“SkyDisplay” @SAFE Dinner #OSH21

With every change and technological advance, “you expect results but get consequences!” The promise of each new development is hard to predict as we move onward. But I am increasingly optimistic about the newly-approved “SkyDisplay” from MyGoFlight. This amazing device will be available for you to demo at our annual SAFE dinner on Thursday, July 29th. Readers of this blog are invited to attend; grab a ticket and stop by if you are at Airventure. But the big question – “Is this new step forward in aviation technology or the newest “tech toy? – is really in the hands of the CFI that teaches this new device. Charlie and his team from MyGoFlight will be at the dinner to answer your questions. If you are *not* attending in person, watch our SAFE Facebook Live from the show at 7PM.

When I met Charlie with the prototype of this device at OSH several years ago I was skeptical for two reasons. One was the huge challenge of bringing something this innovative to market (and achieving FAA certification) in a very competitive field. The second challenge I saw was that a GA HUD could just become another “geek gadget” or “tech toy” if not properly presented. This second question is a challenge for every CFI. We all know how pilots like the “newest shiny thing.” Is this a tool or a toy? Can a GA HUD be effectively integrated into flight training and create serious safety improvement?

After watching the promo video of this device in action, (and the AvWeb test flight) I am more optimistic about the safety potential of a usable HUD for GA pilots.  And I appreciate the “safety first” presentation in their marketing. You do not have to teach too long to see how much time early students (and even veteran pilots) focus “inside,” grasping for numbers instead of looking up for the bigger picture outside the windows. This becomes an unfortunate habit for pilots at every level that has to be broken for safety (and smoothness). This problem grew much worse when we added glass panel displays and tablets into aviation (consequences not results). Maybe if a GA HUD was integrated early in training and taught correctly (the aviation educator is at the heart of this question) this device could become a safety game-changer.

The one huge negative “consequence” I think we all can anticipate is the “gamification” of aircraft control. “Just put the jelly in the donut and even a chimp can fly a plane” would be the wrong approach. A thorough understanding of energy management is critical to achieving truly safe aircraft control. (Like many of you I suffered through the pitch/power war and the answer is “both”) I would like to see a prominent AOA depiction in view (like we have in jets and in more GA A/C) to integrate the energy state into every pitch attitude. Again, the way this is taught and integrated into the market will be critical to its effectiveness as a “tool not toy!” Kudos to the team at MyGoFlight for bringing this device to market. Fly safely out there (and often!)

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM for our SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks, and dessert (also FUN!) The presentation segment will be on SAFE Facebook Live at 7PM.


Training In Experimental Aircraft!

The FAA Warbird Adventures legal decision set off a firestorm of panic and confusion in the aviation community. All this grief originated from a single P-40 operation in Florida. Instead of accurately litigating against a single operator, the FAA legal wizards completely reinterpreted “flight training” contradicting their own published policy and making a whole area of flight operations illegal.  CFIs were also caught in the crossfire. The significant immediate result is that >30,000 experimental aircraft (and <100 “primary A/C” and <500 “limited A/C”) become illegal for any dual instruction as of July 12th unless each aircraft has a deviation letter! Downstream consequences for CFIs are still to be determined.

This all resulted from the FAA suddenly redefining flight instruction as “flight for compensation and hire” after years of legal precedent classifying CFIs as “educators only.” When this new legal interpretation is published in the Federal Register on July 12th  it becomes law. It will immediately be illegal to teach in experimental, limited, and primary aircraft until you get a LODA. And legal questions are on the table regarding the medical requirements and additional liability of CFIs “flying for compensation and hire.”

SAFE objected to this legal error and the FAA responded on July 8th. Though they tacitly agreed on the historic CFI role, FAA legal continued to define flight instruction as involving flight “for compensation and hire.” All the “alphabets” met on Zoom but it is clear that this error is about to become law July 12th when it is published in the Federal Register  – get your flight review this weekend. Pilots of experimental aircraft will be illegal taking flight instruction in an experimental, limited or primary aircraft without a “Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA).” (CFIs conducting flight training in these A/C will also be illegal). Thanks to some dedicate FAA people, a LODA can now be more easily be acquired with a new e-mail system. Each LODA is linked to an aircraft N# A pilot owner or a CFI can apply for a LODA but this exemption is linked to a specific N# like an MEL.

To be clear, the only restriction affects only paid flight training in experimental, primary and limited aircraft categories. Any pilot can still legally fly their plane provided both pilot and plane are legally compliant.


To continue to get training in your experimental the new FAA workaround is a very simple e-mail:

Write to this address: 9-AVS-AFG-LODA[a]faa.gov

Include: name, address, e-mail, pilot certificate number or flight instructor certificate number (if applying as CFI), aircraft registration number (if applying as an owner), aircraft make/model in which you will receive or provide instruction, aircraft home base airport (if applying as an owner). The FAA promises expedited service through the new system.

The bigger issue (long-term effect) on flight training “for compensation and hire” has been obscured by the immediate chaos caused by experimental aircraft dual. SAFE is also focused on the bigger picture of downstream consequences affecting all flight instructors; legal liability and medical . Fly SAFE out there (and often)!

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited  to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM for our SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks, and dessert (also FUN!) We need a few drone pilots too.

Essential Rules for IFR Safety!

Successfully meeting the challenge of flying safely in the clouds requires all kinds of technical knowledge, skills, and proficiency. But what often gets lost in this forest of details are the overriding principles that ultimately keep us safe. Missing these larger “big picture rules” leads to failures on flight tests, or worse, accidents. And IFR accidents are not fender benders but tombstones all the way down final (game over, no replay). Let’s zoom out and look at the bigger concerns to be safe.

First, when flying IFR, you are always on some mutually agreed-upon guidance, either a heading or a surveyed route; there is precious little free-form wandering like we enjoy in VFR flight. If you ever do not know exactly where you are and exactly what comes next, figure it out immediately (and don’t be afraid to ask). If you are ever in doubt about a clearance, resolve this with ATC ASAP. Command authority is critical to safety; an IFR pilot must be totally aware and in charge of every flight, not along for the ride. (Maybe “the meek shall inherit the earth” but they make terrible instrument pilots…)

Second, in IFR flying, precision is essential for safety. All the surveyed routes are based on exact courses and clearances, so if you are not exactly on altitude or needle centered, you should be working to remedy this immediately; flying the plane precisely is always job #1. (and as you get better at this, smoothness is valuable too)

Third, maintain the larger picture of where you are at every moment in that larger game plan. Situational Awareness is critical to safety. This means not only where you are in the original plan, but also what the weather is doing, what has ATC assigned and is expecting as well as how our resources are holding out; fuel, data, pilot energy. Monitoring these trends and noting changes is critical to safety. This awareness allows flexibility and resourcefulness rather than slavish conformity to an original plan which might be outdated. Also, “energy management” in IFR is often your own personal endurance and resilience.

Fourth, always enforce a margin of excess capacity/capability when you are in flight. If you are just barely managing the workload or depending entirely on automation where you could not personally hand fly the profile, you are over your head. This means you either need more training to bring up your skills, or you need a less challenging mission (you bit off too much). When you are functioning at full capacity, with no reserve for metacognition (where I am in the big picture and what is next?), you are a “mouse in a maze,” and bad things are probably next- yellow light (master caution) on! It is time to modify the plan and slow down, divert, or land.  Some time on the ground brings a fresh perspective and needed resources: refresh and reboot.

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Fifth, the real rule of alternates is the “essential Rs;” radar, restrooms, restaurants and rental cars. Pick several large and attractive alternates along your route that have big services and good equipment to make your diversion a sure bet and attractive option. Pushing too long and far or continuing into unsafe weather defeats the #1 rule of all flying; stay alive and have fun! It is essential to always maintain this bigger picture of why we fly (we are not at war after all). At every sad accident site I have visited, we were picking up the pieces on a sunny day wondering, “what were they thinking?” Fly safely (and often!)

Join us at our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh (we have a great big room this year!) Admission is only $20 for food, drinks, dessert (and fun)! Come network at the at the Oshkosh terminal, Thursday 6-8 during Airventure. Maybe enough room for some drones in the “Atrium?”

Read the SAFE eNews (and subscribe!) This issue covers the DPE-ARAC and CFI resources from the FAA CFI/DPE Forum in Washington, DC.