Slow Down, Add Oversight (FRAT), For Safety!

We have highlighted many amazing technological tools available to pilots in recent blog articles (and the significant savings available to SAFE members). These advances in technology for efficient planning are continually amazing but also occasionally overwhelming. By correctly using a familiar app, several clicks can plan a flight, incorporate the wind and weather, suggest alternates while analyzing the most efficient altitudes and also file the plan (in less than five minutes!) All this can occur before the higher levels of human risk planning have even been engaged;  It is possible to be off and flying before the “human risk processor” has geared up and asked “is this a safe flight?” The speed and convenience of all this wonderful techno-wizardry are exactly the problem.

slowdownTo be safe, it is essential to slow down this process and ask honest questions before every flight; Have you, as a pilot, actually engaged all this data on a personal level? Is “all available information” in your head or merely downloaded on the iPad? (did you *read* the NOTAMS?) Do you know how to operate your app fluidly? (see ForeFlight Power User) Finally, have you incorporated your personal mission parameters and are *you* mission qualified (e.g. hard IFR at night) to fly this flight?  Once you have processed the data personally it is essential to objectively make a safe “go, no-go” decision. Being honest and accurate (and avoiding the emotional desires) is the difficult part.

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-11-47-19-amIn part 135 charter flying, we have extensive Standard Operating Procedures, op-specs and levels of oversight from the Director of Operations on down to curate every significant pilot decision. I believe this is the reason professional flying is significantly safer than recreational flying. Professional pilots are not allowed to “just go flying.” We always have a second (or third) set of eyes on every important decision asking “does this really make sense?” There is a price for that amazing freedom we enjoy when flying for fun. If you want to make *your* flying safer you need to add in an oversight layer to your aviation decisions.

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-10-58-48-amIf you are facing a significant “close call/on the edge” decision, I highly recommend running it by an experienced flying buddy or CFI. Think of this like the PADI SCUBA initiative, where you always have a “buddy” check your equipment, monitor your decisions and make sure you are “thinking straight” to assure operational safety. Diving is a similar fun and exciting recreational activity with real physical danger if risks are not carefully analyzed. Lacking this you can employ one of the new FRAT apps to objectively analyze the risk factors. Still in final development is the FAAST Flight Risk Analysis Tool (or “FRAT”). This incorporates your personal level of proficiency and asks the hard questions about your abilities (just like my boss in charter)

The AOPA FRAT is fully functional and available here. This comes in two formats; quick check and detailed evaluation. AOPA has great media on risk management;  Click here for a great interactive program on personal risk management using modern technology. A second opinion can help you be safer and may just save your life when emotional “mission mentality” (get ‘er done) is overriding good sense!

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE 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. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Debrief Digitally (Like the Pros) With CloudAhoy!

flightsafetysimsProfessional part 121 (airline) and 135 (charter) pilots are required to train and pass a flight check every 6 months to retain their flight privileges. This usually is accomplished in full motion simulators at a professional training center like Flight Safety. This is an intense, high-stakes experience for every pilot and covers all normal and emergency operations critical to flight safety. Several short, but intense, sessions cover normal operations which morph into emergency descents and depressurization; it can be a long, challenging day in the box.

digitaldebriefThe most useful part of this fully immersive experience (at least for me) is the digital debrief that follows every sim session. This immediate playback composites full GPS map track, cockpit video and control activation in one program that can be analyzed in detail after each flight. The playback provides the opportunity to sit down calmly after each sim session to both understand and correct issues that occurred during the session. This replay also provides an absolutely complete and honest reliving of the experience; an opportunity to see your strengths and weaknesses for future improvement and safety. Digital debrief is a flight training force multiplier!

Historically this level of technological magic was only available at the big sim centers like Flight Safety due to complexity and expense. Now, thanks to CloudAhoy, every General Aviation CFI and flight school can access this amazing set of digital tools. The very newest version of Cloud Ahoy, with many new features, is being released Monday, February 13th (with a significant savings for all SAFE members).

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-11-24-21-amGive this amazing program a try (free test flight!) and discover the value of calmly debriefing after each flight experience. This complete replay, in a nonthreatening environment, creates a much better understanding and easily doubles the efficiency of every flight lesson. In addition to analyzing and teaching during playback, you will discover Cloud Ahoy also motivates and inspires students by validating their improvement. For DPEs and during stage checks, CloudAhoy can provide a verifiable digital record of exact performance for future records.

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE 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. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

 

Effective CFI; Attitude Control is Aircraft Control

Thank-you Charles McDougal, CFI (and former DPE) for these wonderful ideas and for helping us all become better CFIs. A good CFI is always learning!

When I passed my CFI check ride, I felt the full weight of my accomplishment. And after a few weeks of feeling brand new at it, I settled down and remember feeling that I was highly competent. In some ways, this was true; I was safe, kind, and really enjoyed working with students. But other aspects of teaching flight revealed themselves to me a bit later. And frankly, the learning has never stopped. Fifteen years of sitting in the right seat during practical tests as a DPE and trying to help students and instructors find better ways to teach and to learn had a helpful impact also. I hope that sharing some of what I have learned can help other new instructors to teach more effectively so that their students can learn more efficiently and with fewer difficulties.

The first thing I would ask flight instructors to do is to reexamine their concept of aircraft control. The age-old hangar discussion about pitch-for-air speed/power-for-altitude, does more to obscure a true concept of control than anything I know, and never ends. So, I will not comment further on those choices. Instead, I want to talk about this concept; Attitude Control is Aircraft Control.

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Now I know we can prove that control can be achieved merely through power adjustment, but this does not make doing so a valid control paradigm. Just as flying the airplane with the trim(s) does not make this a correct technique, even though it can work. In aviation, it is often the case that one thing is true, and instead of the other thing being false, it is also true. It is also possible to learn how to control an airplane in a way that is not correct, just plain wrong, and to still achieve a tolerable level of success. So, before we start talking about teaching an attitude based control concept and its execution in the airplane, we should make sure that this is the way we are flying and thinking when we ourselves are at the controls.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-9-43-22-amIn a nutshell; The way we control an airplane in flight is to use the flight controls to change or maintain the aircraft attitude, while ensuring sufficient thrust for the altitude selected and the airspeed desired for the current configuration and flight phase. This may sound overly simplistic, but do me a favor; examine every action a pilot makes after adding power for takeoff. First, we have right rudder to counter left turning tendencies and aileron to oppose cross wind forces – This is to maintain the longitudinal axis with the runway centerline and keep the wings level; maintaining an attitude. When we rotate, we raise the nose to a climb pitch attitude and fine tune the rudder pressure to stay coordinated, or with the longitudinal axis aligned with our flight path. With the first turn we roll the airplane, changing its attitude to create a horizontal component of lift, and a turn. Etc., etc., etc.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-9-45-10-amOn final approach, we set an estimated power setting and fly pitch for our descent to the runway. Too fast or too high, we adjust power and then go back to flying pitch, perhaps quite often or even continuously. Don’t believe me? How does a coupled autopilot system fly an ILS approach? It uses the flight controls to change or maintain the attitude of the airplane while the auto throttles, (or the pilot) adjusts power for airspeed.

So please examine the way you fly and the way you think about your flying. Everything we do is changing or maintaining attitude, make sure the student understands that this is what he or she is really doing. Unintentional stall base to final? Power is nice to have, but what fixes the problem is lowering the pitch attitude that supports a flyable angle of attack, rudder to keep the empennage behind you! Attitude Control is Aircraft Control!

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The concept that attitude control is what we are doing in the airplane at-all-times, notwithstanding the need for power changes, must be reviewed on every preflight briefing and reinforced during every flight lesson, at least pre-solo. Here are some ways to implement attitude flying concepts, as well as a few other tips that are guaranteed to make your instruction more effective.

  • Make sure you are teaching an attitude based control paradigm from the very first lesson, using outside visual references exclusively for control reference (the way the airplane flying handbook says), instrumentation only to confirm proper airspeed, heading, altitude, and power setting. We call this; Flying Outside, Checking Inside, versus: Flying Inside, Checking Outside. There is a huge difference!
  • For everything you are going to tell the student to do, develop commands that begin with; “OK, look outside and……”. NOT; “look at the ____ instrument and ….”. Maneuver first by outside reference, check the applicable parameter briefly to confirm efficacy of attitude and power setting.
  • When you are demonstrating a maneuver, concentrate on getting the student to look at the reference that indeed you are looking at (and this should be outside the airplane), and what you are doing to modify the picture. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate – you are not hogging the controls. Students need to emulate good examples of aircraft control.
  • NEVER be on the controls at the same time as your student. Let her fly, or transfer control and you fly and demonstrate, (or return the aircraft to a safe condition if that is the problem). When two pilots are both on the controls, only one of them has a clue what is going on…….and it’s not the student.
  • Require your student to use the checklist correctly from day one. This means, don’t use it as a read-then-do “cookbook” in flight. When airborne, normal procedures must be memorized; do the item from memory, THEN read the checklist to ensure everything has been accomplished. Other times, preflight, run up, takeoff, landing, emergencies – the checklist may be appropriately implemented either as a “do” or “review then do” list. Be demanding (but kind) enforcing checklist usage. Your student will only develop the ability to integrate the checklist properly if you require it on every flight. Someday this may save a life.
  • Don’t let your student land on the first lesson, or the second lesson, or the third. Probably not the fourth. If you do, you will be giving control commands (rather than the student seeing the need for attitude change and power adjustment), or even worse by “helping” on the controls. Instead, teach the student how to fly the pattern to a Go-Around from 50 feet or so. Then, you take control abeam the numbers (on the second approach) and demonstrate, getting the student’s attention OUTSIDE the airplane at the things you are looking at to fly the pattern and land. After four or five lessons the student will have learned how to execute a safe go around, and due to the law of primacy, will always have this skill available, will have seen multiple demonstrations of good pattern and landing procedures (including your relentless and correct integration of the PRINTED checklist, and will be “ready to learn” when it’s time for them to land.
  • Require your students to show up early, get a formal weather briefing including all elements of a standard briefing, calculate weight and balance manually, and be ready to brief you on the day’s flight lesson. If this doesn’t happen, don’t fly; turn the lesson into a ground session including the importance of preflight preparation.
  • Always require that your student have current charts, AFD, plotter, and flight computer with them on every flight. Turn the G1000 to full dim regularly. Fail the iPad regularly. Do not allow own ship position on the iPad.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-9-51-18-amMany of these tips are orbital, meaning they are peripheral techniques used to implement the core curriculum. The core curriculum is the concept of attitude flying. Any student should be able to respond correctly to this question by his third flight; How does a pilot control an airplane in flight? – By using the flight controls to change or maintain aircraft attitude while ensuring adequate power for the attitude selected!

As always, if any of this seems unfamiliar or extreme, or even substantially different than how you are used to flying and teaching (and thinking), then make sure to experiment with a senior instructor to ensure the safety of both you and your students.

Best wishes for safe and effective teaching!

charlesmcdougal

Charles McDougal started flying in his late 30’s after a 20-year career as a performing musician. Instructing at the flight school where he learned to fly, he eventually became Chief Flight Instructor, supervising the activities of up to 35 CFI’s. In 1999 he was designated as a Pilot Examiner by the FAA. For 15 years Charles approached aviation from three tangents; as a very active DPE, the owner and operator of two Rutan Canard airplanes in which he flew 2000 hours over ten years (and a Mooney M20J after that), and as a corporate pilot and flight department manager for a succession of small business and families.  In 2014, the FAA chose not renew his designation. He has had several technical articles published in AOPA flight training magazine. Currently Mr. McDougal is Chief Pilot for an expanding flight department in San Antonio, TX where he lives with his wife and a number of dogs, and is on sabbatical from teaching.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE 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. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Use Safer (Smarter) Pilot Tools; Always Learning!

ForeFlight, Pilot Workshops Series, Modern Pilot subscription; become a safer (smarter) pilot!

As a flight instructor for many years, I am always amazed at the reluctance of pilots to spend money on proven, beneficial training. This is true in the flight arena but even true for ground training where the relative costs are almost insignificant. A new camera or GPS is easily justified (let’s not talk about all the other pilot bling) but a training course on-line or EFB subscription is often ruled “too expensive” and avoided due to cost! This is one reason SAFE is always pursuing new discount opportunities for our members. The training and courses you see discounted on our website can really help you achieve a greater comfort and safety level in your flying (and these tools are excellent for teaching sessions too). Building knowledge in your non-flying hours is always cheaper than burning avgas! Here are a few ideas and especially for SAFE members…incredible bargains.

Free to everyone, and especially useful for CFIs is our SAFE Toolkit. This app provides every instructor all the FAA required AC 61.65F endorsements and hour requirements for preparing and recommending students for flight tests. (Every DPE will be impressed with your comprehensive and accurate prep work!) And for any pilot, this App also provides amazing mobile weather and flight tracking all in one place.

pilotworkshopsAlso free is the Pilot Workshops series: IFR Focus  This easily-accessible, simple training is just a hint of what is available with a full Pilot Workshops membership (see SAFE discounts below).  The subtle differences in the ILS lighting arrangements on lower than 3 degree ILS glide path now make good sense; further from the runway! The Pilot Workshops training will help make you a true professional and fill in those knowledge gaps that develop with new technology and the erosion of proficiency that is inevitable with the passage of time. To be safe in flight you need to continue to train and pursue excellence. This series of on-line courses and technology tools are super helpful in this mission.

Not free, but worth every penny is the well known ForeFlight App. Though a proven safety tool, I unfortunately see people struggling with less comprehensive and efficient technology (or out dated maps) due to the pricing penalty of new technology. SAFE provides 1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription. This benefit essentially provides ForeFlight users a free SAFE membership (and you can buy a Starbucks with the difference)! There is no reason *not* to have ForeFlight.

And though ForeFlight is very intuitive, I continually discover new and helpful features that good ground training can more easily reveal. SAFE provides a huge discount to ForeFlight Power User created by The Modern Pilot. Eric was ForeFlight employee #1 and the primary “ForeFlight evangelist” for years with the company before creating this educational series for pilots. For only $67 you get a full course and ongoing subscription to The Modern Pilot.

Aerovie is another comprehensive Electronic Flight Bag (and is available free to all SAFE members). When you try this system you will see a different philosophy at work and a robust integration with the actual FAA weather website in a very clever system. The Aerovie enroute weather presentation is amazing. This adds greatly to your view of the changing environment and consequently improves your flight safety.

For SAFE members, Pilot Workshops waives the $199 new member fee and their monthly member fee is reduced to only $19. That is so reasonable that no conscientious pilot could ignore this opportunity. Sportys, ASA and King Schools all offer a 20% discount to SAFE members. As mentioned, ForeFlight offers SAFE members 1/3 off and Aerovie is completely free to members. If you are a CFI you can offer a substantial discount to your students to motivate and encourage their progress. There are many more discounts and promotions on the member discount page. Please get on board by joining SAFE and enjoy these amazing sponsor discounts!
The path for members to these amazing discounts is first log in as a member on the website with your user/password as shown here, then select the sponsor you are seeking to get a discount from:

safediscountsPlease “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE 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. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!