CFI Pro; Teaching PIC With “Incremental Mastery”

I recently participated in a webinar with Russ Still and Nate Tennant from Gold Seal Ground Schools focusing on preparation for check rides, specifically the easier “low hanging fruit.” In the overwhelming push to prepare for a test, applicants often miss the simplest things. This webinar was great fun plus an opportunity to share valuable resources with our membership and the general public.  We will have more livestream videos coming for you in the near future. During these livestream events send your questions and input: #askgoldseal

Scenarios are Essential

Since we can’t physically transport an applicant to all the places and conditions they will encounter in their future piloting experience, during training (and testing) we have to simulate experiences with scenarios. Scenarios are a critical tool that you must train with and expect to see continuously during every evaluation. Because when a flight test is complete, one thing we have to absolutely *know* for sure; this pilot can handle or at least figure out all these situations. Also that our future pilot will have enough judgment, knowledge and integrity to know their limits and say “no” until they acquire more experience to handle advanced situations. We probably only train and test probably a minor percentage of what you will ultimately experience as a pilot. But unfortunately every failure in the real world will be an aircraft accident. In testing, the trick is extrapolating from a very small time and distance sample to all possible future flight challenges (in a couple hours).

Teaching PIC a Step at a Time…

A critical pilot skill for every flight (and pilot evaluation) is demonstrating “pilot in command” authority. A pilot flying absolutely has to “own it” in a very literal sense. If an applicant on a test is continually unsure and timidly asking permission for every operation, they have not adequately internalized this important quality. They are still tied to the apron strings of their CFI. How to foster this transformation from “student” to “person in charge” in training is difficult and requires “incremental mastery;” You cannot will this into being and it will not happen in a day.

To build “pilot in command authority” in students during my teaching, I continuously hand over each proficiently demonstrated operation to the student. As soon as they have a solid command of take-off, climb and turn, these areas are delegated entirely to their control. They will “solo to the practice area” (with no help) by lesson 3.  I make this very clear in the briefing and in the cockpit; all decisions and aircraft control are entirely their responsibility! In this way the student essentially takes over complete authority for the aircraft in a series of incremental steps. This  gives a huge motivational boost to your student throughout training; they see and feel the progress. And when the crosswind is too much or an operation is in question, I rely on the student’s judgment to say so and ask for assistance; we all need to learn our limits. Once mastery in normal operations is assured it is obviously essential to challenge our students with many creative “abnormals and emergencies” (more on the sadistic CFI later 🙂

Unfortunately, when I ran a flight school I discovered most CFIs subconsciously teach dependence on the “sage in the right seat.” Teaching the “student” to rely and depend too much on the CFI is a big mistake that will forever cripple the future pilot. Much like parenting, it is essential in flight training to continuously foster independence and allow small mistakes for clients to figure out and overcome on their own (or with minor guidance). In this manner they will be come confident masters of their aviation world. Too much micro-managing and help by the CFI results in a timid and dependent pilot. The old saw of “teaching them to fish” and not just supplying dinner applies here. Dependency is very clear during a flight test and your student will probably not be a successful candidate that day. And any mistakes during initial training are incredibly durable and difficult to overcome. Get it right in those first 50 hours!

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!

 

Managing Risk: “Cleared For Take-Off!”

By Steve Rossiter, an ATP/CFII in both helicopters and fixed wing. After flying two tours in Vietnam he served two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot (one in helicopters and one in airplanes). Steve has been a CFI and professional pilot for over 50 years.

I live on a hill overlooking the airport in Missoula, Montana (KMSO), so I have an opportunity daily to see airplanes taking off and landing. It has always been interesting to me that so many pilots choose to make intersection takeoffs instead of using the full length of the runway. Of course, at Missoula there is plenty of runway in both directions for most general aviation airplanes to takeoff. But is it a good idea to only use half the runway? We each have our own opinion on this question. However, I’m taking this opportunity to discuss my position.

When I’ve talked to pilots about intersection departures, not just in Missoula, I hear all sorts of rationales: It’s faster. It costs less to taxi the shorter distance. It’s not unsafe. It’s not illegal. I operate from shorter runways all the time. All of these comments are absolutely true. So, why the discussion then?

Having been a professional pilot for 52 years, a certificated flight instructor for 50 years, and a graduate of the USC Aviation Safety Management and Accident Investigation Program, I’ve sat around many airports “hangar flying” with lots of pilots, most of whom were professional pilots, and the consensus has been that, as a rule, intersection departures are not considered the best idea. Say what?

My main concern is safety. The fact is that it is not as safe to depart from an intersection as it is to depart using the full length of the runway. The operative term here is as safe. Consider this situation:

You accept a departure clearance from Taxiway Golf on runway 29 at KMSO. From Taxiway Golf you have 3,950 feet of runway available, more than enough runway for your airplane. When you get about 3,000 feet down the runway (either flying or still rolling on the ground), you suddenly experience a problem and need to be back on the ground and stopped as fast as possible. Let’s say that you are extremely proficient and you are able to get your airplane down and stopped, only overrunning the end of the runway by a few hundred feet. Oh, yeah, and you also ran through the first couple of layers of approach lights. Or you landed in the rolling hills west of the airport or in the grain field east of the airport.

If you’d had the same emergency situation using the full length of the runway, it would likely have been a non-event. It is unquestionably safer to depart from the beginning of the runway than it is to make an intersection departure. You will never need the extra distance of the full length of the runway until you need the full length of the runway. Is your crystal ball good enough to know the difference?   Mine isn’t.

A friend of mine’s crystal ball was not good enough either. He and another friend made an intersection departure in an airplane they had just purchased. About 400 feet in the air, they lost power. With no more runway ahead of them, the pilot attempted to turn back toward the airport. They ended up hitting a power line, a tree, and a fence before coming to a full stop in someone’s backyard. Although the airplane was destroyed and there was some damage on the ground, both pilot and passenger walked away from the accident site.

When the aircraft first lost power, how much do you think that pilot would have paid to have all the unused runway behind him back? Do you think he has thought about his decision to make an intersection takeoff since the accident? From the starting point at full length on a 9,500 foot runway, there still would have been runway in front of him or at least relatively flat ground. Do you think a pilot who has had such an experience might rethink the concept of full length departures as opposed to intersection takeoffs? Most important, will you learn from this pilot’s unhappy experience?”

Please remember that there is nothing more useless to a pilot than the runway behind him, the air above him, and the fuel left in the fuel truck.

I’ll always opt for the full length of the runway for takeoff except on the rare occasion when air traffic control requests the use of an intersection. In those cases, I am aware of and accept the higher level of risk associated with complying with their request. Whenever you make the choice to make an intersection takeoff, please acknowledge to yourself that you are accepting a higher than necessary level of risk and ask yourself if it is worth it.


Steve Rossiter is a Lifetime Member of SAFE. He started his flying career as an Army Aviator with two tours in Vietnam and two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot one in helicopters and one in airplanes. After his military service, he worked as a law enforcement pilot, an airtanker pilot, a helicopter firefighting pilot, an air taxi pilot, a helicopter external load pilot, a check pilot for the Department of Interior and US Forest Service, and prior to retirement, served as the National Aviation Safety Manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Steve holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate for both Airplanes and Helicopters and has several type ratings, Steve is also an Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor and held CFII Airplane and Helicopter until 2014. He is currently President of EAA Chapter 517, Inc., and Vice-President of Five Valleys Hangar of the Montana Pilots Association.


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!