“Full Control Maneuvering” for Safety!

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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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

10 thoughts on ““Full Control Maneuvering” for Safety!”

  1. We just need to expand the syllabus to provide increased maneuvering lessons. My primary students get much of the old Commercial syllabus, plus accelerated stalls from steep turns so they can see what the airplane will do. I also offer the option of UPRT, spin, and basic aerobatic training as optional parts of the primary training syllabus. I know that, as their first flight instructor, I set the bar for the student entire flying career. I want to be sure they go off with all the tools in the tool-box.

    1. The accelerated stall in a steep turn is now a required maneuver in the new Commercial ACS (thank you SAFE). More DPEs should insist on turning stalls at the private and commercial level and the training will follow. In my school, we required spin training for every (private pilot) learner before they went solo in the practice area. Extra training saved more than one student and (almost) all were grateful. One important feature of SAFE EET is not requiring an aerobatic aircraft.

  2. Yes, there is a lot you can do in a non-aerobatic aircraft but more with one. One thing I like to point out is that it is not about the spin. If you need to invoke your spin recovery training (PARE) then you have already gone way past where you should have recovered from the upset.

    As for an aerobatic aircraft, even a Decathlon is overkill, let alone an Extra 300. You really want something that more closely mimics the handling characteristics of the modern GA airplane. Frankly an older Citabria or Cessna 150 Aerobat are probably better choices. We want the student to have to use full-deflection control inputs. If the plane responds too quickly then they never get the understanding that you may have to go to the stops, especially with the rudder and ailerons.

    1. Exactly the point; this training needs to be easily transferable to a pilot’s common flight experience!

  3. A poster child accident for LOC in flight occurred nearly 3 decades ago off the coast of Martha’s Vinyard, MA. JFK’s son had about 350 hours of logged time… and was well into an IFR rating. Yet JFK Jr had only a few hours of actual VFR solo PIC. He lost control when a graveyard spiral developed in night VFR over a no horizon black ocean. Many other examples before and since his death are listed in the NTSB db.

    KUDOs for yet another very on point conversation starter,

    1. Thanks, John and very good point; JFK junior was a “landmark accident!” There is real value in real solo time; it puts all the training “to the test” and builds PIC autority and confidence. Personal accountability is rare in our modern society, there is always someone to help you or fall back on; but not really when flying (real) solo.

  4. I agree strongly with all of the suggestions. One frustrating example for me is that the Airplane Flying Handbook highly recommends the demonstrated stalls (accelerated, cross-control, secondary, and trim) in training but they are not required maneuvers for either solo or certification so the great benefits those maneuvers provide are usually missed. I also was with a 141 school which used a wonderful syllabus that included these maneuvers and I felt the students received training well above the minimum required making them much safer pilots. In some cases, the training program is controlled by the school administration and CFI’s have to follow their school program. I hope this information reaches more and more trainers resulting in all suggestions being incorporated into their flight training.

  5. David, thanks for another great blog post. You are so right on about this topic. Years ago when I used to conduct a 12-day instrument training course for students in their own airplanes, I would spend the first day making sure the student actually knew how to safely “maneuver” their aircraft. I was pretty shocked to see some pilots freaking out during a steep turn or a simple stall. I think nowadays things are probably much worse — that CFIs are so anxious to “teach to the test” for the Private Pilot certificate that they don’t spend as much time as they should making sure the student is truly proficient in maneuvering the aircraft.
    Due to changes in the ACS several years ago, student pilots especially are not getting the basic training they need to be able to recover safely from unusual attitudes or even from a wind gust on final approach. I will be forever grateful to my first flight instructor for spending so much time getting me totally comfortable with what the airplane was capable of doing and how it would react under certain conditions.

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