Pseudo Teaching; Excitement but No Learning!

Modern technology is fueling a lot of great learning tools but also “pseudoteachers”

Bad teaching is usually easy to spot with the obvious lack of learner engagement, no improvement and performance problems. But pseudoteaching is increasingly a problem in academia (and aviation) because it is exciting and fun for the student (and looks great in reviews) but unfortunately fails to accomplish any real learning goals for the students.

Pseudoteaching is a growing problem due to whizbang technological presentations and the “ratemyprofessor” celebration of simple popularity as a metric of pedagogical success. In aviation this same problem is fostered by valuing simple social media popularity as a substitute for credibility, honest content, and actionable learner results. And unfortunately, though a failure to “get it” in math will cause a simple failure of the test, in aviation this could have a serious safety implication for you!

We all live in an accelerating world of media and technology. Much of this is unfortunately only “intellectual fast food” with lots of bulk and not much real content. Much of what becomes popular and masquerades as “true learning” is unfortunately mere showmanship or even false hopes conveyed by less-than-honest “pseudoeducators.” Those YouTubes of amazing performances are often created with clever desktop video assembly after infinite failures (don’t try these things on your own). In aviation, the test comes down to simple consistent learner performance since aviation is a ruthlessly honest activity; you either have it or you don’t. Our asymptotic safety record demonstrates the price of doing aviation poorly.

My former Chief Pilot used to continually frustrate me, as a new CFI, with his (very honest) recitation “If the student has not learned it, their instructor has not taught it well enough.” Credentials like Master Instructors and the General Aviation Awards are very useful tools to sort out the real educators from the imposters. Adhering to an industry accepted vision and mission statement is also a great tool to insure honest instructional credibility. Despite many technological advances and amazing on-line tools, achievement in aviation still is somewhat medieval in it’s requirement for hard work and time spent working though difficulties to achieve hard-won success. Find and trust an honest and compassionate coach willing to work through your difficulties and celebrate your successes. Anyone that is selling a “quick magic solution” to success in aviation is hawking you snake oil in a modern YouTube container…buyer beware!


BTW: I *do* love YouTube and as an iOS Developer thrive on modern technology; misuse is my bête noire.

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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

 

Master CFI; Every Student Is Different!

Once you discover, respect and honor these differences, your teaching becomes much more effective (and fun!)

There is a very dangerous assumption built into all our CFI instructional materials and techniques. This starts with developing the “standardized lesson plans” we are required to create for our initial CFI evaluation. If not checked, this standardization can quickly lead to the “Army Chow Line Approach to Instruction.” e.g. “This is Lesson 3, step up…here is your slow flight (blop), turns right and left and intro to stalls (ready or not!)” Everyone rolls their eyes at this analogy but our modern aviation delivery system is built on the military and is still not too different! But teaching a millennial post-doc college student aviation is completely different from coaching a young mother discovering aviation for recreational purposes. Every student requires creative instructional techniques on the part of the CFI to be effective. If you are a brand new CFI, take those lesson plans you carefully prepared for your FAA checkride and shred them (or use them for reference only).

I call the FAA approach “the myth of the blank slate” when working with new CFIs. You are never going to get to teach that “idealized lesson plan!’ One of the initial challenges of being a flight instructor “for real” is accepting this fact and being able instead to adapt rapidly, effectively and safely to each new learning situation as it evolves. Though developing a curriculum and lesson plans, for an “ideal student” has value, imposing that structure on a  unique learning environment (and person) is one of the biggest errors in flight instruction.  Creativity and adaptability are the key skills of a masterful CFI.

When you meet a new student, whether it is their first lesson or midway through a curriculum (with “history” and “issues”), it is essential to immediately discover their unique strengths, weaknesses, background and learning style in a very intentional manner. With apologies for this glib generalization, every successful student in aviation needs some combination of the “hands, head and heart” capabilities to succeed. Some people are extremely dexterous and blessed with tremendous “hand to eye coordination.” Others will require more practice to succeed. The sooner you discover these (and other) unique characteristics, the more efficient and fun the training will be.

So now when I meet a new student (at any level), I insist on some time to work out all of these issues clearly before flight. I personally would not recommend an “interview” since this formality can impose a frame which creates tension and discourages true discovery. But a casual sit down discussion allows you both to gather information and dispel myths (in both directions). This is a time to establish a common bond and make sure you find out: first, “what are your goals in aviation and what is your motivation for learning aviation?” Teaching a recreational flier to be a future airline pilot is a common (and unsuccessful) modern mistake. Second, “what are activities you enjoy and are already good at? (What psychologists call “privileged domains”) Third, “how much do you know about aviation already?” (from a parent or friend who flies?) This “naive rendition” or what they think they already know about aviation is critical. These existing impressions might be a positive (or negative) but they are the basis for all future learning.

One last essential trait you need to discover about your new client (and questions are not necessary or recommended on this one) is determining their disposition and learning style. All learner’s personalities fall somewhere along the spectrum between “OCD engineer” to “skateboard dude” (this is not a currently accepted psychological scale!) Discovering their disposition and learning style will be essential to creating an effective learning environment. Interestingly, in my experience, neither end of this personality spectrum makes a better pilot, but that is another article…fly safely!


Please join us on July 12th for a live discussion of these and other CFI issues. Rod Machado and Greg Brown are true leaders in aviation education. We will be offering actionable CFI techniques. Please register on the FAA Safety site so we know who is watching *and* we will give out some exciting prizes!


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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

CFI Pro; Teaching PIC With “Incremental Mastery”

I recently participated in a webinar with Russ Still and Nate Tennant from Gold Seal Ground Schools focusing on preparation for check rides, specifically the easier “low hanging fruit.” In the overwhelming push to prepare for a test, applicants often miss the simplest things. This webinar was great fun plus an opportunity to share valuable resources with our membership and the general public.  We will have more livestream videos coming for you in the near future. During these livestream events send your questions and input: #askgoldseal

Scenarios are Essential

Since we can’t physically transport an applicant to all the places and conditions they will encounter in their future piloting experience, during training (and testing) we have to simulate experiences with scenarios. Scenarios are a critical tool that you must train with and expect to see continuously during every evaluation. Because when a flight test is complete, one thing we have to absolutely *know* for sure; this pilot can handle or at least figure out all these situations. Also that our future pilot will have enough judgment, knowledge and integrity to know their limits and say “no” until they acquire more experience to handle advanced situations. We probably only train and test probably a minor percentage of what you will ultimately experience as a pilot. But unfortunately every failure in the real world will be an aircraft accident. In testing, the trick is extrapolating from a very small time and distance sample to all possible future flight challenges (in a couple hours).

Teaching PIC a Step at a Time…

A critical pilot skill for every flight (and pilot evaluation) is demonstrating “pilot in command” authority. A pilot flying absolutely has to “own it” in a very literal sense. If an applicant on a test is continually unsure and timidly asking permission for every operation, they have not adequately internalized this important quality. They are still tied to the apron strings of their CFI. How to foster this transformation from “student” to “person in charge” in training is difficult and requires “incremental mastery;” You cannot will this into being and it will not happen in a day.

To build “pilot in command authority” in students during my teaching, I continuously hand over each proficiently demonstrated operation to the student. As soon as they have a solid command of take-off, climb and turn, these areas are delegated entirely to their control. They will “solo to the practice area” (with no help) by lesson 3.  I make this very clear in the briefing and in the cockpit; all decisions and aircraft control are entirely their responsibility! In this way the student essentially takes over complete authority for the aircraft in a series of incremental steps. This  gives a huge motivational boost to your student throughout training; they see and feel the progress. And when the crosswind is too much or an operation is in question, I rely on the student’s judgment to say so and ask for assistance; we all need to learn our limits. Once mastery in normal operations is assured it is obviously essential to challenge our students with many creative “abnormals and emergencies” (more on the sadistic CFI later 🙂

Unfortunately, when I ran a flight school I discovered most CFIs subconsciously teach dependence on the “sage in the right seat.” Teaching the “student” to rely and depend too much on the CFI is a big mistake that will forever cripple the future pilot. Much like parenting, it is essential in flight training to continuously foster independence and allow small mistakes for clients to figure out and overcome on their own (or with minor guidance). In this manner they will be come confident masters of their aviation world. Too much micro-managing and help by the CFI results in a timid and dependent pilot. The old saw of “teaching them to fish” and not just supplying dinner applies here. Dependency is very clear during a flight test and your student will probably not be a successful candidate that day. And any mistakes during initial training are incredibly durable and difficult to overcome. Get it right in those first 50 hours!

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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

 

Managing Risk: “Cleared For Take-Off!”

By Steve Rossiter, an ATP/CFII in both helicopters and fixed wing. After flying two tours in Vietnam he served two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot (one in helicopters and one in airplanes). Steve has been a CFI and professional pilot for over 50 years.

I live on a hill overlooking the airport in Missoula, Montana (KMSO), so I have an opportunity daily to see airplanes taking off and landing. It has always been interesting to me that so many pilots choose to make intersection takeoffs instead of using the full length of the runway. Of course, at Missoula there is plenty of runway in both directions for most general aviation airplanes to takeoff. But is it a good idea to only use half the runway? We each have our own opinion on this question. However, I’m taking this opportunity to discuss my position.

When I’ve talked to pilots about intersection departures, not just in Missoula, I hear all sorts of rationales: It’s faster. It costs less to taxi the shorter distance. It’s not unsafe. It’s not illegal. I operate from shorter runways all the time. All of these comments are absolutely true. So, why the discussion then?

Having been a professional pilot for 52 years, a certificated flight instructor for 50 years, and a graduate of the USC Aviation Safety Management and Accident Investigation Program, I’ve sat around many airports “hangar flying” with lots of pilots, most of whom were professional pilots, and the consensus has been that, as a rule, intersection departures are not considered the best idea. Say what?

My main concern is safety. The fact is that it is not as safe to depart from an intersection as it is to depart using the full length of the runway. The operative term here is as safe. Consider this situation:

You accept a departure clearance from Taxiway Golf on runway 29 at KMSO. From Taxiway Golf you have 3,950 feet of runway available, more than enough runway for your airplane. When you get about 3,000 feet down the runway (either flying or still rolling on the ground), you suddenly experience a problem and need to be back on the ground and stopped as fast as possible. Let’s say that you are extremely proficient and you are able to get your airplane down and stopped, only overrunning the end of the runway by a few hundred feet. Oh, yeah, and you also ran through the first couple of layers of approach lights. Or you landed in the rolling hills west of the airport or in the grain field east of the airport.

If you’d had the same emergency situation using the full length of the runway, it would likely have been a non-event. It is unquestionably safer to depart from the beginning of the runway than it is to make an intersection departure. You will never need the extra distance of the full length of the runway until you need the full length of the runway. Is your crystal ball good enough to know the difference?   Mine isn’t.

A friend of mine’s crystal ball was not good enough either. He and another friend made an intersection departure in an airplane they had just purchased. About 400 feet in the air, they lost power. With no more runway ahead of them, the pilot attempted to turn back toward the airport. They ended up hitting a power line, a tree, and a fence before coming to a full stop in someone’s backyard. Although the airplane was destroyed and there was some damage on the ground, both pilot and passenger walked away from the accident site.

When the aircraft first lost power, how much do you think that pilot would have paid to have all the unused runway behind him back? Do you think he has thought about his decision to make an intersection takeoff since the accident? From the starting point at full length on a 9,500 foot runway, there still would have been runway in front of him or at least relatively flat ground. Do you think a pilot who has had such an experience might rethink the concept of full length departures as opposed to intersection takeoffs? Most important, will you learn from this pilot’s unhappy experience?”

Please remember that there is nothing more useless to a pilot than the runway behind him, the air above him, and the fuel left in the fuel truck.

I’ll always opt for the full length of the runway for takeoff except on the rare occasion when air traffic control requests the use of an intersection. In those cases, I am aware of and accept the higher level of risk associated with complying with their request. Whenever you make the choice to make an intersection takeoff, please acknowledge to yourself that you are accepting a higher than necessary level of risk and ask yourself if it is worth it.


Steve Rossiter is a Lifetime Member of SAFE. He started his flying career as an Army Aviator with two tours in Vietnam and two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot one in helicopters and one in airplanes. After his military service, he worked as a law enforcement pilot, an airtanker pilot, a helicopter firefighting pilot, an air taxi pilot, a helicopter external load pilot, a check pilot for the Department of Interior and US Forest Service, and prior to retirement, served as the National Aviation Safety Manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Steve holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate for both Airplanes and Helicopters and has several type ratings, Steve is also an Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor and held CFII Airplane and Helicopter until 2014. He is currently President of EAA Chapter 517, Inc., and Vice-President of Five Valleys Hangar of the Montana Pilots Association.


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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

Aviation Fun! Visit SAFE at AOPA Fly-Ins

Join SAFE at the AOPA Regional Fly-In at Camarillo April 28/9 if you are in the area. We support AOPA in their exciting regional shows as they become bigger and better…we want to meet our members too! This year AOPA is expanding the educational seminar selection and pumping up the fun with a barnstormer party Friday night. MCFI Michael Phillips will be at the show representing SAFE. (He could use some help if other SAFE members are willing!) Michael is a 50 year aviation addict and active CFI in the southern California region. Also at the show will be SAFE member (and winner of AMT of the Year) Adrian Eichorn. Adrian flew his V-Tail Bonanza around the world solo last year for his 60th birthday…talk about a bucket list item! Please support AOPAs energetic initiative and also our new SAFE commitment to meeting our members…stop by and have some aviation fun!

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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

PIREPS Save Lives; Please Report!

The pilot of a Cessna 310 lost his life on a missed approach while shooting an ILS in “VFR conditions.” He was current and fully briefed but the weather worsened enroute and no one reported the downpour at the airfield (or that the tower had been struck by lightning!) There is no way an FSS specialist developing a forecast in Kansas City can help you here. Your fancy internet-driven apps are blind if no one is talking. Even your nexrad is lagging by 20-30 minutes from collection to aggregation and display. This is where PIREPS, critical timely reports by actual observers, are essential to safety. All we need to do is take the time to report the conditions we see to save lives.

PIREPS are a tough sell for a CFI until you demonstrate their value. Our job as CFIs is building those insights in our clients and creating a safer flight environment. If the snowy clouds at your airport are at 800agl and you are wondering where the tops are, there is no reliable information (without a PIREP) You will be sitting (not flying) without that timely data. All our fancy app-driven data is useless without an observer willing to share their experience. And that is what a PIREP is; pilots talking to other pilots and advising them of the current conditions…”this is what I just saw.”

Automated “Official Weather” on http://1800wxbrief.com

As a flight school manager, my former students (now CFIs and regional airline captains) fly Dash 8s into home base and *always* give a tops and icing report when inbound in the winter. This is a personal gift. When the 7:08 Philly flight reports “top of overcast 4100, no ice in the descent” we can safely go flying instead of sitting; PIREPS are essential.

And not surprisingly, PIREPS are an increasing focus for safety professionals; see this recent NTSB special report. Rob Mark covered PIREPS in his recent article in Flying Magazine, which reported the Cessna accident above;

The NTSB revealed during last year’s forum that, “Between March 2012 and December 2015, the NTSB investigated 16 accidents and incidents that exposed pirep-related areas of concern,” adding that, “The pirep information, if disseminated, would have increased the weather situational awareness of the incident flight crews, which could have helped them avoid the weather hazards and prevent the aircraft-damaging events.”

We all need to promote a more active sharing of timely information through the PIREP system.

Aerovie App (free to SAFE members) allows the direct input of PIREP information to NWS.

If you are a CFI educating students, especially at the instrument level, get your clients in the habit of issuing and gathering PIREP information. This system is pilots directly informing their peers of unforecast situations from weather to “the runway lights inoperative” or even wind shear and turbulence on final. Be sure when issuing an advisory to mention “a PIREP” to insure it gets entered into the system and disseminated correctly. A simple “tops 4K” may be dropped if your controller is busy. Using the PIREP system also tunes up your local ATC staff to get in the habit of collecting and processing your reports. The information helps them when they are vectoring traffic and assigning visual approaches. If the radio is too busy call a briefer when you get landed. Newer applications like Aerovie (free to all SAFE members) allow you to input PIREPS directly to NWS right on the app. PIREPS are vital and a tool in a savvy pilots’ kit to assure and improve safety.

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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!

“Google Planes;” Switch off “The Magic”

Aviation has always led the way in automation, with both the technology and also the challenges of our problematic “human interface.” As modern media is discussing the problems of “human accommodation” in self-driving automobiles, aviation has already handled similar challenges for over a century.

The first “autopilot” in an aircraft was actually demonstrated on June 18th 1914 in Paris by Lawrence Sperry. He flew his Curtis C-2 biplane with his hands in the air in front of an excited crowd at the Concours de la Sécurité which went wild for the show. On his second pass he climbed out on the wing as the plane executed complete “pilotless flight” past the assembled masses. This “gyroscopic stabilizer apparatus” continued to develop and Sperry’s “Mechanical Mike” aided Wiley Post on the first solo flight around the world in 1933. Captain Thomas J. Wells, of the U.S. Army Air Force demonstrated a completely autonomous flight, from take-off to landing in 1947 in a C-54 Skymaster from Newfoundland to Oxfordshire in England (the crew was reportedly not even told of the destination). The challenges we face now are largely not mechanical but how to interface the technology with the human pilot so vigilance and skill are retained despite hours of “monitoring.”

As anyone who has followed the commands of a GPS navigator knows, there are many problems to totally trusting technology. First the device makes us totally dependent with it’s flawless operation. Then when you are confident and stupid, it has the potential to fail catastrophically and lead you completely astray. In humorous and benign situations, people have driven into the ocean trying to navigate to the next island (by car). Unfortunately, in more extreme examples of technological dependence following a failure, like Air France 447 or Air Asia 8501, many innocent lives have been lost. For pilots our major problems are the deterioration of our hand flying skills and mental disconnect as ‘the magic” flies our plane. This interface of human and machine cooperation has many problems and few solutions; perhaps caution and awareness of the perils are our best defenses.

The paradox of automation has three important aspects. First, as mentioned, automation removes responsibility from the operator diminishing skill levels by eliminating the opportunity for sufficient practice. Second, technology in it’s amazing precision and control can easily mask increasing mental and physical incompetence in the operator by automatically correcting mistakes. Third, automatic systems tune out and mask small errors in the control system until they ultimately disengage, usually at a critical point, and leave the startled human monitor with a huge problem at the worst time (with diminished skill and awareness levels). Ironically, the more reliable and capable the automatic system, the more vulnerable the human operator may become.

Pilatus PC-12 NG

We are all guilty of depending on technology when available. (Pilots tend to be geeks and predictably love new tools and toys) But thanks to automation, airline crews have evolved from five person operations in the 1950s to the current two person flight deck. In my 135 operation, we are allowed single-pilot IFR with a fully functioning autopilot! And not surprisingly, increasing dependence on automation is cited as a factor in the popular “loss of control” accidents. Consequently the recommendation is to switch off the magic more often and hand-fly (even in difficult situations) as a tonic for maintaining mechanical and mental acuity. Reverse the roles and hand-fly with the technology monitoring and backing you up. Hopefully you will sharpen or regain your skills as you practice your procedures and manage the greater workload; only the ego suffers 🙂

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! If you are not yet a SAFE member, 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!