CFIs Become “Aviation Educators”!

To me, the FAA term “instructor” always seemed too narrowly focused -and limiting- given the depth of the responsibilities we have in transforming people’s lives. “Instructor” sounds more suitable to the steps of a recipe used to bake a cake; do this, this and this and presto-it’s finished! In aviation we are engaging creative and motivated humans at a very high level and transforming lives. Especially now, with the ACS adding the “soft skills” of risk management and judgment into the previously limited PTS “wiggle the stick,” the term “educator” seems much more appropriate for what we do. (and is it any wonder that a “flight instructor” would miss the proven benefits of simulation, briefings and ground instruction?) Hopefully, this more comprehensive title will be chosen for the new FAA ACS for aviation educators due out in June 2019.

The term “instructor” was more harmonious with the ancient FAA book I learned from in the 1980s. We humorously referred to this guidance as “good dog, bad dog” because of it’s narrow vision to “behavioral change” in student pilots. The new FAA manuals are refreshingly modern and comprehensively address the whole human spectrum of learning styles and needs. Thanks in large part to the Pilot Training Reform Symposium and the hard work of many dedicated people, we have evolved and outgrown the limited term “instructor” and become “aviation educators”.

“Education” is a more collaborative process and larger vision, involving the whole human experience where we work together and change entire lives. “Instruction” implies a one-way channel of imparting knowledge in rote steps with an authoritarian structure. As “educators” we embrace as our guidance a much deeper body of professional wisdom involving empathy and compassion. A favorite book of mine that captures this process and inspires excellence in educators is “How People Learn” from the National Academies Press. This book is available FREE as a pdf download or free to read online.  It is so much richer and more comprehensive than our outdated FOI with it’s 100 year old “Laws of Learning.” An additional solid resource is the Harvard Classic “Teaching Smart People How to Learn” By Chris Argyris. We encounter this enigma of highly intelligent, yet difficult learners all the time; crack the code with this book!

As “aviation educators” we are part of a larger and inspiring consortium of professionals. I see too many CFIs limit their professional vision to instructing AOA and a dance card of rote procedures to be copied and mastered. Our ultimate challenge is really connecting with and motivating some endlessly unique learners. We have the difficult mission of inspiring both excellence and lifetime learning in our future pilots. Embrace this challenge and grow from good to great. Fly safe out there (and often).


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! 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!

Great Time @ AOPA Santa Fe!

The AOPA regional fly-ins continue to grow in popularity and quality. The recent show in Santa Fe was exceptional for attendance and also the extensive educational opportuities. The Rusty Pilot Program (now available online) has now returned over 5,000 pilots to the air.

The owner-maintenance shows included Mike Busch, SAFE’s Adrian Eichhorn and Paul New presenting a full morning of great information.  SAFE Board Member Mike Vivion presented a wonderful show on VFR Back-Country Flying. (This will also be available at Carbondale and Gulf Shores).

We added a lot of new members to our organization at the Santa Fe show and met with many of our sponsors. Sporty’s offered a free FIRC to all CFIs joining and the popular 1/3 off ForeFlight discount was attractive to everyone.

We are happy to see SAFE member Stephen Fiegel won the EAA J-3 Cub! Stephen has taught aerobatics and upset training for many years and is a strong advocate of serious stick and rudder proficiency. He is currently working with National Aerobatic Champion Rob Holland in New Hampshire. Find Stephen here: http://www.keystoneaerosports.com

Please make sure you update your endorsements with the new AC 61.65H that was just published. A summary of changes is here (mostly editorial improvements). Changes have already been incorporated into our (FREE) SAFE Toolkit App.

DPE and MCFI Ken Wittekiend is busy revitalizing our CFI mentoring program. Instructors at all levels of expertise are welcome to sign up for a mentor if they are expanding their skills into a new area and would like some helpful advice. The program is accessible to members here.

A new “Educator Excellence” area has just been added to the  app featuring a very usable podcast summary of Daniel Coyle’s excellent book “The Talent Code” (recommended reading for educators in every field). Fly SAFE (and often)!


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! 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!

VFR into IMC – – Execute Your “Parachute Option”!

Thunderstorms and icing get a lot of attention from aviation writers. But surprisingly, simple VFR into IMC is the biggest killer. And of these fatalities, half of the pilots are instrument rated!

Flying into lowering visibiity and ceilings while VFR is obviously a “slow motion accident” and usually avoidable by better pre-briefing. But unfortunately, pilots often both launch-and continue- into worsening weather. For mostly psychological reasons; “mission mentality”, the completion bias, and Newton’s fourth law: “a pilot in motion tends to stay in motion,” we end up in the soup getting lower and scarier. So when you finally realize how trapped you are (and a 180 degree turn is no better) how do you save your life?

The “parachute option”is available for all planes (even if you don’t own a Cirrus). What I am recommending here is merely the precautionary landing while power and marginal visibility is still available. This amazing life-saving option is seldom mentioned or and almost never taught (its not on the pilot test). But executed decisively, it is a demonstration of savvy ADM; the best option given the existing curcumstances.

Consider the benefits for your survival. Continuing into worsening weather is proven to be 90% fatal whereas a precautionary landing has a 96% likelihood of you walking away. Yes, the plane may be damaged (as it also would be with a BRS deployment) but the important part is you and your passengers live. The difficult obstacle to overcome is entirely psychological; accpting the potential sacrifice of an airframe and the stigma of making an error in judgment; get-over-it and live. As when an engine failure occurs, your insurance company owns the plane if you are flying at treetop level. It’s time to act wisely and decisively to save your life, execute your “parachute option”.

The Courage To Stop

When it comes down to the real thing, the pilot has to have the courage to make the decision that continued flight involves too much risk given the fact that there are decent places to land safely. Once we’ve gotten low, in bad visibility, we are down where there are a heck of a lot of towers. We know that scud-running has become so dangerous as to be a last-ditch ploy a pilot tries when out of options, often just before dying. So, we get smart. We spot a field that may be acceptable…

Cirrus initially had tremendous resistance from owners to using their ballistic chute. To succeed in making their chute a viable option Cirrus had to be integrate the BRS into all their flight training operations. Frequent reminders and practice in a simulator overcame the stigma of percived pilot failure “ruining the plane”. Saving lives is always a win! LMK what you think…fly safely (and often).


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! 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!

Weather Wisdom Thursday!

Imagine my surprise on a  recent private pilot flight test when the applicant’s version of “use of available aviation weather resources” was calling a series of AWOS robots along his flight route on his cell phone. (This is wrong on so many levels but my real “surprise” was later  talking with his instructor). We have so many amazing aviation weather tools available to us that the usual problem is selecting a reliable personal system; this poor student was never taught anything; never shown 1800wxBrief or visited the associated website. SAFE clearly has more work to do with FAA certificated educators (the CFI and I also spent time exploring “what a scenario is” and how to use them in aviation training…)

SAFE ran a whole series of on-line webinars with Gold Seal Ground School on maneuvering and loss of control last fall and winter and now we are focusing in on obtaining weather and developing a dynamic weather picture (and teaching these methods). Join us this Thursday, Sept 6th at 8 PM EDT for an FAA WINGS program online.  (This is the FAA registration, the portal show day is HERE)

Who better than Scott Dennstaedt, the amazing CFII and meteorologist (who helped construct the ForeFlight weather brief section), to help us develop and understand this topic? Scott has run national weather seminars for pilots for years and recently launched the WeatherSport App to help pilots obtain better weather information. Scott will be our subject matter expert for Thursday’s show. SAFE members will be very happy to know there is a sizable discount for joining Scott’s system now available on the member savings page!


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! 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!