Our current pilot training process provides very little serious flight maneuvering. Most pilots never achieve an adequate level of maneuvering skill or aerodynamic understanding to be truly safe outside their “comfort zone.” The minimal amount of training provided and tested at the private level never solidifies with the rush into IFR training. Many new pilots jump into 40+ hours of level flight and standard rate turns (often on autopilot) before they get good at VFR. This is the end of any VFR flying and maneuvering for many pilots. If a pilot pursues a career path, the new commercial – “Private Pilot 2.0” – is often flown with a CFI on board and adds little skill or confidence. Progressing further in the current flight training system, a new CFI often has only 5 hours of solo, and very limited experience. In the professional airline and corporate world, almost everything is IFR and 97% autopilot. So it is no wonder that the #1 cause of pilot fatalities is “Loss of Control-Inflight” (LOC-I) when the aircraft departs the “comfort zone?”
The “sales pitch” for an earlier instrument rating is “greater safety.” Insurance companies incentivize IFR training with reduced premiums but accident data does not support this formula. The #1 killer, LOC-I, is most often low and slow while maneuvering. The FAA has addressed this lack of maneuvering experience in the airline industry with CFR 121.423, requiring “Envelope Extension Training.” Though this training is minimal, many experienced captains have mentioned the value of this regular exposure (but more is necessary).
GA Flying Requires More Skill/Flexibility!
GA flying actually requires more skill and flexibility than professional flying. There are lots more challenges and risks here but unfortunately less maneuvering and risk-management training. Recreational flying is almost all single pilot (by itself 7X more dangerous). And GA flying is carried out in much more diverse environments (at 5000+ airports vs <100 for the airlines on everything from grass, to skis, to floats) with no support and greater challenges. As a result, it is much more likely for a GA pilot to end up “out of the comfort zone” (and the accident statistics reflect this). More maneuvering training for skill and confidence is the required “safety inoculation” for every serious GA pilot.
CFR 121.423 (b) Extended envelope training must include the following maneuvers and procedures:
(1) Manually controlled slow flight;
(2) Manually controlled loss of reliable airspeed;
(3) Manually controlled instrument departure and arrival;
(4) Upset recovery maneuvers; and
(5) Recovery from bounced landing.
(c) Extended envelope training must include instructor-guided hands on experience of recovery from full stall and stick pusher activation, if equipped. SAFE has much more for GA
“Yank and Bank” for Greater Skill and Confidence!
While managing a 141 flight school for 25 years, I developed a specialized syllabus for pilots beginning their commercial training. This “yank and bank” course took private and commercial maneuvers a step further and eased timid pilots into the edges of the flight envelope, challenging pilots to develop (or rediscover) their visual flying and maneuvering skills. A few 60-degree bank turns reversed every 90 degrees require some outside attention and coordination. These are not aerobatic maneuvers and use standard normal category aircraft, but require full and aggressive control usage. This syllabus evolved into the SAFE Extended Envelope Training (EET). After 40+ hours of “eyes on the gauges,” standard-rate flying most pilots needed this “wake up call” to master commercial-level maneuvering. After instrument training, they were hesitant to use the controls assertively and their eyes were (not surprisingly) glued to the gauges.
YOur “Comfort Zone” can become the “Danger Zone!”
Training out of the “comfort zone” is also valuable for GA pilots who have only flown trips and truncated flight reviews for years. For many diligent pilots, aware of their deficiencies, aerobatics or upset training is often the sought-after solution to rebuild skills and confidence. But training at this level (in an exotic high-performance tailwheel at an exotic location) is often a “bridge to far” for these pilots. I took this route after private training, enrolling in the CAP 10 “French Connection Course” when it was at KPOU. For many pilots, this ends up being expensive and not transferable to their daily flying. What most pilots need first is “full control maneuvering” to build their confidence in a GA plane. They get this confidence and control from the SAFE EET course designed to build confidence and skills in the edges of the flight envelope. This training can be performed at your local airport in a standard GA aircraft (with an experienced CFI) and can be a stepping stone to real aerobatic and upset training (you will be more prepared and get more from the course). Fly safely out there (and often)!
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