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Land Safely, Forget “Super-Smooth!”

I remember distinctly discovering the secret of obtaining a super-smooth landing in a PA-28; just carry extra speed and “drive it on.” Eliminating the flare made landing amazingly simple – why had my CFI not figured this out? This occurred during the solo cross country phase of my flight training (50 years ago) after suffering through the usual first solo commands – “hold it off, don’t let it land!” Needless to say, my instructor disagreed with my new “smooth landing” technique and righteously explained, that a smooth landing was not the objective, safety was. Extra energy on touchdown and the three-point attitude were, he said, an invitation to disaster (something about square root functions and porpoising).

You may be surprised to learn that “smooth touchdown” is nowhere to be found in the FAA test standards (the closest is “minimum sink rate” in the soft field section). The more important objectives of a good landing are clearly described: an accurate touch down on the centerline (aligned with no lateral drift) and properly configured and stabilized. Also, arrive as slow as possible touching in the “landing configuration.” For a pilot, “smooth” is a reward, but not the sine qua non. Make your landings proper and safe first and after some practice, “smooth” will be easily achievable. Many smooth landings are actually not safe at all.

But of course, it’s the *passengers* who disagree. The *only* tangible non-pilot standard to judge piloting skill is a super-smooth touchdown. Pilots really need to push back here and get over this imposed illusion for the sake of safety! Smooth landings can often involve extra speed and improper technique. It is much safer to stabilize, control the centerline and land in the proper attitude, even if it touches with a little bump.

The “smooth landing mandate” naturally carries onward into professional jet operations – something about “primacy?” We all want to be the “hero pilot,” and it’s easy to consume a mile of runway milking the last few feet to touchdown in search of the “super-smooth” arrival. You will indeed impress their clients in back when you run off the end of the runway? Not surprisingly, overruns on landing are the #1 cause of accidents in turbine aircraft.

Whether trying to minimize the “bump” felt by passengers or lulled by landing often on runways much longer than needed, business aviators tend to carry excess speed and float into long landings. The average business jet touch down point is about 1,600 feet from the threshold, and nearly 20 percent touch down beyond 2,000 feet, well past the aim point that is the basis for predicted aircraft landing performance

Admittedly, there are a variety of causes of overruns in turbine landings, most notably the extreme weight and energy at play and contaminated surfaces. But ironically, the solution to hydroplaning is actually a “firm touchdown” to create positive contact with the runway surface.

And to be very clear, I am not condoning (or recommending) hard landings. I am just advocating for less of a focus on “super-soft” touchdowns as an end in themselves. Go for “safe” first (as described above) and smooth will follow after some practice. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

ATC Assist in Florida Landing!

Controller Robert Morgan, pictured above, was the calm voice that guided a non-pilot, Darren Harrison, from over the ocean to a safe landing recently in Florida. Fortunately, Robert is a CFI  – and was available to help [MORE] Congratulations on another “first solo” Robert – you made every CFI proud! This success also clearly highlights the importance of ATC assistance during an emergency.  Air traffic controllers can provide amazing resources. Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) was recently featured in the SAFEblog and is required in the FAA certification standards. One important point to remember, however, is that not all controllers are CFIs – or even pilots (more on this below).

The availability of ATC as a resource should be emphasized in all training and should be part of every flight review for safety. Both Sullenberger in the “Miracle on the Hudson” and Al Haynes in the United 232 Sioux City crash, emphasized the importance of a calm and efficient air traffic controller as a key component in their successful emergency landings. Many applicants on flight tests forget to “call a friend.”

“We worked together seamlessly in one of the most dire situations anyone can imagine to try to save every single life.

Every year, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) awards the coveted Archie League Medal of Safety to controllers who go above and beyond the call of duty to save pilots in distress.

“The ability to think quickly and remain calm under pressure while maintaining situational awareness are all unique qualities that air traffic controllers and flight service station employees possess.

They all have a willingness to jump right in to resolve complex situations, offer a reassuring voice to those on the frequency and coordinate their efforts with other controllers.”

SAFE member Dean Brown is a committed educator – Indy Center Controller and CFI – working to improve both controller training about emergencies and pilot understanding of how ATC can best help during emergencies. The correct initial (and continuing) response is critical to a successful outcome during emergencies. Frequently, a controller lacks a full understanding of how busy and disorienting emergencies can be for a pilot. Dean is working on rolling out a comprehensive training course for controllers covering a wide variety of emergency situations. If you have suggestions or are a controller wanting to collaborate in this important work, reply in the comment section please (we will get in touch). Fly safe out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

Gut Check: Caution Vs “Courage!”

Confidence is a necessary pilot attribute and timidity can be a hazard. If we did not dream big and overcome reasonable challenges, we would never succeed in aviation. But carrying this too far is often the root cause of accidents. “Over-reaching” our skills creates operations whose success depends on luck. The correct balance of caution and confidence goes back to the ancient Greek “Golden Mean.” Please listen to this brief YouTube audio and tell me honestly if you have never “bit off more than you can chew?” in terms of your perceived and actual abilities? Without honest reflection and revision, we all can slide down the slope of normalizing these dangerous activities. “Experience” is often defined as “learning that occurs when the test comes before the training.” But just because we survived does not validate your (sometimes overconfident) decision.

How can we more reliably achieve the correct balance of confidence and caution? Can we even accurately assess our own skills without the assessment of others? Maybe this is the primary reason crewed flights are 8X  safer than solo flights and pro pilots require recurrent training? Skill obviously plays a big role and accident data reveals we all could use more practice in the landing phase of flight:

The first necessary step when facing a challenging situation is the calming ability to say “no” to impulsivity and create a pause between action and reaction. Once we have stopped the impulsive inner child, we must honestly appraise and reflect on all options and consequences, weighing the risks. Merely visualizing the worst outcomes (the stoic philosophy) sometimes is all that is needed to move more slowly and choose sensibly in a better direction. Two huge forces in aviation that actively collide with fight safety are perceived time savings (efficiency)  and pilot ego; “how will I be perceived by others.”  Getting past these psychological barriers immediately makes every pilot safer.

The reasonable “sounding board” of a trusted advisor is a sure way to add safety to any decision and one reason Part 135 and 121 usually require two pilots. So if it’s a tight decision, expand your resources and solicit some advice from a trusted pilot friend. A worthy motto, borrowed from MADD, is “friends don’t let friends fly stupid.” This requires both seeking and listening to the opinion of others but also advocating to prevent “the accident waiting to happen.” As pilots, we are often so reticent to intervene we allow others to unnecessarily come to peril.

Let’s agree to work together cooperatively and prevent accidents; “safety culture.” The pilot above ignored the wise counsel of ATC; “how about a different field with less wind and a more favorable alignment?”  It takes more humility and less “courage” to fly safely but that way we will be around to enjoy more flights!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

 

Landing or Buzzing? Know CFR 91.119

Flying Cowboy Trent Palmer got a 60 day suspension for low flying. Understanding 91.119 is critical to avoiding this outcome; read SAFEblog.

The legal precedent for FAA violations under CFR 91.119 for low flying (buzzing) is long-standing and well-established. A quick search found 81 cases in the NTSB files over a 20-year period (guilty as charged). You will probably never be violated if you are operating at a charted airport (in a normal manner). The Anderson Letter of Interpretation is pretty well established on this point.
But if you are not near a charted airport in the backcountry, you could easily be sanctioned if what you are doing looks like a “buzz job” (and it will stick). This current interpretation is a problem for a pilot assessing a landing site with the (FAA recommended) high, intermediate and low-level recon passes: “Make at least 3 recon passes at different levels before attempting a landing.If you have not seen, Flying Cowboy Trent Palmer is appealing a 60-day suspension for low flying with the classic 91.13 (careless and reckless) and 91.119 (low flying) violations.

The mistake many pilots make with the current interpretation is assuming that CFR 91.119 is a “get out of jail free card” e.g. just say I was in the “take-off and landing phase of flight” and you will be absolved; wrong! This reg does not work like that. The exact words are: “Except when necessary for landing or takeoff” (emphasis added). Here is the Trent Palmer YouTube:

SAFE member Mike Vivion shared this article he wrote for Water Flying in 2010. Mike has over 30 years flying floats, wheels, and skis in the Alaska bush country for US Fish & Wildlife and Department of Interior. He is very familiar with these cases and also the common misconceptions most pilots hold about the “approach and landing.” The current FAA interpretation of 91.119 can easily get you in trouble:

Most pilots understand that they are required to maintain 500 feet separation between their aircraft and persons or property on the surface, and at least 1000 feet above a “congested area”.  But, in my experience, many pilots assume that during landing or takeoff this distance requirement no longer applies.  But the first line of 91.119 reveals the specific verbiage which can get you in trouble:  “Except when necessary for takeoff or landing…”
Pilots of wheel-equipped airplanes rarely cross paths with the FAA on this point, because they are most often landing on established runways that have specified approach and departure paths.  If a photographer, for example, stands near the approach end of a runway while my airplane is on approach to land on that runway, am I expected to go land somewhere else?  Not unless to continue the approach would constitute a hazard to the photographer or my aircraft.  In that case, it may be necessary for me to approach closer than 500 feet to the photographer during the landing approach because of the layout of the airport and its operating surfaces.
If nobody complains, and there’s no FAA Inspector around, more than likely nothing will come of this event… More and more, the recreating public sees airplanes as some sort of insidious threat, and nearly everyone has a cell phone with a camera these days.  The likelihood of a violation ensuing [during non-airport operations] is pretty good if someone gets their underwear in a knot about us landing a seaplane near their boat/jetski/dock/etc.

There are more good comments on the Super Cub Forum if you want additional perspective on the challenge of off-airfield operations. One important pro tip for talking with the FAA during an inquiry; don’t! Get a lawyer right away if it is serious. This is when your AOPA pilot protection plan is very handy. Aviation administrative law is entirely different from our familiar civil law (no jury of your peers, fewer rights, etc). Unfortunately, many pilots incriminate themselves immediately when talking with the FAA by admitting everything – and you made their case for them. Even proving you were the pilot of the plane is often a problem in these cases (a blurry video). Also, remember to file a NASA (ASRS) Form if you ever even suspect a violation (it’s free). This is your real “get out of jail free” card.
Hopefully, you will never need this detailed understanding of 91.119 (stay out of the weeds). Fly safe out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

*Practical* Aerodynamics; Facts Every Pilot Must Know

Pilots don’t need aerodynamics at the level of Greek Letters and many decimal places to be safe in flight. But understanding the basic physics of flight is essential. F-16 pilot and good friend AF General Mike Hall calls this “fighter pilot math;” a practical working knowledge ready for immediate use. Remember, gravity works tirelessly, day and night all year long. We are continuously using physical forces to safely stay aloft.

 I recommend the Essential Aerodynamics course from AOPA to all of my students (and many new CFIs) since there seems to be a general ignorance that can cause accidents. At my #SnF22 forums (and most previous pilot seminars) I always give a short 5-6 question quiz on aerodynamic basics and the results are the same; pilots need better knowledge to be safe. (Try the quiz here if you haven’t, then re-engage for the answers below) Thanks to everyone for participating🙏

BTW: I am only a pilot CFI/DPE so I checked my answers with a much more qualified guy; Ron Blum. He supervised/created Flight Test and Aerodynamics departments at Cessna, Honda, Beech & Kestrel before being Chief Engineer for Mooney’s M10. I learned a lot talking with Ron!

1) Misunderstood Angle of Attack

These two photos depict a C-152 in climb and descent. Photo A shows a Vy climb in the “clean” configuration. Photo B shows a reduced power (pattern) descent with flaps deployed (same plane, same loading). Both have approximately the same angle of attack (notice the same airspeed of 60K). Why does this matter? Pilots seem to universally fear the nose high flight attitude and often do not pitch enough for maximum performance when they need to (timid pilot). Additionally, many pilots mistakenly believe a nose-low attitude guarantees safety, when in fact this aircraft is just as close to a stall as the nose-high aircraft. Pilots practice “predictable stalls” in training and are not ready for “surprise stalls” encountered in an upset.

Flaps deployed dramatically change the wing shape and effect, requiring a lower flight attitude. Though you cannot determine AOA from an external snapshot of a plane in flight (you need trend), internally the amount of chrome showing (how far back you have the yoke or stick) is a pretty close approximation of AOA. Watch this AOPA video of a stall with the nose pointed straight down.

2) Where is the CG (and why does this matter)?

In a conventional, properly loaded aircraft, the CG is forward of the center of lift yielding stability and control. This means for an average pilot, the nose is the “heavy end” of the plane (in flight the tail provides downforce). Why does this matter? Stability is designed into every airplane (see CFR Part 23) during certification and testing; “planes don’t stall, pilots stall planes” (by pulling too much) – unload to recover!

3)Lift is Equal on the Wings in a Stabilized Turn

In a stabilized turn, lift is equal on the wings (or your plane would still be rolling). In a 30-degree banked turn, trim the nose for hands-off level flight and fold your arms. A well-rigged plane will continue to turn happily with no input until you run out of fuel. (this is a great CFI demonstration for early learners to dissipate their fear of turns)

Why is this important? If pilots fear turning and stalls  they become timid pilots, skidding their plane instead of banking. (I would guess ~50% of PPL test applicants have never done a turning stall). The nose simply falls away from the lift vector and the real takeaway is that there is usually even fewer real aerodynamic signals (no “break”). Most trainers simply start to mush and their pilots fail to realize they are even stalled!

4) The “Active Control” in a turn is the elevator.

See the above demonstration of trimming a stable turn, ailerons and rudder should be neutral in a medium-banked turn in a well-rigged aircraft. The elevator is turning the plane. Rolling into and out of a turn obviously requires the coordinated use of ailerons and rudder (and differential lift). Turning with just the rudder is a skid…not conducive to long life and health.

5) No Spin From a Coordinated Turning Stall.

See #3 above, but “stall break” in most planes is even less pronounced than level. The aircraft nose falls away from the lift vector (nose to toes). Most planes have built-in dihedral stability so many planes roll out of the turn. (No “excitement” if you are coordinated – the “big if!”). A demonstration of a stall in a slip or skid is useful for advanced pilots (try this only with a CFI please – required on the CFI initial). Pro tip: Most trainers just mush in a power-off slip when brought to a stall; yaw and roll balance out nicely.

6) Stall speed only increases by 19% in a 45-degree banked turn!

This seems to be one of the most misunderstood aerodynamic nuggets. Ignorance here can create timid pilots who do not bank effectively and fly the pattern way to fast. Pilots who do not bank enough also tend to skid the plane (turning flat with the rudder) and *this* is a dangerous pilot action. Unfortunately, we all normalize this kinaesthetic feeling daily driving cars.

Maintaining 1.4 Vso in the pattern actually provides a 20% margin over stall even in with a 45-degree bank (just sayin, not recommended). For a deeper analysis of turning flight see Rich Stowell’s (free) course on Community Aviation. And try some Extended Envelope Maneuvers with your favorite MCFI to tune-up your “Practical Aerodynamics.” Fly safely out there (and often).


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education. Our SnF22 sweepstakes will run until Easter so join/renew/or donate to enter for a chance to win a Lightspeed Zulu Headset, a Sporty’s handheld radio or an Aerox PrO2 oxygen system.

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

“Pilot Smarts” (From #SnF22)!

Thanks to all that visited the SAFE booth at #SnF22, it is wonderful to connect again and put faces with the contacts we have developed online. It is also wonderful to present forums at the show and see so many passionate learners trolling the high school eagerly gleaning new ideas and techniques. We know “passionate learners” (FAA WINGS anyone?) are safer pilots – try the basic aerodynamics quiz (and course).

 

These six questions are from my “Advice From the Right Seat” Forum (thanks to all of you who were able to attend). I find that asking questions is one of the best ways to generate cognitive dissonance (mental confusion) that inspires learning. A person comfortable with their own worldview (and pilots are often “super confident in their worldview) is closed to input and learning. Of course, after the presentation, I had to defend my views also with a few PhDs and aerodynamic engineers, so I learned some things too! Try this quiz and I will give you my answers next weekend in the blog. These are derived from similar questions “spin doctor” Rich Stowell has asked in presentations for years. If you are a CFI, inspire some deep thought in your educating. Understanding the basic physics of flight (see AOPA course Essential Aerodynamics) is critical to safe flight. Enjoy the spring weather and fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education. Our SnF22 sweepstakes will run until Easter so join/renew/or donate to enter for a chance to win a Lightspeed Zulu Headset, a Sporty’s handheld radio or an Aerox PrO2 oxygen system.

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

Don’t Turn A Blind Eye on Risky Pilot Behavior

This is (gratefully) reprinted from the NTSB Safety Compass Blog. Author Leah Read is a senior air safety investigator in the NTSB Office of Aviation Safety. 

When air safety investigators arrive at the scene of a fatal aircraft accident, we meet with law enforcement officers, witnesses, friends of the pilot, and family. During these critical interviews, we start to get a bigger picture of the circumstances surrounding the accident and those involved. It’s very common to hear almost immediately that the pilot was very “conscientious,” “thorough,” and an “excellent pilot.”

But there are also times when no one seems to be saying anything much at all about the pilot…until we dig deeper. That’s when we hear things such as, “The pilot never maintained his airplane right.” or “Everybody knew he was going to crash eventually.”

There are also times when the investigator will get a call via our communications center that a witness must talk to someone “right away.” The witness then tells us that the pilot had a LONG history of “maverick-like” behavior, was known to “buzz” a friend’s house, or used illegal drugs—as just some examples. In these situations, we will ask the witness if they had talked to the pilot about this behavior or contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They sometimes tell us, “I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. He was too prideful.”

See Dr. Bill Rhodes “Warning Signs In PilotsSlideShare and also Comments on how rogue pilots persist HERE

Dr. Tony Kern HERE on his book “Rogue Pilots”

But more often, they tell us that they didn’t say anything to the pilot or FAA. Sometimes, the pilot was a friend whom they didn’t want to embarrass or cause any trouble. Personally, as a fellow pilot, I can understand the concerns.

But what if you see something, and don’t step up and say something? The reality is that nonreporting can put people at risk.

Many don’t realize that there are actions the FAA can take if risky pilot behavior is reported. The FAA has established a hotline for confidential and anonymous reporting. As noted on the FAA website, “The FAA Hotline accepts reports concerning the safety of the National Airspace System, violation of a Federal Aviation Regulation (Title 14 CFR), aviation safety issues…. The FAA Hotline provides a single venue for…the aviation community and the public to file their reports.”

As one FAA inspector told me, “We can’t investigate what we don’t know.” If a complaint was made via the FAA Hotline, the FAA would be obligated to investigate. Remember, you may not only save the life of another pilot but also an innocent passenger or bystander.

The NTSB, unfortunately, has seen the tragic consequences of turning a blind eye to a known hazard. I have seen accidents that have occurred in someone’s front yard, skimmed the roof of an apartment building, or crashed near a school. If the airplane had impacted just a few yards in either direction, the damage and loss of life could have been so much worse. This was the case in an accident I investigated where the pilot lost control of the airplane, crashing into a front yard just feet from an occupied house. Thankfully, there was no fire, and no kids were playing in that front yard.

Within moments of arriving on scene and being debriefed by law enforcement, I was handed a witness statement. Very quickly, I realized the witness was quite credible—and what he had to say about the pilot was alarming. The pilot had a known history of reckless behavior. Further investigation revealed that people knew of the pilot’s behavior but didn’t want to report him for several of the reasons I mentioned above. Not surprisingly, the FAA had no negative history on the pilot. He had a clean record and was never on their radar.

Sadly, in this accident, the pilot and his innocent passenger died. But what if he had other passengers onboard? What would have happened if he had crashed into the house, or, worse, a crowd?

A colleague of mine investigated an accident where a pilot was flying an airplane he was not rated to fly, in instrument conditions without holding an instrument rating. The pilot had recorded numerous notes in his logbook that provided compelling evidence of his own unsafe flying, by his own admission. The pilot noted landing on a major highway and flying low over a crowd during parades. He was also known for unsafe low-level flights over airshows and having a general disregard for proper communication procedures. Yet nothing was done about his behavior; people turned a blind eye to it. Tragically, the pilot and three occupants died in the accident when the airplane encountered instrument meteorological conditions and impacted terrain.

In the big scheme of things, we need to ask ourselves, who are we really protecting by keeping quiet? As active pilots, mechanics, airport personnel, friends, and family members, you are the eyes and ears to what’s going on out there. You know your airport and the people who use it. You know when your friend or family member seems risky or unsafe. If you identify a hazard, then speak up. Or, file a report with the FAA Hotline. Just remember, we all share the same airspace or may be nearby if their plane crashes.

Stay safe and don’t turn a blind eye!


See you at Sun ‘N Fun A-85/6. For SAFE members, enjoy a free MCFI breakfast for SAFE members on Thursday at 8am; at the Sunset Cafe.

Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

The Dangers of Timid Piloting

During a recent airplane owners’ gathering in Florida, I did a short poll of the audience on basic aerodynamics. One result reflected a common pattern: pilots fear banking past 30 degrees (especially in the pattern)!  Pilots at all levels erroneously believe 45-degree bank turn has much more “aerodynamic threat” (raises the stall speed much higher) than is actually the case. 70% of the pilots here thought a 45 degree turn added >40% to the stall speed (that is more than double the actual answer of 19%). And since most pilots fear banking and maneuvering in general, they are not confident enough for safe aircraft control. Generally, gentle and trimmed is a great idea for passengers and daily comfort, but timid piloting makes flying unsafe for many important reasons.

Like continual use of autopilot, super-gentle timid flying makes a pilot unwilling and unable to take accurate and decisive control when necessary (unpracticed skills are unavailable). Secondly, timidity in turning leads to pilots “turning the plane flat”- skidding the plane with rudder. This is much more dangerous than coordinated banking, and the real threat in the base to final phase of flight. A timid pilot’s brain is saying “danger: low and slow, don’t bank too much” due to gross misunderstanding of the real threat. The third problem with timid piloting adds more “airspeed buffer” and flies way too fast in the pattern. This leads to being unable to slow down and stabilize the final approach for a normal landing. All the accumulated energy gained through aerodynamic ignorance creates a much more dangerous landing. Most high-performance pilots fly final much too fast into the landing leading to porpoising and prop strikes. Other related problems are landing long and LOC on the runway. These are usually not fatal but regularly wreck expensive planes. 1.4 Vso on base to final yields almost 20% margin above stall even with a 45% bank (which is admittedly excessive). But most (timid) pilots get uncomfortable with even 30% of bank angle in the pattern.

Here is one more related point. Historic pitch/power dogma might lead to all kinds of pilot actions (depending on initial training) to attempt a correction in airspeed. Some pilots might simply add power (and often too much) to recapture lost airspeed. In a left-hand pattern the resulting uncompensated yaw might cause a further skidding force. A more nuanced approach to energy management (see new AFH Chapter 4 on energy management) would recommend a little power and a lower nose attitude (unload) and yield a better result. Practicing Envelope Extension Maneuvers at altitude makes a more confident and knowledgeable pilot. Fly SAFE out there (and often)!


See you at Sun ‘N Fun A-85/6. For SAFE members, enjoy a free breakfast for SAFE members on Thursday at 8am; at the Sunset Cafe.

Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

 

 

Safer Flying; Single-pilot Resource Management!

This week’s blog is by Hobie Tomlinson (see bio below). With 40K hours and 9 type ratings, Hobie developed much of what we now call CRM when he was a 747 captain at TWA. Here is an excerpt from our SAFE resource library (free to members )…enjoy!

Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) are the abilitis of the crew (or pilot) to manage all available resources effectively in order to ensure that the outcome of the flight is successful.

Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) is most often used in general aviation and it is focused on single-pilot operation. SRM recognizes the need for pilots to seek adequate information from many available sources in order to make valid choices. Pilots must continue seeking this knowledge until they have obtained the proper information to make the best possible decisions under the existing circumstances.  Once a pilot has gathered all pertinent information and made the required decisions, the pilot must then continually assess the actions taken in order to ensure that they continually yield the desired outcomes.

Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) is a central skill in all ACS skills, it is the heart of being an effective pilot in command:

Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) integrates the following disciplines:

Situational Awareness (SA) is the accurate perception of operational and environmental factors that affect the flight. It is a logical analysis based upon the aircraft, available external support, the operational environment, and the pilot. In plain language, it simply means ~ “knowing what is going on.”

Proper Situational Awareness is not simply just having a mental picture of the aircraft’s location; but rather, it is the continual mental maintenance of an overall assessment of all the elements which comprise the current flight environment and how each affects the flight. A pilot who maintains good situational awareness is knowledgeable of all aspects of the flight and consequently is able to be proactive in his decision-making process.

Conversely, a pilot who has poor situational awareness is typically missing several important pieces of information and is thus forced to regress into a reactive style of decision-making. A pilot with poor situational awareness lacks a vision of potential future events and is thus forced into making decisions quickly when unexpected events occur, often with very limited options. An example of poor situational awareness and reactive decision-making would be a pilot who does not adequately keep track of his flight’s progress (or the destination weather) and suddenly finds himself faced with destination weather which is below landing weather minimums and inadequate fuel to reach his filed destination alternate! (This accident actually happened to a Cessna Citation crew in Wilmington, NC.)

During a Typical IFR Flight, a pilot usually operates at several levels of situational awareness. For example, a pilot may be in cruise toward his destination with a high level of situational awareness when air traffic control (ATC) issues a revised routing consisting of an unexpected Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) due to traffic volume. Because the pilot was not expecting that particular STAR and is not familiar with it, situational awareness is temporarily reduced. However, after becoming familiar with the STAR and resuming normal navigation on the new routing, the pilot again returns to a high level of situational awareness.

Factors which Reduce SA include the following:

        • Distractions
        • Unusual or Unexpected events
        • Complacency
        • High Workload
        • Unfamiliar Situations
        • Inoperative Equipment
        • Fatigue

Lack of Situational Awareness (SA) is almost always a precursor to an aircraft accident. The lack of situational awareness can be identified by the occurrence of one or more of the following events:

        • Failure to Stay Ahead of the operation by anticipating upcoming events.
        • Ambiguity ~ when two or more independent sources of information do not agree.
        • Fixation or Preoccupation ~ when the focus of attention is only one item at the exclusion of all others.
        • Confusion ~ the feeling of uncertainly, anxiety, or puzzlement about
        • No One Overseeing the task
        • Uncertainty about the current state of the task
        • Use of Undocumented Procedures (i.e. Shortcuts)
        • Departure from Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) ~ either intentional or unintentional.
        • Violating Task Limitations (or Standards)
        • Failure to Meet Task Targets (or Goals)
        • Unresolved Discrepancy
        • Incomplete Communication

In some situations, loss of situational awareness may be beyond the pilot’s control. As an example, a vacuum pump failure (or Primary Flight Display – PFD- screen failure for you technically advanced aircraft – TAA – types out there) and the associated initial loss of the heading and attitude indicators could cause a pilot to suddenly find his aircraft in an unusual attitude. If this situation occurs, established and trained procedures must be immediately used to reestablish aircraft control and restore situational awareness.

Pilots should be aware of the loss (or reduction) in situational awareness anytime they find themselves in a reactive mindset. To regain situational awareness, immediately reassess your flight situation by seeking additional information from other sources such as your flight and navigation instruments, air traffic control, uplinked weather data or flight service.

Flight Deck Resource Management (CRM or SRM) is the effective use of all available resources which include the following:

        • Human
        • Equipment
        • Information

Flight Deck Resource Management focuses on communication skills, teamwork, task allocation, and decision-making. While Crew Resource Management (CRM) usually concentrates on pilots who operate in crew environments, the elements and concepts also apply to pilots who operate in single-pilot environments (Single-Pilot Resource Management ~ SRM).

Human Resources include all personnel routinely working with the pilot(s) to ensure the safety of the flight. These people include, but are not limited to, the following: dispatchers, schedulers, weather briefers, flight line personnel, fuelers, maintenance and/or avionics technicians, pilots and other crew members, and air traffic control personnel. Pilots need to effectively communicate with all of these people. This communication is best accomplished by using the three key components of the communication process. These three key components are as follows:

        • Inquiry
        • Advocacy
        • Assertion

Pilots must recognize the need to seek enough information from the above resources to make valid decisions. Once the necessary information has been acquired, the resultant decisions of the pilot must be passed on to the individuals who are affected by those decisions. These individuals may include air traffic controllers, passengers, other crew members, fixed base operators and/or people awaiting the arrival of the flight. The pilot may need to request assistance from others in implementing these decisions and in some situations, this may even require assertiveness for all issues to be safely resolved.

Equipment Resources in many of today’s Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) include automated flight and navigations systems. While these automated systems provide relief from many of the routine flight deck tasks, they present another set of problems for pilots. The extensive programming required by automated systems tends to increase pilot workload during the least “structured” (and often rushed) preflight phase of the flight operation. It is imperative that pilots allow adequate time to correctly program their autoflight systems before beginning to taxi the aircraft and avoid any “heads down” time while taxiing. This is one of the most important steps for preventing runway incursions and/or other taxi deviations.

While Flying Enroute the automation, which is intended to reduce pilot workload, essentially removes the pilot from the task of managing the aircraft, thereby reducing the pilot’s situational awareness and promoting complacency. It is important for pilots to continually monitor the information provided by the flight, navigation and weather displays of Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) in order to assure that they maintain proper situational awareness. Pilots must be thoroughly familiar with the operation of; information presented by, and correct management of, all systems used (automated or otherwise). It is essential that pilots remain fully aware of both their equipment’s full capabilities and all its limitations in order to manage these systems effectively and safely.

Information Workload and automated systems (such as autopilots) need proper management to ensure the safety of the flight. A pilot flying in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) is often faced with multiple, simultaneous tasks, each with a different level of importance in ensuring a safe outcome to the flight operation. A high workload example of this occurs during the initial stages of an instrument approach to an airport. The pilot must be able to obtain the Automatic Terminal Information System (ATIS) or Automatic Weather Observing System (AWOS) weather, review the applicable approach plate, properly plan his descent in order to be able to slow and reconfigure the aircraft by the Final Approach Fix, correctly program the communication and navigation radios – including all required automation systems – communicate with Air Traffic Control and complete all the required checklists.

The Pilot who is able to effectively manage his workload will be able to complete as many of these tasks as early as feasible in order to eliminate the possibility of task saturation (becoming overloaded) caused by last-minute ATC changes and communication priorities during a later and more critical stage of the approach.

Figure 1-11 (above) shows that the margins of safety are at their lowest point during this stage of the flight operation. This is where the majority of accidents occur. A large part of the reason for the high accident rate during this portion of the flight is that when a pilot delays (or forgets) routine tasks until the last minute, there is a large possibility of the pilot becoming task saturated and stressed. This task saturated condition will result in a large erosion of the pilot’s performance capabilities and probably even produce a negative safety margin!

Proper Task Management is a requirement for performing safe flight operations. Because humans have a finite (i.e. limited) capacity to absorb information, once the data stream exceeds the pilot’s ability to mentally absorb and process all the required information, task saturation results. When this data stream (information flow) exceeds a pilot’s ability to mentally process the information, any additional information will become unattended and/or displace other tasks and information already being processed. Once a pilot’s task saturation (officially called “channel capacity”) level is reached only the following two alternatives exist:

        • Shed the unimportant tasks
        • Perform all tasks at a less than optimal level

Automatic Task Shedding is a natural event during which the brain rejects incoming data in order to reduce its processing load. This prevents the brain from “locking up” as a computer will do when its processing capacity is exceeded. Because the brain is trying to reduce incoming data during “automatic task shedding,” it will always reject (dump) the most complex task first. The problem with allowing automatic task shedding to occur is that the most complex task which the brain automatically deletes will also be the most important task! This is why a pilot experiencing automatic task shedding will start “majoring in minors.” This is evidenced by the pilot performing some totally irrelevant minor task while a critically important, major task is being completely ignored.

New Flight Instructors are taught to identify task saturation in situations such as when observing a task saturated student concentrating on a minor task (such as resorting their approach plates) while a major event (such as the aircraft rapidly departing controlled flight and entering the very unusual attitude phase) goes completely unnoticed. (Another sure sign is the “glazed over” eyes.) A task-saturated pilot will also be relatively unresponsive to instructional input until his task load is significantly reduced. Just as in an overloaded electrical circuit, either the (information) consumption must be reduced or a circuit failure (automatic task shedding) will be experienced. During flight instructor training, they are taught to remember that a student-in-training is like a violin string ~ “They can only produce good music when they are kept under the proper tension!”

Circuit Failure (Automatic Task Shedding) is prevented by learning to always prioritize tasks (from most important to least important) and to recognize the signs of impending task saturation (an apparent sense of “time compression” accompanied by elevated stress levels). When these signs of impending “task saturation” appear, the pilot needs to implement “manual task shedding” to prevent automatic task shedding from occurring.

This is done by working the prioritized task list from the top down (most important to least important) while simultaneously discarding tasks from the bottom up (least important to most important). This process is continued until the task list is completed or the available time expires. Sometimes it is possible to increase the available time (i.e. requesting a delaying vector from ATC) when vital tasks (such as abnormal or emergency checklists) require additional time to complete before attempting a landing.

The pilot who is able to effectively manage his tasks and properly prioritize them will have a successful flight. (For example, do not become distracted and fixate on some minor problem – such as an irrelevant system malfunction.) This unnecessary focus is a sign of impending task saturation and any irrelevant focus further displaces a pilot’s capability, thus preventing his ability to undertake tasks of greater importance. By planning ahead and properly managing cockpit workload, pilots can effectively reduce their workload during the critical phases of flight.


See you at Sun ‘N Fun A-85/6. For SAFE members, enjoy a free breakfast gathering on Thursday at 8am; at the Sunset Cafe.

Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

The Dangerous Stalls (We Never Teach)!

As educators, we often teach only what we ourselves were taught – conveying the same good (and bad) information or techniques in the same way we learned them. It takes courage to call out and change errors and omissions from our mentors (they are our heroes after all). It also takes creativity and effort to forge new pathways and techniques. But this is what is required to make progress in safety; learning, and changing the “time-honored formulas” based on new data. Consider new trends like “startle” which has transformed our understanding of Loss of Control. Or teaching landings by training slow flight low over the runway instead of just touch and goes. Similarly, focusing more on take-off and departure stalls can be more effective for safety since this area of flight is much more toxic than the time-honored base-to-final turn. Once we understand the static inertia of flight training techniques, it is easier to understand why accident rates stay fairly level. As educators, we often miss training in dangerous areas of flight that regularly challenge pilots – and regularly cause accidents.

Between 2008 and 2014, about 47 percent of fatal fixed-wing GA accidents in the United States involved pilots losing control of their aircraft in flight, resulting in 1,210 fatalities.

Killer stalls occur repeatedly in accident dockets but we fail to train them. The flight scenarios that create stalls in real life often occur because of sudden power changes; either a loss of power on take-off or the sudden application of power during a go-around. But we inevitably train only the constant power stalls that lack the sudden yaw forces that confuse pilots and power spin entries. Why don’t we train these situations where accidents happen? Probably because they are pretty advanced and can be pretty scary for learners. It takes a very careful and compassionate CFI to work through even the “plain vanilla” stalls to the point that a pilot can comfortably recover, developing useful habits. Taking stalls even further requires both a committed trainer and a willing learner. So it is essential to first “sell” the necessity of these maneuvers with their safety advantage; it is also essential to have the “buy in” from your learner. These should not be inflicted on a pilot, this should be a mutually agreed upon “safety mission” and that is why they are in the SAFE CFI-PRO™ curriculum. We have a duty as professional educators to take our “learners” into these common “dark corners” where bad things can happen. And they are especially effective “added value” on a flight review.

Imagine an aircraft on take-off in a steady, trimmed, Vy climb encountering a sudden loss of all power (if you have not tried either of these stalls, please take an experienced CFI along). Recovery from this surprise requires an immediate and aggressive push to reduce the angle of attack. And this is uncomfortable for many pilots due to the proximity to the ground. For untrained pilots, sudden power failures on take-off almost always end badly (even on dual flights). This should be over-trained at altitude until unloading the AOA becomes an instinctive reaction.

Now imagine a very different configuration, just over the runway in the landing configuration, transitioning into the flare and raising the nose. Just before the flare at a high angle of attack, the sudden power application (simulating a go-around) is often mishandled and results in a LOC. There is no extra altitude to spare and reactions here again must be over-trained to be precise and immediate. Both these variable power stalls should be practiced at altitude (with an experienced, compassionate CFI) until they are instinctive. Fly safe out there (and often)!


See you at Sun ‘N Fun A-85/6. For SAFE members, enjoy a free breakfast gathering on Thursday at 8am; at the Sunset Cafe.

Join SAFE and enjoy great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight)! Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts all required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our SAFE CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). #flySAFE

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