Combat Advice for Pilots (Mario’s Rules)

We do not fly in combat but these are great ideas for every pilot!

I am a sponge for advice from qualified people. In aviation, these “been there, done that” people possess a wealth of knowledge that is usually overlooked in our modern pursuit of the “new and shiny.” The finer points and greater general truths in aviation are subtle and obscure. True learning in our world is an apprenticeship that never ends. So when I present safety seminars and need fresh material, I often solicit “best practices” from these proven aviators. The stories and advice are often amazingly helpful. One such man, a veteran of 125 combat missions over Vietnam (and still flying) shared these three fine rules to apply to your flying for greater safety.

Never assume you know it all, there is always more to learn and in fact, situations continually change so more study is essential. Mario Tomei is an older gentleman who gives knowledge tests for the FAA at our flying club. When some aviator rejoices at barely passing with the minimal 70 points (mensa!) Mario usually sighs quietly and conveys his important counsel; “You proved you know enough to pass, but not enough to fly safely…please go home and study more, you will need this knowledge at some point” And as a pilot examiner I can second that advice. There are some applicants who might scare us a little but by the FAA rules of engagement are entitled to pass (we administer the government’s test). They may skate along the edge of failure for a whole evaluation but also barely tumble over the bar. These people, just like the lowest score in medical school, are “fully qualified” and no will know how marginal their skills might be. Same advice, “for safety, more study and practice is essential.” And to be a safe pilot at any level, we are always studying and learning.

Always rely on standard operating procedures and a checklist. This is especially helpful when the fertilizer hits the fan. When I inquired about this advice, Mario mentioned being inverted in formation in a high performance jet fighter when an engine flamed out. “Disengage the formation, descend below 30,000 ft and attempt a restart.” (I am paraphrasing here but apparently it worked, and he convinced me) How many accidents could be avoided by simple reliance on standard, operating procedures and checklist guidance? A basic humility is required to accept that we are human and consequently subject to mental errors. Most pilots seem uniformly “alpha” and inclined toward over confidence. Only our better nature can control this “inner child” and apply discipline to everyday flying for safety.

Always maintain a sense of wonder at what we accomplish daily as aviators when we defy gravity. A little fear is a good thing. It is essential to always keep your guard up and entertain a little fear (or healthy concern if you prefer) to maintain your vigilance in aviation. The Marine Combat Hunter Program calls this “Operating in the Condition Yellow” for optimal situational awareness. If you perceive no threat there will be no awareness. Applying this precept has saved many lives in all areas where danger lurks. Always entertain the possibility of surprises and failures because nothing about “it worked before” really means it will work this time! “Fat, dumb and happy” is a sure recipe to turn a shiny aluminum plane into future beer cans. Thank you Mario Tomei for all you have taught me. Let’s all fly safe out there!

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!

Trump Proposes Corporate ATC

By any measure the US air traffic control system is the envy of the world for travel efficiency and safety. As GA pilots we enjoy the benefits of this huge managed system. But paying the huge bill for these services becomes a political football every year with congressional squabbles that create continual budgetary uncertainties, sequestration and great inefficiencies for that system. AOPA is a critical voice in the defense of General Aviation pilots in this squabble as is NBNA representing corporate aviation.

Obviously, secure funding of some form is needed to create long-term stability, efficiency and progress for the current ATC system. Additionally, though financially bloated and occasionally controversial, the FAA’s multi-year modernization program called NextGen, (the upgrading from ground-based radar to satellite-based GPS systems) is the obvious next step in air traffic control. Whether we want the airlines running our ATC as a private corporation is obviously a question of concern for those of us in the General Aviation arena.

The Trump proposal is part of a $1.2 trillion discretionary budget blueprint for the year starting Oct. 1 to “Make America Great Again.” The proposal would have the Transportation Department start moving controllers “to an independent, non-governmental organization” claiming the move would “make the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety.”

These proposals are nothing new in Washington. Last year President Obama proposed the same thing and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed legislation that would have privatized air traffic control and imposed user fees on Part 135 charter operations based outside Alaska and Hawaii. This legislation was supported by the major airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association but failed to make it to the floor and died amidst intense bipartisan criticism.

This year however, privatization is a more solid keystone of President Trump’s mission and this adds strength to these proposals to “corporatize” ATC and fund it through user fees. We will see how this plays out in the coming months. I would advise all concerned pilots to be vigilant and active in protecting the rights of general aviation (less than 1% of the electorate) or our future will soon  resemble the European model.

(BTW; these are *my* comments and may or may not represent the official viewpoint of SAFE. Approving every sentence included here would sure slow our ability to stay current with the evolving issues. We appreciate *your* comments below.)

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!

Leveraging Learning Technology in Aviation!

As aviation educators and flight students, we finally can enjoy the amazing new technology that makes learning much more efficient and enjoyable. “Artificial intelligence” or “machine learning” are really not about scary robots taking over our lives. “Intelligent technology” is more accurately the incrementally increasing difficulty that is the heart of every video game. Using this same “learning technology” to your advantage makes your aviation education much more efficient and enjoyable.

To help you pass your instrument knowledge test, the new GoldMethod program learns which aviation questions are most difficult for you in your study and refocus your effort specifically in these problem areas. After you take the first quiz (and reliably miss some questions) all future versions of that same material focus specifically on the areas where you have demonstrated weakness. Easy questions you have mastered disappear as you progress. These technology tools enable more rapid, thorough learning (rather that the usual rote memorization) for FAA tests. Especially with the new ACS integrated knowledge/skill format thorough learning of the knowledge elements is critical.  This proven pedagogical technique, know as “dynamic persistence factor,”  is as old as Aristotle but is now leveraged with on-line teaching technology thanks to Gold Seal (the first company to put a private pilot ground school on the internet).

Not only is the GoldMethod more efficient at improving your knowledge base and recall, it is more motivating and fun, incorporating a social sharing function with badges and a leaderboard. You can have fun competing with your friends as you learn; have you noticed pilots are kind of competitive? Why slog mindlessly through the same knowledge bank questions you already know? GoldMethod optimizes your effort with this new technology and raises the “intellectual resistance level” as you improve.

The IFR intelligence-based software is only $99 and it’s so efficient Gold Seal guarantees your success; they will actually pay for your test if you fail! For members of SAFE you can access this new instrument course for only $29! (and yes our membership is still only $45 a year)  Gold Seal is donating all this money to SAFE during this promotion (group hug!) This is a limited Sun ‘N Fun promotion so jump on it now and turbocharge your aviation learning.

All proceeds from the special SAFE/GoldMethod Promotion go directly to SAFE!
The folks at Gold Seal have made this program available at a deeply discounted price and donate all proceeds to our organization! (Group hug!)

SAFE provides resources for educational excellence and professionalism and Gold Seal’s new GoldMethod perfectly exemplifies these ideals. SAFE CFIs also get a free access to the related FAA Ground School website to create their own personal website and track their students as they progress. Leverage Gold Seal technology for faster and more effective aviation learning.

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!

Can We Achieve “Perfect Safety”?

How we understand and perform aviation safety is largely determined by how we answer this important question; are “zero accidents” actually possible in flying? This answer is also critical for understanding and appreciating the entirely new FAA approach to deviations and accidents demonstrated in their new “Compliance Philosophy” introduced in 2015.

Historically, errors and accidents are understood to be the result of individual or small group human failures. This view assumes people generally make rational choices and that failures (deviations and accidents) happen because of a “broken component/bad actor” in the system and/or an irrational decisions. This viewpoint also criminalizes errors; “find the culprit and punish the offender”. Through retribution we will make the whole industry safer by incrementally purging each “bad actor”, like catching pests. With enough vigilance and effort this should result in a perfectly safe, zero accident environment.

However, a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to safety called “just culture” has recently evolved and is still not widely understood or embraced. “Just culture” was first mentioned by James Reason and fully articulated and developed by Sidney Dekker (who wrote this book). The “just culture” theory maintains that only a small number of human errors are deliberately caused. More typically, deviations are caused by the highly complex nature of our aviation system and the rapidly changing environment. Though each pilot may strive heroically to embrace and maintain a safe operation, the operational environment can lead to “honest errors”.

Through the lens of “just culture”, criminalizing every individual error actually decreases the larger goal of aviation safety by preventing the healthy reporting of deviations which alert and improve the whole system (witness the ASRS reporting system). Balancing safety and accountability is the key challenge to making this worldview succeed. It is inappropriate to claim every single error was a system failure and there is no human culpability. “Just culture” is not blanket amnesty, but rather defines the limits of personal responsibility and acceptable behavior within the system. Learning from our “honest errors” and building a better system are the goals of “just culture.”

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So how does this abstract theorizing impact the life of a modern pilot? Under FAA Compliance Philosophy the (new improved) FAA’s first reaction to a violation or accident will be education or “more training.” Enforcement actions are appropriately reserved for willful violators and rogue pilots. This is a beneficial change to the FAA interpretation and treatment of errors. This “just culture” paradigm increases our ability to troubleshoot and improve our aviation system through honest feedback. And though it’s not possible to  achieve “zero accidents”, we will increase the safety of our system over time through compassionate partnership with our regulators. The recent Jan/Feb issue of FAA Safety Briefing was entirely devoted to this new compliance philosophy. So though the price of our incredible freedom to fly recreationally will always result some accidents we can now work as a team to make our complex aviation system safer.

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!