Right to Left (seat) and Back Again…Never Stop Learning!

Master Instructor (and SAFE Director) Michael Phillips on “Always Learning” and “Right Seat Rust!”

MIkePhillipsLogoFlying has been an important part of my life in one way or another for many, many years and I have had the opportunity to spend over 9000 hours sharing my passion with others from the right seat or the back seat of all types of airplanes. I love teaching, I love flying, but I especially love the challenge that comes with learning something new, and more times than not the learning is delivered from the pilot at the controls. As you read this comment you may ask yourself what can an instructor learn from the pilot training aren’t we the teacher? To truly seek answers, you must first challenge yourself: am I comfortable being uncomfortable? Sit pointed into that headwind for a moment and then ask: “how can I be a better teacher, mentor, and coach?” Embracing our role as instructors, push further and ask, “are we really teaching as effectively and ‘quietly’ as possible?”


Over the years there have been times that if I had only been quiet and listened to what the pilot training was trying to communicate in actions or words my success as a teacher would have been significantly improved. If I had stayed out of the way and “gently guided” the pilot training through their learning process as opposed to not-so-gently guiding them through my teaching process, had I been more patient as they struggled to master the airplane or the instruments, I am absolutely sure that I would have been a more effective teacher. When given the opportunity to guide other instructors I always mention that those of us that teach have the potential to be “an impediment to learning” and if we pack this thought in our flight bag, each time we share the cockpit with a pilot training, our chances of being a more effective, kind and patient instructor are significantly enhanced.


These thoughts are not new or unique to me. I have always held myself to a high standard of excellence in every pursuit, particularly that of flight instructor. I expect anyone with the title Certified Flight Instructor holds such a standard of excellence for themselves and their clients; as fellow stakeholders in the educational process, we all deserve such focus and dedication. This said, over the past twelve months I had two experiences that made me painfully aware that I still have work to do.


Interestingly enough both of these learning events came as a result of me becoming the student and not the teacher. The first was adding Single Engine Sea to my skill set and the other was transition training into a new and significantly powered and complex aircraft. Each challenge was fun and exciting because they required learning new skills as well as applying existing skills to new situations.

In the case of the Seaplane rating the instructor was a young, talented CFI that was as anxious about teaching a salty old instructor as I was about wanting not to embarrass myself. We had fun and challenged each other; me as the pilot training and he as the instructor trying to teach me the skills required to attain this new rating. I experimented with interesting ways not to fail and he tried to remind me that making mistakes is how we learn best (not his words but mine). He was laughing and challenging me as he guided me to the necessary level of competence to pass the checkride which was successfully accomplished. As I reflected back on this experience I asked myself if I were in his shoes how would I have handled my learning style and what did I learn from him? The answer was clear; be aware of the learning style of the pilot training, adjust as necessary, be playful and respect the person that you are training without making the hard work and pure joy of learning something new a negative event.


Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.59.25 AMThe transition training involved stepping up to a single engine turbine powered rocket-ship. I had been flying turbines for a while and felt comfortable managing the intricacies of the PT6 but in this case my comfort level did not translate into the level of performance that I had expected of myself. There were many factors that added to the challenge but none greater than personal expectations mixed with a good dose of “right seat rust”. The training was not a straight line and after a particularly challenging session my frustration was apparent and I shared it with my instructor pilot. It was nothing major or unsafe, just a lot of little things that showed a lack of proficiency that was keeping me from the factory sign-off. I departed knowing that it would be almost a month before we would be able to complete the training due to scheduling issues and I was in a funk. After returning home I received a note from my instructor that sounded exactly like what I have said to my students many, many times over the years.


“I just wanted to take the time to write you a note.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you during our training.  I see how serious you are taking it and really appreciate your desire and drive to get it right.  Please don’t be too hard on yourself.  I know that you will be successful with your goal with more training and seat time.  Holding yourself to high standards is the key to success.  After all, you will be riding around with Mark and Ryan watching over their decisions and performance.  The Epic is a fantastic airplane, as you know, demanding attention.  When we meet again, I know that you will be able to fly within PTS standards and hold the centerline”.


When I received this note I laughed and shook my head. As the tables were turned on me, I realized that while it is important to master this airplane, I’d missed the heart of the lesson I was learning. The real message, and the importance of this experience, was that we are all students. We all must be comfortable being uncomfortable. I am no different from the pilot I’m training. What really matters is that I need to be more patient, more kind, more peaceful and better at managing expectations, both for myself and those that ask for my guidance.


The reason that I am sharing these thoughts with you is that if my experiences can open your eyes to the importance of being patient, managing expectations, listening carefully and recognizing the value of regularly moving from teacher to student, as a way to grow personally and professionally, the experiences steadily compound over the years enriching the educational process for all.

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

IPC Dilemma: Is the system broken?

There is a new FAA NPRM out with reduced currency and training requirements; “Save money, Easier!” Is this the correct course or is safety being compromised? Here is a reprint from the SAFE Magazine a few years ago by accident investigator Jeff Edwards

As an aircraft accident investigator, I have seen pilots come to grief due to fundamental IFR flying mistakes that occurred within a short time of passing an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC). The IPC is supposed to be a comprehensive review of all of the Practical Test Standard (PTS) tasks. So how could these pilots perform so inadequately so soon after the accident pilot demonstrated PTS proficiency to an instructor?

The answer is, maybe they didn’t, really. In some cases, reviewing logbooks as part of the investigation showed that the IPC omitted required material from the PTS checklist. In other accident investigations, 21st century technology tells the tale. Crosschecking the accident pilot’s logbook with a recovered GPS navigator datacard or with ATC records (via FlightAware) reveals that instrument approaches logged during the IPC (or as part of the pilot’s currency requirements) were not actually performed. Where does that leave the CFI who gave the endorsement that fell short of the PTS standards? And for pilots who falsify logbook entries, how does it them?

As a CFII, I have seen my share of flight review and IPC candidates. When a pilot calls to schedule an appointment, I ask about flying history, including instrument currency and proficiency. Occasionally, pilots will tell me they are proficient but not current. On further questioning, they admit to not having flown any instrument time in well over a year. Yet they still believe they are proficient. There certainly is  a mismatch between their skill level and their belief system. This is dangerous.

When put to the task under the hood it is obvious that their instrument skills are very rusty from disuse and would be dangerous in actual IMC. Some are put off when I decline to endorse them for an IPC. I explain that they must meet all of the PTS requirements set for their level of certificate.

When pilots call me about regaining instrument currency after a lapse in IFR flying, I explain that they will not likely pass an IPC on their first go. I go over the differences between currency and proficiency. Since I have adopted that proactive policy I have not had an unhappy client after the flight, whether or not they earned an IPC endorsement.

Instrument proficiency is a perishable skill that needs constant practice and refresher. If you do not practice instrument flying skills regularly you may end up in a situation where you cannot hand fly the aircraft while in instrument conditions. This could be deadly. According to AOPA survey data, the average pilot is flying 60 hours a year. This amount of flying is likely not enough to maintain your instrument skills, particularly if you are using the autopilot for a majority of that flight time. Currency and proficiency are critical to maintaining a pilot’s skills – especially instrument flying skills. Instructors who grant IPCs for pilots who are not proficient to the level of test standards are placing their client – and their own careers – at risk. For example, I am the President of the Lancair Owners and Builders Association (LOBO). I recently had a conversation with Nationair, an aviation insurance broker and our insurance partner, and we realized that some of our members may not be getting all of the training and documentation required by the carrier. There are only a handful of insurance underwriters that insure the Lancair IVP and Evolution, and 2008 was a bad year for accidents in Lancairs. Some insurance companies were not renewing policies, so the following year we drafted the LOBO training program and convinced the industry to underwrite Lancair owners who participated in this training.

Believe me, this was not an easy task. Unfortunately it has come to our attention that a few individuals have told their insurance company they have completed the training when in fact they have not. If you take LOBO training and complete all of the training you will be issued a LOBO training certificate that you can forward to your insurance company as proof of training. Without that certificate, your insurance coverage may be compromised.

With advances in computerized avionics and the easy availability of historic air traffic control records, pilots and instructors are well advised to maintain scrupulous standards when it comes to currency and IPC performance.

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Safety Culture: Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Stupid!

You probably detect a similarity between this title and the alcohol awareness program “Mother’s Against Drunk Driving”. If you are younger than me, you may not even be aware of this program’s existence since MADDgraphic“sober driving” is now the accepted cultural norm. Now we use designated drivers and “friends don’t let friends drive drunk!” Unfortunately this was not the case in my teenage years when drunk driving was almost a locally accepted sport. MADD was founded on September 5, 1980, in California by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. This highly commendable movement ultimately created such a new awareness that drunk driving is culturally unacceptable and morally reprehensible. In my opinion, a similar awakening would be a great improvement in aviation safety if we could similarly curtail our highly prized “freedom to do dumb things” and leverage a new aviation safety norm.

We all have seen other pilots do amazingly stupid things in planes (as we also have certainly done some dumb things ourselves). When someone hurts or kills themselves in a plane, it often is not a “surprise” but an “inevitable result” sometimes after years of drifting into increasingly unsafe practices. Though we in aviation all have a wonderful respect for personal freedom and the privacy,  it often prevents us from intervening and saying something even when safety is clearly compromised and the results are predictable and preventable. I highly prize and defend personal freedom, as you probably do, but I think here it is time to make a change in what is “acceptable.” We all have the potential to make bad decisions and should appreciate a “nudge” toward safety. Even the famous aerobatic performer Sean Tucker publicly shares how Bob Hoover approached him after watching one of his early airshows, put an arm around him and advised a little more safety margin in his routine. Sean says this was a necessary and ultimately welcome intervention that later saved his life after an unexpected mechanical difficulty.

PilotTemptationSo if you see a clearly unsafe action, I would ask you intervene and compassionately suggest a safer course of action. How about we tell our fellow aviator (in a careful, gentle way) we would like to have them around as a friend and point out  that their current trajectory is not conducive to survival. I believe friends should not allow friends to do unsafe things in aircraft…we can all can benefit from this caring intervention. We can create a safety culture and watch each others’ backs (See “Brother’s Keeper” in Air Facts)

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 10.32.37 PMAnd better yet, if you are proactively safety minded, I would encourage you to arrange a group of like-minded friends to voluntarily join in a “safety net.” This prearranged group of pilots who empower their buddies to oversee their operations to assure safer operations and “no bad days”. In Part 135 charter flying, nothing moves without the sign-off from the “director of operations.” This required oversight and additional set of eyes assures that all the pieces are in place and we have managed all the risks before dispatch. The amazing safety record of charter flying is the enviable result of this oversight. Of course, for GA we certainly do not need this level of regulation and formality. But what if you have an agreed group of flying friends who are available to cross check each other. If an operation is edgy you call for a second opinion (or perhaps a co-pilot to help) and mitigate the risk. Create your own “safety culture.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 10.27.31 PMIf we build voluntary safety nets to proactively address risk and empower our fellow aviators to cross-check and “nudge” fellow aviators toward safer operations, I think we can move the needle on aviation safety. Freedom is precious, but too much “freedom” (as in the freedom to hurt or kill yourself in a plane) is not worthy of protecting (at least in my opinion). Our industry suffers a continuous black eye from the very public loss of pilots and innocent lives in repeatable, predictable accidents. As a flight school operator I hear from too many in the door how unsafe “little planes” are. We can fix this!

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Get Ready! New FAA Knowledge Tests June 13th

The new ACS Testing Standard Is Here!

This is an urgent notice to all pilots currently in training to complete your knowledge test soon.  On Jun 13th the new ACS (Airman Certification Standard) knowledge tests go live on the computer testing sites for private, commercial and instructor level certificates. If you have trained with the old knowledge testing bank of questions, you should try to complete your FAA knowledge examination before that date! The new questions will be entirely unique and will also not be available before the test to study (or memorize).

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Ultimately, we all know this is the correct method of testing true understanding of a subject at the correlative level. Ideally, you should know the subject matter in it’s entirety and the questions should accurately reflect your understanding with a grade point reference. The pilot training process was broken and that is what the ACS is designed to repair.

Not only was the historic rote memorization game a broken system of evaluation, the material it tested was hopelessly outdated. There will be no more non-movable-card ADF questions and more focus on GPS and relevant information. The FAA has provided a list of now deleted subject areas here. Moving forward you will have to know your material thoroughly to test well, memorization at a rote level will not be available.

NewACSTestQuestionsThere is whole pilot test prep industry built around the current questions and the preparation of pilot test applicants.  This will be in turmoil until the new testing system becomes a known challenge. The FAA provides sample test questions on their ACS website and the private test sample is here. Best of luck!

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile fun ($66 off annually on your ForeFlight subscription anyone?)


Important Decision Making Skills!

Thanks to author Parvez Dara, SAFE Treasurer, Master CFI and ATP-rated pilot.

Consider this logic; “I think therefore I am.” Rene Descartes was the father of those words and yet everything we do seems to come from this simple phrase. Our thoughts become actions and then those become habits and they eventually develop our character.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.34.32 PMSo let us look at it in matters of aviation safety. Two pilots from the same household develop differing characteristics of behavior. One is judicious in thought and action, careful in planning and argues within himself all observable points of view with an eye towards flexibility due to changing environments, thus creating various scenarios and plans of action. The other pilot is laissez faire. He gets up, looks out the window at the sun peaking though the clouds and heads to the airport. He is our “kick the tire and light the fire, barnstormer.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.34.04 PMThe logic of decision making is based primarily on information. Asymmetry of information is the main reason for our first pilot to have deliberation over multiple plans of action. He deals with the Boolean logic of “If this then that.” The barnstormer cares not a wit about information per se. He believes he is the epitome of an aviator and the sky is his oyster. So to each, thought is his own way.

Both these pilots are borne of the discovery and justification process. The discovery of biases and the justification to do things. The careful pilot has turned information into knowledge and understanding, while the barnstormer is, shall we say more about his own fully developed sense of “greatness,” then any sense of reality.

While the former takes in all the available bits of data and compiles them into a cohesive sense of the environment, both past and future, the latter has built within himself the fire-walls of confidence rich in confirmatory bias.

Ah I am glad you asked about confirmatory bias. Basically if you do something repetitively and it works, you consider that as a successful and repeatable enterprise. Not withstanding Taleb’s “Black Swan” effect the barnstormer can go on for a finite period of time with that bias lingering within him, until one day the ailerons fly off the hinges. An example would be a pilot who scud runs. As he continues to press on while the cloud ceiling lowers the boom and confirmatory bias continues to ride the wave, until one day the pilot mangles himself on a cell tower or becomes a statistic of a CFIT (obscured mountain). This happens quite a few times a year unfortunately. Justification of actions are a human mechanism steeped in hubris and confirmed through the passage of time by similar acts of carelessness. Its like the teenager who after watching a video of an expert skateboarding champion decides he can go down the rails on flat concrete surface, only to break some young bones in the process, trying to up the ante down a steep staircase.

On the other hand the careful pilot looks at the weather briefing diligently, has acquired the instrument rating, is always instrument proficient and even then takes into consideration the weaknesses of his own skills with “what if scenarios.”

How do we make decisions?

Carefully with as many pieces of information as are available!


Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow has explored the idea that we have two internal systems in our brain that are often in conflict during the decision making process. System 1 is a knee-jerk type, quick on the pedal to the metal with little reverence for the condition of the equipment or the environment. System 2 is a more careful, slow, methodical and judiciously employed consideration of all available pieces of information that go in to making a decision.

While System 1 is more of the emergent nature that triggers the frontal lobe of the brain into quick-firing of electrical stimuli, System 2 is the careful process that takes into account from the temporal, visual, auditory and parietal lobes of the brain before committing the fire from the frontal lobe. So in essence with deliberate care.

Which is correct?

If you have to ask that question as a pilot then, I suggest, you take some classes to govern your impulsive, hazardous attitude.

The old story about that, “there are no old, bold pilots!” is a truism. There are only the methodical careful ones that define the risks, mitigate as many known hazards as possible and only then undertake an action.

Conquering space did not happen because someone decided to tie a rocket on their back and lit the fuse. It happened because of hundreds of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, physicists and a few brave astronauts took on the arduous task of understanding space.

Pilots are not all pioneers in space. Most of us are just pilots. There are a few aviators among us, not mere technicians in flight, who understand completely each motion as they are strapped into the seats of an aircraft flying at many hundreds of miles per hour across space.

Understanding natural science and the design of science that are created to embark through that nature is as important as knowing when to apply the force on the rudder to prevent a slip and when to create a slip in flight.

Decisions are made continuously in life. We decide what to buy or sell, to go to a movie or read a book, to cook a meal or dine out. All these decisions have a precedent of understanding and need to fulfill. Similarly flying has a precedent and need. The need however must be met with an equal tincture of understanding of the surrounding space and its vagaries.

All flights are possibilities and as they proceed in space and time, they become probabilities and then are added to the ledger of understanding based on the information gleaned from those flights after they become certainties. These flights then become the justification for future ones. It is equally easy to fall into the trap of hubris as it is into the comforts of a carefully crafted methodology. Therefore it is important to learn about good habits from others and discern about bad habits. Accident cases abound in the aviation literature, most (80%+) point to the pilot actions as the cause of aircraft accidents. One would even consider the number higher. But then I digress.

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How do we avoid falling into the Kahneman’s System 1, knee-jerk, barnstorming trap?

  1. Develop good safe habits through practice.
  2. Employ careful and methodical instructors to give skill and sound procedures.
  3. Create a log of all flights outside of those in the logbook, detailing each flight and reflecting on errors for future correction.
  4. Critique every flight and what was learned from each.
  5. Gently point out to other’s bad habits (you might save their lives one day).
  6. Rash car drivers make bad pilots.
  7. Egocentric machoism is dangerous to a pilot’s health.
  8. Keep learning. Get all that aviation certification has to offer. Get an instrument rating if you are a private pilot, a commercial ticket and go all the way to the Airline Transport rating. Then consider sea pilot rating, Soaring, Upset training, etc.. All these fill your bag of tricks when one day, you might need them. Never stop learning!
  9. Always emulate good behavior.
  10. Do not drink and fly (Consider more than 8 hours from bottle to throttle, because you as pilot might be a slow metabolizer of alcohol).
  11. Consider the FAA’s IMSAFE (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue and Eating) before each flight.
  12. Have fun, fly safe…then you live to fly another day (the important part!)

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile fun ($66 off annually on your ForeFlight subscription anyone?)

Sign The Aviation Professionalism Pledge!

Please commit to an attitude of aviation safety by taking Tony Kern’s challenge and signing his Aviation Professionalism Pledge. No matter what area or level of aviation you are involved with; piloting an Aeronca 7AC or a Gulfstream G4, maintenance, dispatch or controlling aircraft, please join us and sign this pledge. We need to create an industry awareness that professionalism at every level matters! By handling your aviation duties in a professional, disciplined manner you will enhance your safety and greatly benefit our whole industry! Signing and posting your commitment (an attractive pdf certificate) you will help spread this message and push this vital issue into daily awareness. Safety requires discipline and daily commitment to excellence from all of us.

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Dr. Tony Kern is an very compelling author that any committed pilot will appreciate reading. His Flight Discipline and Rogue Pilot and  are already classics.

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He runs a private consulting firm Convergent Performance that provides training and products to enhance aviation safety and increase pilot professionalism. A sample of his Pilot Reliability Certification training (very good and FREE) is available here:

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 1.06.09 PM“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun.

Addressing I-LOC: More Training?

Author Randall Brooks is a SAFE member with Aviation Performance Solutions and President of the Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Association (UPRTA)


I was talking with another pilot regarding the general state of airmanship in the piloting profession. It brought to mind the distinction between the pilots we think we are, versus the skills we actually possess.

Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) clearly sits on the top rung on the ladder when it comes to fatal accident causes. Across the board in airline, corporate, and general aviation, more people die from pilots losing control of an aircraft in flight than from any other single cause. Yet LOC-I remains a relatively invisible threat that most pilots do not appreciate.

A large international corporation that comes to Aviation Performance Solutions for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) recently evaluated the safety hazards affecting its flight operation. One executive questioned the expense of UPRT under the assumption that mid-air collisions posed a greater threat. This company’s flight operations involve hundreds of aircraft worldwide and had experienced two mid-airs in the previous year. As harrowing as a mid-air collision is, there had been no fatalities associated with these two. However, during the same period, the organization experienced five fatalities due to LOC-I.

The problem is that unlike the persistent presence of the mid-air threat, the rare yet catastrophic nature of LOC-I means that it may never be appreciated until it suddenly appears in the form of a fatal upset accident. Why is this?

The Small Aerodynamic World We Live In!
The Small Aerodynamic World We Live In!

One reason is we are highly unlikely to lose control in the region of the flight envelope in which we normally fly. Proficiency within the normal flight regime gives no hint at what lies beyond the boundaries of our everyday operations. But in those regions beyond the threshold of an in-flight airplane upset, situations can escalate amazingly quickly into aerodynamic regions and behaviors that are not at all common to flight within the normal envelope. These situations require quick responses, but to the pilot unfamiliar with the all-attitude/all-envelope domain, reactions will become slower rather than faster. The brain is called upon to process confusing information in an unfamiliar environment. Accident statistics provide evidence of this cognitive impairment that can accompany a LOC-I accident.

This author participated in a study that was published through the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2012. Titled “Unexpected Pilot Performance Contributing to Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I)”, the analysis focused on fatal airline LOC-I accidents worldwide from 2001to 2010. Among the four factors evaluated was whether or not the pilots acted in a reliable and predictable manner when confronted with an unexpected airplane upset event.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 7.22.14 AMIn a startling finding, all 16 accidents for which data was available revealed that the pilots reacted in a way contrary to how common training practices should have prepared them to react. This does not indicate a few pilots with weak skill sets. Rather, it suggests a systemic deficiency in the way today’s training prepares pilots to react to unanticipated airplane upsets.

It is important to note that the knowledge, skills, and abilities of pilots in the normal operating envelope are no indicator of success in safely or effectively navigating the unfamiliarity of an airplane upset event.

Because there is little time or opportunity for creative thought beyond a certain threshold of upset escalation, the only way to mitigate this rare but potentially catastrophic situation is through pre-emptive, comprehensive UPRT. This is why the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is calling for the amendment of pilot licensing standards to include on-aircraft UPRT for all pilots, worldwide, prior to Commercial Licensing. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is fast-tracking this proposal and hopes to have a requirement for UPRT in place next year.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 7.22.41 AMWhen implemented in the future, the requirement for universal UPRT prior to receiving a Commercial Pilot certificate will ensure that in the face of an airplane upset event all pilots should possess the skills needed to execute recovery when the threshold for prevention has been exceeded.

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun.

KISS, and Tell – Avoiding LOC Can Be Simple

From our magazine: Written by the amazing Jim Alsip, MCFI and tail wheel specialist in Florida.

slip-skid-indicator-bylineLoss of Control (LOC) has been all too common in recent years, and is currently the leading cause of deadly accidents. I am pleased that the major aviation magazines are addressing the subject in articles and comment; the FAA is concerned; and I am especially encouraged that the membership of SAFE is showing leadership with this issue.

At the same time, I am frustrated that the resulting commentary is showing the all too common signature of “group think.” For example, the current FAA paper on LOC mentions almost every aspect of the pilot condition. It seems everything contributes to LOC. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive cause, so the pundits are short on direct and effective solutions. It seems to me that discussion of the fundamentals is blatantly omitted from the conversation. What I do not see is the big KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle showing up in current pontifications about LOC.

Can we all agree that fundamentals, by definition, always apply? Can we also agree that in an emergency, pilots fly like they trained. They respond in accordance with habits? Those habits can be good or bad. In an emergency, the way a pilot responds is either correctly done, or improperly done.

You might say the fundamentals of flying an airplane are not simple. That’s a big subject, and someone could write a book on it (and I did — Artistry of the Great Flyer – A Pilot’s Guide to Stick and Rudder and Managing Emergency Maneuvers). Still, the fundamentals as they apply to LOC are not complex. I’ll bullet point my arguments:

  • In the discussion of LOC, it is implied that the pilot is maneuvering, frequently at low altitude. Loss of control typically involves stall-and-spin incidents.
  • To avoid LOC, a true flyer (as opposed to just a “pilot”) need master only two fundamental dos and don’ts: do control yaw; and do not stall.
  • I suggest too many student pilots are not learning to be flyers; in that they are not learning the fundamentals. Pilots who did learn might have forgotten and/or developed bad habits that negate fundamental skills.
  • Every student pilot and every current certificated pilot should know how to recognize and recover from accelerated stalls. They should practice accelerated stalls frequently.
  • Student pilots must learn to recognize and control yaw. Essential to this task is correctly using the sight picture for attitude awareness. I continue to be amazed at how “good pilots” do not understand how the sight picture can be used for attitude information. Maybe we should return to yesteryear and re-name the attitude indicator an Artificial Horizon.

Teaching the fundamentals to student pilots is essential to keep them safe throughout their flying careers, but to reduce LOC accidents among existing pilots, we need to help them build and retain good habits – that means practice. I suggest that simply teaching pilots to properly turn an airplane is one solution to saving lives lost to LOC. Too many instructors teach only shallow bank angle and constant-rate change of direction maneuvers. When you repeatedly practice maneuvers incorrectly, you become proficient at a bad habit.

And there is one maneuver that encompasses all the fundamental aspects of flying an airplane. If only we would teach all pilots to learn — and practice — proper turns, like this:

  • Use rudder and aileron together. Teach use of cadence to develop that skill – say aloud “on it – off it” as you use rudder and aileron together to establish desired bank angle. Proficient pilots will be comfortable with fast roll rates (lots of aileron).
  • Elevator should be neutral when inputting aileron. Premature application of back elevator pressure is a “killer” bad habit. I have flown with way too many pilots who always “pull’’ as they roll.
  • During a level turn, once established in the bank, aileron and rudder become neutral. Then use elevator if needed, to control loss of lift. This is another area of misunderstand among pilots. Too many pilots never learn that sometimes (often?), the need for up elevator is a result of an uncoordinated roll.
  • Release any elevator back pressure before rolling out of a turn with “top rudder” and aileron.

Do you get the connection? A proper turn, recovery from an upset, recognition and recovery from a spin. If pilots know the fundamentals and develop good habits in executing turns, their skill intuitively avoids LOC. And should they succumb to LOC (for example; upset from wake turbulence) intuitive control inputs from the acquired skill will direct the airplane to an immediate and safe recovery.

If the FAA and their associates in academia are serious about reducing LOC accidents, they can easily and quickly establish standards that require students to be “flyers” before they train to be pilots. Back in the day, that concept was called basic training.

Keep it simple, stupid – control yaw and don’t stall.

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