engage and take over the airplane and flight at any point.
At the time of this video in 1997, 68% of airline accidents involved “automation dependency.” Savvy airline training programs were actively discouraging airline crews from becoming “automation managers.” Subsequently many high visibility accidents like Air France 447 and Asiana Airlines flight 214 (the “seawall approach” at San Francisco) have proved the disabling effect of automation. Now we are experiencing this same phenomenon in smaller planes as the technology propagates downward into piston planes. Increasingly the evils of “task saturation,” “loss situational awareness,” and “deterioration of hand-flying” are implicated in deviations or accidents.
One antidote is careful monitoring by the pilot or crew to detect either task saturation from automation dependency, loss of situational awareness or just confusion about the operation of the flight management system in general (“what’s it doing now…?”). The necessary action is to step down a level of automation or take over the flight manually. For this reason it is imperative that every pilot maintains confident hand flying skills to fly accurately and improve the outcome of any flight. Pilots and crews that lack hand flying skills and/or confidence are increasingly involved in accidents. The FAA has issued a SAFO (Safety Alert For Operators) on the importance of hand flying citing an “increase in manual handling errors”. The new FAA Advisory Circular on flight reviews advises flight instructors to watch for automation dependency and weak hand flying skills during flight reviews. Similarly every pilot must monitor and correct their own automation dependency. It is incumbent upon the careful pilot to maintain and sharpen their hand flying skills with regular practice or dual flight. “George” usually does a great job flying (embarrassing too 🙂 !) but please remember to turn off the magic, take a turn flying and stay sharp! And please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
The final FAA rule for the proposed new student pilot certificates was issued in the Federal Register today. Fortunately the idea of photos and biometric IDs was dropped, but student pilots will no longer get their certificates from their AME. Instead they will apply in person at their FSDO (unlikely), through a DPE, with a Part 141 flight school, or a CFI. The Civil Aviation Registry will then send a plastic student pilot certificate to the applicant after successful security vetting by the TSA. This plastic certificate will not expire but a separate medical will still be obtained from an AME with the current duration. Receipt of a student pilot certificate is required prior to exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate (i.e., prior to solo flight). Current estimates indicate this could potentially take three to four weeks.
Since the student pilot certificate will be plastic, flight instructors will only endorse a student’s logbook instead of both their certificates and logbooks. This change takes effect on April 1, 2016. The CFI’s endorsement for a student pilot will remain valid for 90 days. We will provide details as they become available…
A just-issued FAA Advisory Circular (AC 61-98C) is providing new guidance for how CFIs conduct flight reviews and instrument proficiency checks (IPC). The recommendations came from a high-level FAA committee that included SAFE representatives. It is available free here.
AC 61-98C reminds CFIs that flight reviews and IPCs should include a check on the pilot’s proficiency in English, urges CFIs to help pilots develop a personal currency program and strongly suggests that an FAA form 8710-1 be completed for each flight review and filed through the IACRA system.
Under the heading Reducing GA Accidents, the AC notes that inflight loss of control is the most common single cause of GA fatalities, lists typical areas where loss of control can occur and asks instructors to pay particular attention to those areas in flight reviews. They include:
- Pilot Proficiency, where CFIs can help pilots develop personal currency programs.
- Traffic Pattern, specifically departure stalls, attempts to return to the field after engine failure and uncoordinated turns from base to final. It asks CFIs to emphasize the difference between Vx and Vy, go-arounds, and stabilized approaches.
- Criteria for Stabilized Approaches including proper glide path, heading, airspeed, configuration, rate of descent, power setting and checklists. It recommends a go-around if approaches become unstabilized at 300 feet AGL or below.
- Instrument Meteorological Conditions, where vertigo can affect both non-instrument-rated pilots and non-proficient instrument rated pilots.
- Manual Flight After Automation Failure. The FAA cites over-reliance on automation, including FMS systems or coupled autopilots, as a significant cause of loss of control. It urges CFIs to emphasize knowledge of the equipment and navigation systems installed and proficiency in manual aircraft control.
The new AC also notes that CFIs are required to be knowledgeable and up-to-date on issues critical to aviation safety, and that staying current on that information will help build a positive safety culture to reduce GA accidents. It suggests that CFIs use the free booklet Conducting An Effective Flight Review to prepare individual pilots for flight reviews.
SAFE has been promoting awareness of loss of control accident causes for several years. There is material in the SAFE resource center with information on loss of control, including seminal works on the subject completed by SAFE’s Rich Stowell, here. Additional advanced material for CFIs is available in the members-only section of SAFE’s resource center. A login is necessary for members to access SAFE members-only information. Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
East Hill Flying Club in Ithaca, New York on January 1 became the first flight school in the nation to take advantage of SAFE’s new Institutional Membership. The reduced-cost membership option for flight schools and aviation colleges extends SAFE benefits to the designated employees of the institution.
“Each of my seven CFIs now has the advantage of SAFE’s multitude of services and discounts for less than half the usual $45 for an individual membership,” said David St. George, Chief Instructor and manager at East Hill. “It’s a way to reward our staff with most of the SAFE benefits and also promote excellence in aviation education among our people.”
The new SAFE Institutional Membership fees are based on the number of instructors employed by the flight school or aviation college and starts at $75 for up to six instructors at the institution.
The new SAFE Institutional Membership includes all SAFE benefits for each instructor except subscriptions to FLYING Magazine. Benefits include SAFE’s Aviation Mentoring program, monthly SAFE eNews, quarterly SAFE The Magazine, a vibrant CFI-focused online resource center and substantial discounts on flight instruction products and services from nearly two dozen leading aviation companies.
Just one member discount, from SAFE partner Lightspeed, provides an active CFI up to $150 off top quality Lightspeed headsets, a benefit worth more than three times the cost of a regular individual SAFE membership and six times the cost of an institutional membership. The most recent member benefit is 66 percent off a yearly subscription to the premier aviation and astronautics publication of the Smithsonian Institution, Air and Space Magazine.
SAFE is a member-focused group of aviation educators that fosters professionalism and excellence in aviation through continuing education, professional standards and accreditation. Its nearly 1,000 members include many of the nation’s top CFIs.