New “Checkride Ready!™” On The SAFE App.

Download the (free) SAFE Toolkit App!

Every good DPE wants the applicant for a flight test to be successful. Examiners are all long-time flight instructors and are totally invested in the success of the aviation system. Their worst day is when they have to disappoint an eager applicant with bad news (but sometimes “more training” is required). From the other side of the table, it often seems applicants go out of their way to create their own problems or never “got the script.” (See “20 Ways to Fail Your Flight Test“) That is why the SAFE CFI Toolkit App was originally created; to make the testing process easier – providing CFIs and applicants all the necessary endorsements, hour requirements and testing codes. Now “Checkride Ready!™” takes this process a step further aiming directly at the applicant and revealing specific stumbling blocks DPEs mention continuously. Once you learn the “rules of engagement”  your evaluation experience can be much easier (I hesitate to say “even enjoyable?)

True, every applicant hopefully glanced through the ACS a few times, and if they were lucky they had a talented educator ask solid scenario-based questions that got the applicant really thinking (and preparing) like a pilot-in-command. But very simple and avoidable problems can make the whole process difficult (like the common problem of not having your IACRA Login/PW so you can sign the FAA application online?) How about never having ever done (much less practiced) a turning stall (it is in the private pilot ACS). This leads to the unhappy admonition “I guess this will be your first one.” “Checkride Ready!™” prevents these surprises.

Every applicant starts an FAA evaluation with 100% (you are *already* a pilot when you submit the IACRA application and start an evaluation!). All errors (and there will be errors: allowed and expected) are a “mark down” from 100%. Though a 70% is ugly and undesirable, it is still a “pass.” Your DPE is required to emphasize: perfection is not the standard So don’t psych yourself out with self-critical “over-thinking.” Be a confident PIC; you got this!

“Checkride Ready!™” is a new resource from SAFE and it is embedded in the (free) SAFE Toolkit App. This new resource reveals key problem areas seen by DPEs that result in nervousness, aggravation and maybe even an unsuccessful outcome. The new material is broken down by certificate and rating (private and instrument rating are currently complete), and the include the popular VFR and IFR “pink slip” suggestions for improvement. The checklist in the ACS is very thorough (and every applicant should read it). But also available on the ACS website is a pdf for the examiner (and available to applicants) of sample scenario questions for evaluators (DPE) and the structure of the evaluation. Use these resources and make flight testing easier.

Fly safely out there (and often).

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.


Please Be An “Aviation Ambassador!”

Screen Shot 2020-07-18 at 8.37.44 AMAs aviation educators, we are not only the front-line troops that mold all future pilots. We are also the most visible ambassadors for any growth in the aviation community. Some new person is going to show up at your local airport and they will be directed to the flight instructor. And that meeting and experience is our key opportunity to either grow (or squash) someone’s dreams and the future in aviation. Your enthusiasm and opinion matter greatly to how the public views aviation. Pilots are an incredibly small part of our population -less than 1%! The CFI is often the critical influencer and  “point of contact” that opens the door to a world of adventure. Aviation needs more participants to remain a viable industry.

With COVID, the huge regional aviation events like Sun ‘N Fun and Airventure/Oshkosh have been canceled and being delivered virtually. Please spread the word (and this link) to all your friends and contacts and make this next week a widely distributed, exciting event. Please use every social media channel at your disposal to get this event to as big an audience as possible; aviation needs your help! Please do it now – share these links to your FB/Instagram and Twitter accounts.

The training and safety initiative will have a special channel that will be of spcial interest pilots and educators. The Pilot Proficiency Center will be virtualized and delivering training via remote tech talks and training. You can participate online and earn FAA WINGS. You can also fly with a “virtual instructor” on your local simulator with a remote hookup! Please spread this link to your local pilot community:

Another exciting future opportunity for aviation is the impending release of the newest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Thousands of pilots owe their first exposure to aviation through the first release of the first primitive program. The newest, highly acclaimed, version promises intense terrain and force modeling and should bring a whole new generation of eager learners to aviation ready to experience the real thing. Get ready for growth!


Fly safely out there (and often).

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM


Remote CFI – New Opportunities In Aviation

I know what you are thinking. “Will these remote CFI hours count toward my 1500 for the airlines? Not likely, but this new technology provides great opportunities for “remote learners.” The challenge will be balancing the acquisition of basic piloting skills with scenario-based judgment to create an effective learning experiences. And all this is a perfect extension of the original Pilot Proficiency model.

Mainstream GA was introduced to scenarios in 2010 with the Pilot Proficiency Project. This initiative, launched over 10 years ago with the then-brand-new Redbird simulator, built a new awareness and excitement in the aviation industry (and FAA literature – esp. the FAA Aviation News) for a new way of teaching.  At that time, mainstream aviation education had not changed much since the WWII pilot training; based largely on rote repetition and a behavioral model of learning (good dog/bad dog). Suddenly general aviation had TAA aircraft with glass panels displays, GPS  point to point navigation and full-motion simulators; a whole new world.

At the same time as all this new technology arrived,  aviation education was also discovering cognitive psychology and there was a crazy over-emphasis on scenario training and “learner-centered experiential flight training.” Aviation became in some places “fantasy flight training” with every lesson a fun Disney-like adventure; no struggle or work necessary! Training courses and books made *everything* from lesson one into a fun/discovery scenario. Educators were introducing repeated cross-country dual experiences from lesson #1 with the mistaken idea that flight students would acquire fundamental skills through some kind of osmosis. This method failed. Not only did this method often double the cost of a pilot certificate, but savvy educators also discovered a serious lack of fundamental skills in pilots trained with these methods. The Loss of Control-InFlight epidemic is probably partly a result.

Let’s remember what history says about our noble endeavors to deemphasize the basics in hopes of accelerating a student’s development. The Whole Language vs. Phonics reading debacle is a good example. At one time, educators tried to accelerate reading development in young people by forgoing sounding out phonemes, the basic parts of a word (phonics). Instead, they had them decode whole words and phrases (whole language) as they were encountered in the meaningful context of a text. While the intentions were noble, millions of young people failed to learn how to read properly. We can’t expect students to learn efficiently if we fail to emphasize the basic skills first.

Rod Machado

Though scenarios have a very important role to play in later flight training and especially testing, (ACS in 2016) fundamentals still need to be taught with effective drill and repetition to build the basic skills and understanding (see “why Johnny can’t turn“). Just like all motor-skill activities from learning piano to motorcycle racing, a learner has to work on and develop some basic fundamentals through drill and repetition before the more elaborate and complex scenarios have value – learning scales and building implicit knowledge before attempting Mozart. Incremental mastery can blend scenarios with repetitive skill-building to create the most powerful progress.

Technology has amazingly useful applications when deployed by talented, creative educators. Mike McCurdy at CHS Flight School has revisioned the Redbird for use in drill and repetition training for super-efficient early learning. In his primary flight training method, you do not get near an airplane (wasting time and $$) until you have achieved a basic level of proficiency on every maneuver first in a Redbird. His program is the perfect expression of The Talent Code. The Redbird GIFT (Guided Independent Flight Training) program is a similar focus but delivering high-quality remote training directly to the learner in a Redbird. Cloud Ahoy’s “CFI Assistant” provides a creative flight tool that recognizes and rates your live aircraft performance from GPS tracking data. This program will even assign a grade to your maneuvers (if you want it). You can even get an insurance discount through our SAFE insurance program with Starr Insurance (see new StarrGate App) for proficiency.

We are at another crossroads now with COVID quarantine and the widespread use of remote conferencing technologies. There is a huge push to effectively leverage these technological tools for valid remote educational experiences. With the new Redbird Connect, every pilot can now log on with a remote educator and fly a flight lesson in an advanced simulator (and even receive FAA WINGS credit). Billy Winburn is at the center of this initiative with Community Aviation and EAA Proficiency 365. He presented a demonstration of these tools at our SAFE CFI-PRO™ in KFDK last fall. Remote instruction provides a personalized educational experience utilizing the same scenarios (and more) developed in the original Pilot Proficiency Project. This is now EAA Proficiency 365. Remote one-on-one training has great potential to provide access to training and safety. As in all personalized instruction, the effectiveness depends on the skill and creativity of the presenter.

For better or worse, aviation is very honest and unforgiving when it comes to deciding who is truly capable and skilled. It weeds out the weak pilots in a merciless fashion. Since flying charter, I have come to respect and appreciate good simulator training and all the valuable experiences technology makes available for less money and with less danger. Whether remote technologies will achieve this level of excellence and true learning will be the challenge of the next few years. Fly safe out there (and often)- safety favors the conscientious and current pilot!

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM


“Pink Slip” Problems (IFR)

This blog examines common IFR knowledge deficiencies that lead to “pink slips” on check rides – insufficient understanding (and invitation for “more training”). Every pilot can benefit from improving their full comprehension of these weak areas so the test is “one and done.” Last week we looked at VFR pink slips, but the knowledge component for IFR is even more critical since accidents in this environment are usually not “fender benders” but fatal. Also, most DPEs are less “forgiving” at this more professional level since an IFR rating will transfer directly to the commercial pilot certificate and into the professional world with passengers in the back. The IFR test is a tough evaluation and the details are perishable; always worth a solid review.

Understand The Approach Charts: Applying chart information to a specific flight operation (what does this mean?) and “connecting the dots” between the IFR enroute chart and the approach plate are the most common deficiencies for IFR applicants. “If we are approaching KBGM from the south to fly the ILS  16 can we transition into the approach from the Binghamton VOR on the R-041 radial?” Radar goes away 5PM due to COVID (early tower closing list) and NY Center runs this approach (sort of..) Explain how I would legally transition if I were cleared to CFB at 5,ooo ft (#2 on the chart) then “cleared for the approach.” How would this differ from being similarly cleared to ITH VOR (#1) and cleared for the approach? Can I descend on the transition if “cleared for the approach” to ITH at 5,000?

If an applicant does not understand that R-041 is a “formulation radial” and not for navigation, they are unprepared to go (safely) flying in the clouds. This radial is only a method for identifying AUREY (if no RNAV or marker). R-041 is definitely not a legal route to fly. Execute CFR 91.3 and say “no” to NYC if they offer this (“vectors to final would be fine…”) Notice the absence of any altitude or distance guidance – and notice the arrow on the chart is thinner. Many applicants invent an acceptable altitude by invoking the MSA and flying “GPS direct” in the terminal area. But these pilots are essentially creating their own instrument approach with no testing. MSA is only for emergency terrain avoidance (escape altitude), not for navigation. (The other lesson embedded here; controllers can be in error also. And every pilot – esp. IFR – must be “PIC” and fully in charge of their flight! Examiners are looking for “command authority.” The meek may “inherit the earth” but they do not make safe instrument pilots – don’t be a “sheep!”)

ITH is an IAF (initial approach fix) for this approach and where the approach may begin (darker arrow and altitude/distance defined). A great resource to understand this level of detail is the Aeronautical Chart Users’ Guide for Terminal Procedures. (and this is so basic I cannot understand why CFIIs send applicants for an IFR test without this essential knowledge.)

Understanding RNAV/RAIM/RNP: Let’s go “modern” (PBN?) – there are lots of technical requirements here (every new plate as a potential “minefield” hiding some essential problem) e.g. “what is the ‘Z’ in the title?” ” Is the “Y” plate better?” What kind of equipment is necessary to fly this (installation, inspections, database, required manual onboard, potential RAIM warnings).  What is RNP .03? Do I have the capability on board the plane today? These are all questions an examiner might ask but usually in a scenario format.

But more basically, if I am transitioning from the north, can I be vectored to TIFZY and transition into this approach legally starting from the IF? See AIM section 5-4-7, it previously had very specific guidance, the “rules” here seem to change frequently…careful!

“Radar vectors” are increasingly the superglue of the IFR system (along with “GPS direct”- “Going Perfectly Straight”) It is critical in IFR to know what is legal and what is unsafe and stupid (OROCA?)If not sure of procedure or clearance, always ASK for clarification. Especially if you want a straight-in approach when aligned from the enroute system, just solicit “cleared for a straight-in approach.”

Understanding Approach and Minimums: This is a big fail and it seems that many applicants for IFR flight tests have never read CFR 91.175 or AIM 2-4-5 carefully (The AIM is very readable and essential for IFR). Ignorance here s is often “game over” for IFR flight tests (because it will lead directly to an accident).  Can we take-off (or shoot an approach) if the ATIS is saying we have 1/8 mile visibility? If “yes” for a take-off, how does that sync with our risk management plan P-A-V-E (ACS IR.I.C.R1-7)? So yes, a part 91 operation can fly a departure or shoot an approach “zero/zero” legally (but remember legal vs safe from last week?) and we still need “Minimum visibility” to land (ceilings are not limiting). “How do I proceed if I get to decision altitude and I only see the sequenced flashing lead-in lights? “(no looking this one up in the regs) Hopefully, an applicant has internalized CFR 91.175 – “you can continue to 100 feet above the touchdown zone” But then if I see the green terminating lights, how do I know if I have the required 1/2 mile required visibility?

Ever notice the light bars on most approach lighting systems are 2400-3000 feet long? This is not a coincidence. If we are at the end of light bars with green runway end lights in sight, we have 1/2 mile viz. (if you see to the VASI you have 3/4sm) Can an applicant find their chart legend and discover this on their iPad? And do I now fully satisfy CFR 91.175 for a landing? What else is required?

Non-precision approaches with no vertical guidance are increasingly rare (and that is a great safety aid for IFR safety; no “chop and drop” anymore). Depending on what equipment is on board my clapped-out Piper product, how do I fly this approach? Can I legally fly it with what I have in the plane (and identify step downs)? Can I use ForeFlight (or other EFB) to identify these fixes? For extra credit “what in the heck does ‘fly visual 238degrees’ mean on the plate below?” I thought at minimums I either see the “runway environment” and land and go missed? Why is the FAA telling me to “scud run” to the airport? (BTW, this FAA procedure does not meet the CFR 91.175 reg, and a waiver had to be issued).

Know your enroute chart details too: This is an excerpt from the FAA Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide for Low Altitude Charts: There should be no big mysteries here since these charts tell us where and how to fly IFR (there will be questions…)

Understand STARS: Most pilots in training have never actually flown a STAR  but need to know what they are and how to select, activate and fly one. If you are cleared for the NOBBI FIVE headed into KHPN can we descend to the depicted altitudes along the route on the chart? (NOPE!) This is kind of an “ambush” because it looks just like an approach plate and “cleared” sounds “good to go.” Just remember they “cleared” you for an *arrival route* but *NOT* the altitudes. These are only advisory until cleared by the controller to “descend via.” This mistake probably represents about half of the ASRS Reports filed every month and is commonly misunderstood by pilots at all levels (even in jets).

Incidentally, I have heard the argument that “I will never fly a STAR” or “I am a piston, low altitude pilot” or “I would never fly to minimums” But I have had successful pilots immediately buy a TBM or get hired and be flying jets within a few months of their flight test. All the privileges being conferred must be tested (Instrument ACS)

Weather knowledge applied to Approach and Alternates: This area is HUGE, but one essential question I never miss is “how far can we stretch a TAF.” (it is critical to know the resolution and legal limits of every weather product – what does it mean to me?) “If I file IFR to KFRG on Long Island, can I use the KISP TAF (it comes up automagically in ForeFlight) to determine if I need an alternate?” “Can I file IFR to a grass runway?” What are the implications for alternates?” “Once I file an alternate do I have to go there if I miss?” BTW, remember the 1-2-3 rule as “it has to be “pretty good VFR” or I need an alternate. I have heard 1= 1000 ft ceiling, 2 miles viz (we all get confused under stress).

Required Equipment for IFR Flight: Last week’s blog covered some VFR equipment questions (91.205 and 91.213) This same reg. covers IFR the equipment necessary for IFR operations. But this will be contextual (based on your individual situation) and possible failures can occur (can we stil file and fly IFR?). A RAIM failure would be a possible question, as would the required navigational performance (RNP) for various approaches (see Chart Guide)

Known Icing: This was covered in detail in a previous blog (and is usually not what applicants think it is). There is a surprisingly big focus on this in the current Instrument ACS: IR.II.A.K.1 (IFR Area of Operation 2Knowledge) and IR.II.A.R1&2 (Risk 1 and 2). Icing is a very real hazard that every IFR pilot must understand, respect and mitigate. The ACS codes you see are now in the SAFE Toolkit App for easy reference (every CFI has to sign off training on these – CFR 61.39).  The dedicated page on the app includes the IFR endorsements. Fly safe out there (and often)!

The FREE SAFE Toolkit App This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) free Flying Mag. etc.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM

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