Buffering “FAA Minimums” Aim For Excellence!

The FAA only specifies the absolute minimums (limitations) in their regulations and these are not recommended operating specifications.  This might sound silly to many pilots, but some people have not gotten this memo.  As one example, “one mile visibility and clear of clouds” in Class G airspace is an absolute legal minimum. All of aviation safety involves building (and maintaining) a personal margin above these FAA bare minimums. Minimum weather, fuel requirements, and even hours for pilot certification should have a margin applied to be safe and build better pilots.

I have been giving a lot of private checkrides lately and obviously a private pilot applicant must know Class G airspace and the basic legal weather minimums. But if they tell me they would go flying in this scary weather, they are not adequately managing risk. Similarly, FAA minimum flight instrumentation (day and night) requires only an airpseed indicator, altimeter (not even adjustable) and a compass. Again, every pilot should know this legal minimum, but should also be aware such primitive guidance is not adequate for most flights (especially at night). Building a margin by requiring more complete instrumentation, equipment, preparation and suitable weather is the basis for managing risk and building safety.

This paradigm of “FAA minimums vs safety margin” is an excellent method to understand (and teach) a risk management system (required in the FAA testing standards). Although a pilot applicant at any level must know the FAA minimums, they must also clearly define their personal “safety margin” for their  level of experience in a particular plane, environment and with unique external pressures of the situation. What examiners want to hear is “my thinking and safety margin in this situation is…”

The ACS defines specific areas to be considered when managing risk. This was developed straight out of the military’s “man, machine and mission” formula and is expanded and elucidated in the FAA Risk Management Handbook. P-A-V-E identifies the Pilot, Aircraft, EnVironment, and External Pressures that interact dynamically to cause (or mitigate) risk factors. Unfortunately, this subject is still given prefuctory coverage by many CFIs as they initially educate pilots or prepare them to take flight tests. In my opinion, this paradigm should be the primary vehicle used right from “day one” to expose new pilots to aviation. (Instead of a rarely mentioned “nice to know” addition “don’t forget risk management”)  Much of our aviation education system is still mired in the 1940s military curriculum of lesson planning. We need a cultural change that puts risk management as more central in our aviation education. P-A-V-E is an amazing safety tool for your personal flying and instructional focus.

And speaking of minimums, the current “rush to ratings” clearly is eliminating any “extras” and fun in the flight training experience. The required 5 hours of solo X-C for the private pilots now seems to often only involve one long flight on a very nice day. When I see a pilot applications with absolute minimum hours all I can think is “don’t you like flying?” Can’t we add a little more than the absolute minimum experience and build a margin of safety here too? Exposing students to more than one X-C flight or working with  more crosswind allows them to experience and internalize different weather, expand personal capacities and enhance their skills for a greater safety margin. They are going to need these hours and experience in the future anyway.

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The “minimums trap” seems to be increasingly common in pilot testing too, where applicants just just aim to pass with a minimum grade rather than striving for excellence. A 70% seems to make people happy and “mediocre” is too common in the current rush for ratings. But as proud safe pilots, our whole system of superior safety and professionalism is built on trying harder and striving for the best we can be. There is real safety value and satisfaction in exceeding the minimums and pursuing more comprehensive knowledge and skill when we aim for excellence. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Extend Your Skills! 60/90 Turns, Triple A Stalls

This blog presents some challenging flight maneuvers that build greater pilot proficiency, confidence and flight safety. It is essential to break out of our daily “comfort zone” or we will react incorrectly  – with the well documented “startle response” – when forced into an unusual attitude by surprise circumstances. Accident statistics reveal that unprepared pilots are vulnerable to the persistent Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I) accident. If you are a CFI this is the CFI-PRO™ toolkit from the savvy veteran instructors that result in superior pilot performance and safety.

Professional aviators are now required to practice “envelope extension maneuvers” by regulation. GA will benefit greatly from a similar commitment to advanced proficiency. This training is not  aerobatic and can be flown in any GA plane at your home field. Similar to “day one” in upset courses,  these maneuvers are extensions of familar flight training (“push the envelope” a little).  If these are presented correctly by a professional educator in a challenging but non-threatening method, pilots enjoy these new maneuvers and thrive on the increased proficiency. These maneuvers are the historical tools of savvy educators and made available again through SAFE CFI-PRO™ This is territory where straight-up “scenario-based training” never ventures.

An earlier blog described effective maneuvers for initial flight training; specifically to build yaw-canceling skills with the rudder. These are a good warm-up to “tune up” and get the feet moving if your skills have atrophied. For the more proficient pilot, this blog will present some more stimulating “envelope extension” maneuvers to build (or restore) advanced skills and expand a pilot’s “comfort zone.”

When I ran a flight school, I often used “steep turn reversals” for pilots who had just completed instrument training and were beginning commercial maneuvers. After 40+ hours of instrument reference and “standard rate/smooth” it was necessary to get the eyes outside and “yank and bank” to restore lost pilot skills. The “Triple A Stalls” prove basic physics to pilots and are useful for building up confidence and control skills. These maneuvers not only build LOC-I protection through “envelope extension,” they are also “aerodynamically educational.” They should only be flown dual with an experienced, PRO-fessional CFI.

“Steep turn reversals” begin with the simple well known private pilot steep turn at 45 degrees of bank maintaining altitude and airspeed with a crisp rollout on a defined outside reference. I encourage pilots to fly this maneuver without trimming so they can feel the load “lifting” their plane through the turn. Once this is proficient,  roll in 60 degrees of bank for 360 degrees of turn and reverse on the starting point into a 720 degree commercial maneuver. Then progressively shorten the turn duration to only 180 degrees and eventually 90 degrees of turn. To make these work, full deflection of the ailerons (and lots of rudder) make a very crisp maneuver. And thought his is entirely non-aerobatic by definition, it is a maneuver many Upset Training Programs utilize on “Day One” with the stated purpose of waking up the feet and restoring aggressive pilot in command control.

Another very useful (and aerodynamically educational) maneuver is alternating, turning power off stalls with “angle of attack recoveries” (“Triple A stalls”). Pilots flying this maneuver will benefit greatly from a “chalk talk” to understand (and trust) that lift in a coordinated turn is equal on the wings. Flying the maneuver demonstrates the applied physics from the chalk talk.

To perform “Triple A stalls”, climb to a safe altitude, bank 30 degrees, and increase AOA into a power off stall . Recover with only AOA reduction (unload pitch – no added power). Continue this through alternating right and left turns, building the muscle memory (and confidence) to unload the wing recovering the turning stalls with just pitch. Once alternating AOA is proficient, try a more aggressive secondary stall on a couple recoveries (it will stall with the nose much lower) and recover just with pitch reduction (very low attitude). All of these should make a true believer out of your client that a plane can stall at any speed or attitude; priceless!

Pilots who embrace these “extended envelope” maneuvers are less likely to be surprised (and become LOC-I statistics) if they are ever forced out of the “7% comfort zone” by weather or turnbulence (no startle/freeze-up). More to come on this next week as we roll out more of the CFI-PRO™ workshop extended maneuver catalog. Fly safely (and often)! Please comment and contribute your favorite maneuvers?


Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Reflect and Redirect; “Double Loop” Learning!

Pilots are a “different breed of cat” as you well know. As a personality type we are confident, higher than average in intelligence, tend toward dominance and are almost never wrong about anything! (ask my wife…) “Never wrong” is “sort of” a joke but you know our tribe; pretty self-assured and assertive, with perfectionist tendencies. And though it takes confidence to pilot effectively, pilots also hate to admit to errors (as do most professionals in all fields). This very feature makes pilots and other high-performance professionals remarkably bad at learning. And as experience and hours pile up this problem gets worse not better; success becomes an impediment to further learning. This is a well-known problem in the “C-suite” of business too. Read Teaching Smart People How to Learn by Chris Argyris (a Harvard Business Review Classic) for a great analysis of this problem. Experts and professionals are remarkably good at problem solving but amazingly bad at learning.

Double loop learning is part of action science — the study of how we act in difficult situations. Individuals and organizations need to learn if they want to succeed (or even survive). But few of us pay much attention to exactly how we learn and how we can optimize the process.

Even smart, well-educated people can struggle to learn from experience. We all know someone who’s been at the office for 20 years and claims to have 20 years of experience, but they really have one year repeated 20 times.

Finding and trapping errors is only the first basic feedback loop where we analyze, correct and revise our plans or techniques. This “problem-solving” level is characteristically directed outward, largely analytical, and psychologically painless. Creating and following SOPs or regulations is part of this process. Compensating for changing conditions and  “re-trimming” our activies back to the desired flow is all part of a normal day.

Real progress and improvement (learning and not just problem-solving) occurs at a higher level and involves tweaking the mental models and preventing the error in the first place. This requires time to reflect critically on our own behavior and failings, solving deeper thinking/scripting problems. Level two or “double loop” learning freely admits to errors and fixes our inner OS that is usually the root cause. Every error should be viewed as a “double loop opportunity” to dig deeper and reflect on our assumptions and test the validity of our hypotheses. Only though “reflective learning” can we access and correct our normally invisible implicit level of learning.

For professionals, inward directed reflection can be initially psychologically painful. Professionals and expert performers are used to being “competent and correct” but “double loop learning” requires we admit, accept and correct personal failings. In addition, this is often only the first step. Accepting instruction, taking wise counsel humbly (and happily) is the key to real and rapid improvement. So we need to soften that pilot wall of confidence a bit and admit to personal failure to achieve growth. Learning happens at the “double loop” reflective level. A sure sign of this is when a good pilot say “thank-you” when an error is pointed out, and in the debrief not only makes a “note to self” to correct the obvious goof going forward but also resolves the deeper assumption/hypothesis that was the root cause.

     Highly skilled professionals are frequently very good at single loop learning. After all, they have spent much of their lives acquiring academic credentials, mastering one or a number of intellectual disciplines, and applying those disciplines to solve real-world problems. But ironically, this very fact helps explain why professionals are often so bad at double-loop learning.
     Put simply, because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure. So whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the “blame” on anyone and everyone but themselves. In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most.

As humans, evolving over millions of years, we are internally hardwired with all kinds of implicit reactions and biases that serve us amazingly well in survival against primordial threats and historical environmental challenges. Unfortunately, this deep imprinted learning is subconscious and only becomes visible in action. We need to reflect, accept, adapt and rewire these internal systems with double loop learning if we want to function accurately under pressure in each specific aviation environment.

As aviation educators, it is also essential to develop these”double loop” corrective abilities in our clients. Once they are competent and approaching independent flight, it’s necessary (and initially excrutiating) to allow our these pilots the time and opportunity to discover (struggle) and correct their own errors! The #1 beginner CFI mistake is to immediately intervene and correct every mistake and not allow a “learning opportunity” (genius in the right seat). Your pilot will never develp the metacognitive capacity to self-correct and improve ; they will need a CFI forever. Our educational goal should be to create confident, independent, lifetime learners in every pilot.

And as educational professionals, we all need to continually learn and improve. Join us for the CFI-PRO™ workshop on October 2-3, 2019 at AOPA (KFDK) Pursue personal improvement and excellence in your flying (and teaching), we have your back! See you at AOPA-Fly-In TN (get a free Sporty’s FIRC with sign-up) and enjoy 1/3 off Foreflight (member benefit) which more than pays your annual dues. 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!

New Science: “Overlearning” Locks In Skills!

How many times have you accomplished a new level with your pilot-in-training and heard “got it” on first completion – as if you could immediately lock it up and move on? (Don’t do it; it’s not locked in…) Have you had a new student think they can immediately solo just because they get hit their first good landings? Intuitively, as savvy educators, we know progress is great and motivating but consistency and reinforcement are also necessary. This same situation occurs on a meta-level also when a pilot passes their flight test but stops flying. We intuitively know they must “use it (continually) or lose it.” But there is a brain process that explains all these touch and goes (and IFR practicing) we do as pilots – we finally have an explaination why.

Neuroscience is starting to understand the details of this learning process. It is now proven in studies that unless we immediately reinforce a new skill and put it to use, much is lost right away. Skill mastery requires us to “overtrain” and reinforce every new learning level for retention before we move further. As aviation educators, we need to emphasize repetition, application and elaboration of each skill to be safe as aviators.

Once we have successfully accomplished any new behavioral repertoire, it is neurologically essential to “stabilize” it by continued training well past the point of simple proficiency; “got it and onward” is not enough. Scientists call this technique “overlearning” and have observed it in every field where human skill mastery is critical; from first violin to martial arts. A recent study reveals that “overlearning” reinforces a skill and embeds it in a different part of the brain, installing it chemically in an entirely different way so it will not be overwritten by new learning. Critical piloting skills must be impervious to forgetting (and this is also why the initial imprint must be accurate) and fluidly and immediately available. This new study shows that if you stop training a skill as soon as it is first successful, the brain stays in its “ready-to-learn state” and the new skill is highly perishable. Reinforcement changes your actual brain state and chemistry. The study shows that repetitive training beyond the point of proficiency will “hyperstabilize” the skill and prevents”retrograde interference” from newer inputs.

Similar research from a different angle at MIT studies habits and decision-making behaviors; specifically how we develop and store them (also the secret behind obsessive behaviors and addictions). Dr. Ann Greybeil at MIT is an amazingly prolific and passionate brain researcher (Fortunately she left Florida as a young girl when the only “science” a young woman could study was home economics). She has documented how early skills are reinforced and transformed into habits in an ancient brain area called the basal ganglia/striatum. Once habits and skills are formulated, they are stored, almost like books in a library, in a totally different part of the brain for fluid and rapid recall in action. (This is what we do everyday as pilots) If skills and habits are not fully formed and recoded into the forebrain repertoire, they will be available for fluid recall. The time and effort required for serious practice are the necessary elements for skill retention and future aviation safety. Knowing and enforcing this practice is important for all educators. Fly safely (and practice often).


Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

“Flight Service” (Back and Better!)

Leidos operates what used to be the FAA Flight Service and the web browser interface for weather is quite good. When you log in with your customized preferences (http://1800wxbrief.com) your own format in exactly the predictible order you specify.


  The new mobile format is also quite good and though not yet an app, you can save the url to your desktop and have it immediately available as a mobile browser session. But one of the best new innovations to roll out from Leidos is the text weather. This is quick and needs no software and very little bandwidth  to load (one bar works usually)


Just text message your request to 358-782 (FLT-SVC) and the result pops right back in. No digging through menus or interfaces. Leidos also allows you to open and close VFR flight plans with text (and will send a reminder at your proposed/predicted times if you forget). This is an innovative way to inspire pilots to be safer.


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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

 

“CFI Seasoning” Beyond the Academy!

A truly professional aviation educator should be progressively getting out of the training aircraft one step at a time from flight lesson #1. To be successful as educators, every CFI must willingly become superfluous in every area of operation by flight test time – totally empowering their pilot to be fully “in command.” Obviously, there will always be more to teach and learn, but ultimately our goal should be set every new pilot totally free – NOT create dependence! This “letting go” (think of successful parenting) is not easy for the human ego because every human wants to be needed and valued. Many CFIs secretly foster dependence in their pilots during training (helicopter parenting). Though this creates a strong business bond that works great for the wallet and building hours, it creates really bad – dependent and unconfident – pilots.

And the strange and unfortunate truth is we actually teach this harmful micromanaging behavior to every aviation educator during their initial  CFI training; we build a fatal defect into every new CFI. The most common method for educating a new CFI is to create a “CFI lesson plan binder” full of rote lesson plans tracking the usual pilot pathway. And as we do this, the future CFI applicant is encourated to talk, talk, talk and fly, fly, fly – patterning each maneuver from the right seat and “simultaneously instructing and flying.” And though this is a necessary step in learning to teach aviation, we never finish the job and progress all the way to real educational excellence through supervision and seasoning (STOP talking and let your student fly). We get them “barely competent” and turn them lose in the aviation system.

The FAA system allows for perfunctory CFI preparation – 10-day courses are pretty standard with an 85% pass rates. And there is no “student teaching” or “seasoning” included to build excellence in the field after certification. Consequently, many new CFIs never learn to personalize their instruction to creatively tailor their presentation to suit each unique pilot in training (burn that binder!). It can take years for new CFIs to become creative and effective without mentoring. It takes time to learn the necessary balance of freedom and control to provide students the space to grow and learn. Unfortunately, most just continue the rote, assembly-line instruction from their CFI binder rather than embracing “client-centered education.” They never relinquish the radio, the flight controls or PIC authority and instead smother their eager learners with overbearing micromanagment and excessive erudition; we have created a monster. To become a successful educator, only mentoring and seasoning will grow the CFI create excellence. It takes more time and guidance to create a truly competent aviation educator.

The Canadian aviation system requires every new aviation educator to teach under supervision and and grow further as a CFI before teaching independently. Only after supervised “student teaching” in the field under a master instructor are Canadian CFIs upgraded to teach independently. But this is not the FAA system. After only a perfunctory 10 day “CFI academy” a new FAA CFI could be in the field with very limited preparation. And this is exactly why SAFE created the mentoring program from day one and is now creating the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops. These tools bridge the “CFI gap” between good and great. They also encourage the mentoring and networking that creates the necessary “growth mindset” every educator must embrace. Excellent educators must continue to grow if we want to be successful and effective. Fly safely (and often) and please check out the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops. We need your support to fight mediocrity and make this new initiative the new standard of excellence in our industry. As every aviation educator improves, we reach and improve every pilot.


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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

Teaching Accurate Rudder Usage!

Misuse of the rudder while flying – usually too little or none at all – is a sure sign that some aviation educator failed their student during initial training. This sloppy “flat foot flying” or “driving an aircraft” is sometimes a symptom of a burned out CFI who has just “given up” and does not care any more. This CFI is tolerating sloppy flying out of frustration (“whatever!”). But it is also true that some CFIs were themselves taught badly and cannot sense or teach accurate rudder usage. There are easy exercises to teach rudder (standby for that…) but first, every pilot has to appreciate that lack of correct rudder usage is the heart of unsafe flying. Improper yaw control leads directly to loss of control accidents in the pattern (57% of fatals) – we touched on this elsewhere. This article however is “Rudder 101;” providing CFI resources to build appreciation and proper usage of this misunderstood and underutilized control. A pilot without yaw control does not understand the most basic principles of flying; they are still “driving the plane” and it isn’t pretty or safe. As professional aviation educators, we can fix this. (And if you are a pilot reading, there is great benefit here for you also)

To clearly define terms for this discussion, by “driving an airplane” I mean just cranking the yoke or deflecting the stick like an automobile without correcting for adverse yaw with the rudder. And it is obviously much harder to successfully rehabilitate a “numb butt” than to initially teach accurate, correct rudder usage. Step one is creating and illustrating the aerodynamic principles and developing an appreciation for the *need* for correct rudder; some pilots do not detect their slip/skid flying and cannot understand the need (“My plane does not require any rudder…”). Entrenched habits and lack of caring about rudder usage require serious unlearning first to make any progress at all; “no need no sale.” Then, every pilot initially learning, rusty relearning, or continuing proficiency has to overcome their “driving habit” (we all drive much more than we fly). In a normal syllabus, accurate and appropriate rudder usage has to begin during flight lesson #1; “demonstrate that flying is clearly and demonstrably NOT driving!”

So when your new student (or your recovering “flat foot flier”) is up at altitude in the airplane, please demonstrate an extreme “driving turn” with no rudder and make the problem obvious! If you crank the yoke (deflect the ailerons) aggresively in one direction (fast and furious) the nose predictably yaws off in the opposite direction (a prebrief. on adverse yaw obviously helps to create this “step one” understanding). A couple of these gyrations aggressively applied might also induce a bit of nausea (and that might be a “good thing” – uncoordination makes me sick in a plane!) Next, illustrate a well coordinated roll referencing a distant point on the horizon (eyes outside, not on the ball please). Help your pilot in training try a coordinated turn and demonstrate how much smoother and easier on the stomach it is with appropriate rudder applied. Here is a great Rod Machado video to show a student illustrating this technique:

Now pick a point on the distant horizon and roll with correct coordination on a single point and sustain a level turn for a while. Have your pilot in training practice this with eyes entirely outside; roll into a 30 degree banked turn (make sure they release the rudder pressure) and continue  for 90 degrees of stable turning (This is a good time to mention and practice the appropriate amount of back pressure if it is a new learner). Reverse after 90 degrees of turn in the other direction. Turn reversal is initially more of a challenge but perfectly illustrates accurate yaw cancelling. After a few cycles of turning, try rolling into a bank and reversing on a single point without letting the airplane enter the turn (many pilots call this a “Dutch Roll”). This exercise should be part of every initial flight lesson. This exercise tunes up the feet and overcomes our more common “driving impulse.” Every aircraft requires a different amont of rudder pressure so this is something I do on downwind in every airplane (solo, not with the boss in the back). This exercise is very efficient and only takes about as long as this description required; easy and effective!

This introduction can be followed by more advanced illustrations of yaw correction if your pilot immediately “gets it.” When flying level at approach speed, apply and reduce power aggressively (with NO yaw correction) to demonstrate the left-yaw effects and the necessary application of rudder to hold a distant point on the horizon. As power is applied, right rudder is necessary. (I make this a “muscle memory exercise” – as the right hand goes in with more power, the right rudder is applied).

Finally, illustrate that as the nose pitch is aggressively increased, left turning tendencies are created requiring right rudder to cancel yaw to the left. And when you combine these two forces (as in a take-off or simulated go-around) the right rudder force is more obvious. Again, this is lesson #1 and 2; vital understanding of the physics at work.

These are understandings and skills every pilot in training needs to successfully take off and turn; lesson #1 and 2. And as soon as your pilot in training has mastered these skills, turn over the control and responsibility completely to your new pilot (with no educator intervention or correction). This is the incredibly valuable incremental mastery we mentioned in an earlier blog. This empowers and motivates your new pilot and starts them on the road to assuming full control PIC (essential but rare in student training).

Notice that yaw is so much easier to illustrate in its pure form if you remove and practice these exercises in isolation from “the scenario.”  Once you practice this “yaw cancelling” as a distinct and pure exercise with a little drill and repetition it is quickly mastered and available for all future flying. Unfortunately, in most pilot training, appreciation of yaw forces gets lost in the continuing scenario and the CFI just ends up just bleating out “more right rudder” in a meaningless fashion. Most pilots never learn to properly use the rudder.

Once basic rudder understanding and proficiency are completed in isolation, we reassemble this package resuming a “normal flying scenario” and apply it in every maneuver. This is analogous to practicing scales on piano during initial training *before* we attempt Chopin. A few times through these exercises and your new pilot will only require an occasional “right rudder” reminder or tune up. Pilots trained correctly instinctively sense yaw (“something feels wrong here”) and apply appropriate/accurate rudder. We’ll discuss more advanced rudder exercises next week; fly safe (and often)!


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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

Opportunity To Grow: SAFE CFI-PRO™!

Just a short blog this week, no brain strain or technical discussions. I just want to announce that SAFE has opened up registration for our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop in Frederick, MD. This event will be at the  AOPA “Learn to Fly” facility on October 2nd and 3rd and is filling quickly. We are limited to only 75 people at this first offering, so register here soon.

 

This is an opportunity for aviation educators at every level to get together with their peers to network, discuss and learn from some very experienced CFIs; e.g. Rich Stowell, Doug Stewart and Hobie Tomlinson. Each one of these people has been an FAA National Flight Instructor of the Year and each one separately has well over 10,000 hours of dual given. Hobie has been a pilot examiner longer than most of us have been flying; 42 years!

The AOPA “Learn to Fly” facility is a beautiful modern building with an auditorium, classrooms and the latest AV equipment right on the KFDK airport. Discount hotel rooms are planned at both Marriott and Hilton (since pilots are all point monsters affiliated with different programs) and we offer a dinner get together at the National Aviation Community Center with the AOPA people.

Ironically, the last national learning opportunity like this might have been 20 years ago at Embry Riddle in April 1999 when Rich Stowell presented his famous “CFI white paper” to the assembled authorities. Rich went on to help create SAFE’s GA Pilot Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta in 2011 that spawned our current FAA ACS. And Rich pretty much invented the term “Loss of Control,” teaching prevention techniques 20 years before the FAA/NTSB identified LOC-I as the primary cause of fatal accidents. Rich was an expert witness at the NTSB LOC-I Roundtable and still has the best “Public Service Announcement” for “Extended Envelope Training” on the internet:

Register now and join the SAFE team in Frederick, MD on October 2 & 3rd for our first SAFE CFI-PRO™ Workshop.


Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

 

The Secret of Pattern Safety!

We all know a majority of accidents occur in the traffic pattern; especially during descent and runway line-up. But the burning question is “why?” Basically, we fear the wrong things. Most pilots don’t understand the basic flight dynamics of descending turns and the real consequences and risks of unstabilized flying. With a little knowledge, practice and a committment to artful flying excellence, we all can do better and fly safer.

But instead pilots try to achieve safety by never banking over 20 degrees, flying huge patterns and becoming increasingly timid.  Others advocate oval patterns to eliminate the steeper corners of the pattern (but fly a constant turn). Why not just “learn to turn” correctly and safely in the first place? I watch in amazement as pilots horse their planes around to final with varying bank angles and wildly changing airspeeds (hold on partner!) exhibiting a lack of stability, ground track control and overall discipline. The physical problems with patterns are obvious but they are driven by a lack of understanding risk and knowledge of the forces at work.  This lack of stability and control continues directly into professional piloting where unstable approaches and overrun accidents are the #1 cause of accidents in corporate jets. As aviation educators (and pilots) we need to do better. Understanding some basic flight dynamics is critical to success.

Safety and a passion for pattern precision starts with an understanding of the invisible angle of attack (AOA) where the real risk hides. Simply presenting and thoroughly explaining  a set of pictures like the ones above  can jump start the conversation and clear up some very common misunderstandings. When asked which aircraft depicted above has the greatest angle of attack (AOA) almost every pilot (and many CFIs) pick the nose-high Cessna. The “a-ha” learning opportunity is that the AOA is the same on both of these aircraft. And that means the airplane in the glide is just as close to a stall as the nose-high plane on the left (now risk becomes clear). If we never demonstrate a stall with the nose *below* the horizon a new pilot in training will never understand AOA and how accidents occur. There is a “natural” (but erroneous) assumption that with the nose low, we are “safe” and “all stalls occur with a nose-high flight attitude” – wrong and reason #1 for pattern accidents! Even if this error is not stated verbally, practicing and demonstrating only nose-high stalls builds this myth and masks the true danger of descending turns.

In our initial flight instruction teaching the basic level turn, we emphasize that when a plane is banked, the lift vector is redirected to the horizontal (to create the turn) and no longer entirely opposes gravity. Consequently, some back-pressure is necessary to maintain altitude in a level turn. And during initial flight training, we build up this rote, muscle memory “bank and add pressure” response through repetition. But when we move on to the descending turns, is essential to emphasize this previously memorized script is incorrect.

A descending turn is completely different and requires “bank and release” because the added load of the bank will add drag and cause a decrease in airspeed (and greater AOA) unless back pressure is relaxed (and trim is a wonderful and underused tool here). Pilots descending tend to lose airpseed on every turn; they are banking and inappropriately adding back pressure (or failing to appropriately release). This is reason #2 of the “why” that explains many pattern accidents. This failure to understand the basic flight dynamics of the turn and AOA (also probably add some initial “ground fear” of being low) causes pilots in training bank to mishandle AOA. And once bad habits are extablished in training, they never go away.

How “eyeball friendly” is your trainer?

Outside visual reference and proper trimming are also vastly undervalued in modern flight training. If the airplane is trimmed properly and the pilot in training knows the proper, predictible flight attitude for a descent in various configurations, the stabilized control of the aircraft is much easier. Unfortunately, many pilots in training are inappropriately focused inside on the panel chasing the airpseed indicator instead of setting a flight attitude with outside references. Personally, unless my pilot in training can fly the whole pattern visually, with eyes outside (and the instrument panel covered) I hesitate to even consider a solo. Fly safely out there (and often).


And of course, more on this and other key educator tools at our Oct. 2/3 SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop at AOPA in Fredrick, MD. The registration form will be live in a week. This will have Hilton and Marriott rooms at a discount and a networking dinner at the National Aviation Community Center!

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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

Start With Basic Honesty!

As a flight instructor have you been guilty of telling eager beginners that “learning to fly is easy”? Do you personally really believe that often used phrase? If you think back to *your* initial training don’t you remember those dark moments of discouragement and disappointment that are inevitably part of this process? Learning anything complex is not all sunshine and light. Struggle, disappointment and personal growth are all a necessary part of learning to fly. But if you were successful, at some point some caring person helped you through those  dark times of doubt – a mentor or hopefully a compassionate, honest aviation educator? We know from survey data that a caring and compassionate CFI is  the essential magic element responsible for success in flight training. In our enthusiasm to sell flying we might be doing damage by describing learning to fly as “easy.” I think we all would benefit more by being honest; the result would be a better completion rate and more happy pilots in training. This would help to insure the health of our aviation industry and give us many more lifetime clients.

In our eagerness to sell flying we have  failed our future pilots- it all starts with that initial interview. I personally believe this is a major reason we see the 80% rate during initial pilot training; we need to more accurately communicate the challenges and control the expectations here.  Present the honest story, with the future benefits.  Certainly “sell the sizzle” but do not diminish the challenges.

My personal formula for introducing the subject goes something like this; “Learning to fly is a great challenge and provides amazing adventure and fun. This process does require hard work, effort and your time and money. In addition to acquiring the obvious physical skills it also requires personal growth and assuming responsibility; it rewards a ‘take charge’ personality and some courage. Your investment of time, money and effort will be paid back a hundred fold if you stay the course and work through the process; being a pilot opens up so many worlds of fun and adventure. And the learning and discovery can be fun and rewarding; we’ll work through the difficulties together”

The professional aviation educator has to commit to being more than just a technician in this learning process. A great CFI is a coach, motivator and practical psychologist in addition to guiding the skills part (did you know you signed up for this?). If you are a pilot seeking a CFI look beyond the badges, patches and accolades. Look for a true committed professional, a warm-hearted “people person” who cares about your success and has a track record of happy pilots.

50KsoloEvery initial interview between potential pilot and educator is similar to an “engagement letter” that any lawyer would write.  This tool should be part of any professional relationship involving a lot of time and money (and its usually in writing). Unfortunately in flying, honesty is rare, we tend to sell sunshine and light and diminish the struggle. And if we present the FAA “40 hour myth” we are also lying. I have certainly finished some very talented students in 35 hours (141 school), but we all know that is not the “average” and not an expectation I would promote to the general public. Doubling the 40 is a more reasonable target (and I don’t embrace other FAA minimums – like VFR in “one mile clear of clouds” either). Someone for whom completion is not possible (or will take excessive time) should be informed early in training (and gently terminated if the project is not going to work). Again AOPA survey data reveals that the reason people drop out of flying is not the cost, it is the unrealistic expectations presented in the early interview and a lack of value. If you initially told them $12K to be a pilot and we are passing $18K and still in X-C you are going to have problems. This is no different than  remodeling contractor promising your new bathroom for $20K then proceeding to charge $35K (and its still not done).

The critical part in flight training that differs from other professional models is the level of personal commitment and caring required of the effective aviation educator. We are not just technicians who perform a sterile service or twist a few screws to create a performance. We need to be personally involved and coaching our pilots in training to get them through the goal posts. It requires caring and compassion and that is rare in our modern world of aviation instruction. I don’t think they teach empathy or compassion during initial training at our “puppy mill” CFI academies. This is acquired with life experience and comes with time. But it is the essential trait if you want to be a successful aviation educator; you have to care. This is the magic that makes flight training work. Fly safely out there (and often)


Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).