The New FAA ACS in Action!

I attended the SAFE Pilot Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta  (with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and all the “aviation heavies”) in 2011 and supported the need for change in our system of training and testing pilots. This reform was initially aimed mostly at removing the outdated (and frankly irrelevant) knowledge test questions (e.g. height of blowing sand and non-movable card ADF) from the computer testing bank. The FAA Manuals were evolving  to focus on scenario-based training and higher order thinking skills but the question banks contained lots of the same questions I took with a pencil on bubble sheets in 1970!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.49.59 AMThe pedagogically suspect process of memorizing and regurgitating a pre-studied series of rote questions also needed to change. This test was embarrassing for any true educator and was more a “right of passage” than a true educational experience. Once this change process was put into motion, the Airman Certification System Working Group (composed of industry professionals from every alphabet group) also realized they needed to coordinate the knowledge tasks (and guidance from the newer FAA manuals) with the PTS test format, and so the new ACS was born.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 1.20.34 PMWhen the new ACS was finally introduced, I was intensely curious to see what the committee had created and how this would work in the field (we try to achieve “results” but we often get “consequences”). Frankly, it looked a little scary (and complicated) to me. I have been an FAA DPE and 141 Chief Instructor since 1994 and given over 2,000 FAA evaluations. Imagine if you had used the same script for 20 years and suddenly you were “performing” with a whole new set of expectations…this was unsettling. I fully understand the objections and discomfort I have heard in the press and online probably more than most of you. Remember, this is a document that controls everything I do everyday!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 11.12.16 AMAs you are probably aware, every FAA Pilot Examiner is required to conduct their FAA evaluation from a written script called a “plan of action”. An examiner creates their own POA for each test, reviewed by their Principle Operations Inspector (FSDO handler), to organize their evaluation into a smooth and efficient experience. So the first task for any DPE with the ACS is sitting down and combing through the new “guidance” and determining the “rules of engagement” for conducting a valid “FAA-Approved” evaluation. Examiners are required also to attend annual training at FSDO and go to FAA OKC training every other year. All this is to insure the examiner evaluation follows the FAA guidance carefully, achieves consistency and does not deteriorate into some personal version of the test. We all understand that focus may vary depending on the examiner but content must be valid and accurate and carefully follow the current standard.

Anyway, none of the maneuvers or completion criteria have changed in the ACS (except for that slow flight debacle). What I discovered is the ACS codifies what examiners have already been using in their plans of action over the last 10 years. Increasingly we have been instructed by the FAA not to fire off rote-based questions; “How much fuel? What is Vx?” but instead guide an applicant through a realistic, scenario-based experience or “thought experiment.” The intention of each evaluation is to discover how our future pilot will think, decide, judge and perform in a myriad of realistic situations we could not safely or efficiently create in an aircraft. Instead of “what and how?” applicants should “describe and explain” if their test is going well and maintaining a correlative level. I think the ACS does a very good job of codifying these required pilot tasks and elements into usable, discrete, higher-level experiences. In my experience so far, the “new” ACS oral runs the same length as the PTS but more accurately embodies what a good examiner should already be utilizing; scenario-based, experience simulation to test real higher order pilot knowledge and judgment skills. The ACS is right on track and accurate to the intentions of the FAA manuals and guidance.

PrivateTestRobBgThere will, of course, be some friction in the testing process since most current pilot applicants were trained with the older PTS guidance. And there may be some longer tests initially as examiners attempt to accurately assess the PTS-trained applicant’s knowledge and judgment. Remember, every good examiner wants an applicant to succeed. Less than two hours to discover everything a pilot knows to be a pilot (for the rest of their lives) is surprisingly minimal. Current applicants’ flight training may not have specifically focused on and developed the higher order performance standard found in the ACS and newer FAA Manuals. As this increasingly becomes the training as well as testing standard, I personally sense the ACS will make stronger, safer pilots.

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We always need more input on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $58 off your annual ForeFlight subscription…membership pays you back $13!)

Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)

The FAA has finally created new sUAS (aka “drone”) regulations and the result is greater freedom and access for aspiring unmanned aviators. The peril will be more activity in the airspace and undetectable traffic threats for larger aircraft. For this to work we all have to “play nice” in the airspace and follow the rules carefully. To understand who these new regulations affect, we need to define some basic operations.

First, a “sUAS” (drone) must weigh less than 55lbs and all these new regulations pertain only to the non-recreational (commercial) use of these aircraft. If you are flying for recreation (not being paid or reimbursed in any way) you can continue to have fun just remember to register your sUAS with the FAA. If you want to get paid for your services, these regulations pertain to your operations. The operating permit is now called a “remote pilot certificate” and there are several ways to obtain (and maintain) this privilege.

DJI-PhantomDrone

The new regulations were published here in the Federal Register on June 21st. and they will go into affect 60 days after that publication date. This is why people rushing the doors will not find the tests and applications quite yet. The new Advisory Circular is very well written and covers a lot of the details. Click here for a short headline summary.

What is very exciting for eager new pilots are the new piloting privileges. Previously you needed to be a Part 61 certificated pilot (with a medical and current flight review) to legally pilot a commercially operated sUAS. You also needed to obtain a 333 exemption, which was a long and complicated process. The new regulation still allows part 61 certificated pilots to fly sUASs by passing an on-line administered test (on FAA Safety.gov.) but the regs. also open the door for people who have never flown to earn a “remote pilot certificate”. To become an “ab initio sUAS pilot“, you must be at least 16 years of age, complete a knowledge test at an FAA Approved Testing Center and then apply for certification with an FAA Pilot Examiner (similar to applying for a student pilot certificate). There is a new Airman Certification Standard for Unmanned Aircraft Systems that provides guidance for the knowledge test. There is no “fight test” just the application for certificate with the same TSA vetting process that all pilots now undergo to get a certificate. AOPA has published a helpful guide to UAS pilot certification available here.

The flight privileges and limitations of the new CFR Part 107 (Federal Regulation) are similar to the rules currently in force. The maximum altitude (without a waiver) is now 400 feet agl. the maximum allowable speed is 87 KIAS. Operations are limited to daylight hours (and civil twilight) and line of sight operations. Flight over non-participating individuals is prohibited, so don’t be sailing around the stadium over the crowd’s heads! Remember, these sUAS can be as heavy as a full box of stationary and usually have many spinning blades like a blender! If an airport is ATC controlled you must have prior approval to operate within 5 miles of the facility but at non-towered airports there are now no proximity restrictions. sUSAs must avoid the flow of piloted planes and also yield the right-of way to other A/C.

As with all piloting regulations, these new rules only function through compliance. There are not enough inspectors to actively police these increasingly popular activities and if continuous violations occur (and especially if public safety is endangered) I am sure these privileges will be curtailed or eliminated. Already, the FAA has done at least 23 enforcement actions against drone operators. An absolutely super source for more information is lawyer (and commercial pilot) Jonathan Rupprecht’s Blog. He is very current and comprehensive on these new regulations.

SAFE CFI insurance has been updated to provide CFIs $1 million in liability, bodily injury, and property damage if they are properly certificated sUAS pilots for commercial operations. Join SAFE and receive these benefits. We also have an sUAS group forming to share their learning experiences, register here.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-8-34-49-amPlease “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Partner with AOPA in Promoting Aviation Excellence!

Determining Excellence in Aviation Education: Please Take This Annual Poll.

Our primary mission at SAFE is “Promoting Excellence in Aviation Education.” This includes our mentoring and educational programs, developing scholarship programs, promoting STEM education and providing CFI tools like our free “SAFE Toolkit App” to help all flight educators. By raising educators to a more professional level, all of aviation benefits and safety is enhanced. A disproportionate number of SAFE educators continue further to achieve and maintain Master Instructor Certification, far exceeding the FAA required level of currency and professionalism.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.40.51 PMThe AOPA Flight Training Poll dovetails perfectly with our mission at SAFE. Their carefully constructed online survey recognizes and promotes the high-performers in our aviation industry. This is much more than a simple popularity contest. (I was guilty of making this accusation) The team at AOPA has gone to great lengths to scientifically calibrate the survey and weigh the results to defeat attempts to “game” the system. They have gathered real data on what makes CFIs and flight schools the top performers. Their analysis behind this survey reveals impressive and useful information for all serious aviation providers. Read through “The Flight Training Experience” and discover what students in aviation are *really* seeking. What is the #1 cause of students dropping out? I guarantee the results are not what you would guess. A lack of care, concern and professionalism in the flight training staff is often the primary reason for students leaving! The number one driver of a positive flight training experience and a professional, effective CFI! (another reason to join SAFE if you haven’t)

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.58.59 PMIf you want to turbo-charge your flight operation, read what inspires and motivates flight students and converts them into lively promoters of your brand. The AOPA has also published a series of field guides (available free online), based on this data to help the student, the instructor and the flight schools better optimize their performance and work toward aviation excellence.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 2.38.16 PM

Please login and take the 2016  Flight Training Poll. This carefully calibrated data allows all of us to do a better job as schools and instructors providing excellence in aviation education. You do not need to be a student pilot to participate. If you have taken any dual recently (and I hope you have) your input would be greatly appreciated and helpful…thanks!

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.19.00 PMPlease “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

ACS Survival Guide for Flight Training and Testing

ACS is here…what does that mean for the CFI, Pilot and Examiner?

The new Airman Certification Standard format for the Private and Instrument flight tests hits the ground on June 15th. Let’s all try not to panic and remember to breathe! The very best people in our industry and the FAA gave this new testing standard their best efforts. Remember, the ACS is really only an enhanced version of our out-dated Practical Test Standard and contains the exact same maneuvers and completion standards. It is, unfortunately, written in a challenging tabular format that can be initially confusing. But it *can* be deciphered (with effort) and will soon become a familiar working document for all of us. And all the test prep companies are rushing to comply with this new standard so help is on the way.

This ambitious pilot testing overhaul developed out of the SAFE Pilot Training Reform Symposium in 2011. All the industry alphabet players (including the FAA Administrator) were in attendance and you can view the whole 2 day event on-line here. This initiative that progressed into the ACS was developed by a diverse group of FAA and industry players. The original intention was simply to get rid of the “profoundly irrelevant, confusing and out-dated” knowledge test questions. (John King’s words from his article in Flying Magazine on the ACS).
Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.06.21 AM

“The FAA established the Airman Testing Standards and Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on September 21, 2011, with the objective for industry to provide the FAA with its experience and expertise in the elements of aeronautical knowledge and aeronautical experience required for safe operation in the National Airspace System.” ATST Rulemaking Committee

Remember the “non-movable card ADF questions” (and similar) on all the pilot knowledge tests?  All of these crazy (and never pedagogically validated) questions are now gone! Also gone is the unfortunate game of dispensing the FAA question banks so students could memorize and regurgitate the answers in a rote fashion, multiple-guess format. The new knowledge test incorporates more risk management questions to test the exact same subject matter areas as the flight test. This should make the student training process much easier. A student now should only need to study and learn one body of relevant information and skill to pass both tests. This should be a big win (depending on how well they construct the new questions) for everyone.  Along with the “knowledge test purge” the ACS change agents felt it necessary to also reformat the PTS with a face-lift called the “Airman Certification Standard” for flight testing as well.

PrivateTestRobBgAs a pilot examiner I applaud the intention of this group. The old PTS (very similar in fact to the older Flight Test Guide) had become bulky, repetitive and confusing. Every time we needed to add a human factors area it was pasted into the preface as a “special emphasis item” with no indication where exactly how it integrated this into the rest of the evaluation. Additionally, though we DPEs were encouraged to perform the testing in a scenario-based format and assess judgment and risk management, there was no real guidance or justification for this process. The ACS attempts to integrate these important “soft skills” of pilot evaluations with the flying “yank and bank” skills and give them more emphasis and gravitas.

Did they succeed? We will find out as we put this process in motion on the 15th of June. I have personally conducted over 2,000 flight evaluations as a 141 Chief Instructor and FAA DPE. Usually it is very clear when an applicant is properly prepared and meets the pilot testing standards. Remember this test is pass fail, not a scored evaluation. Just like I brief every applicant; if something in the flight is “unsatisfactory” in flight, we usually will both know immediately. “Unsatisfactory” is usually not a mystery or a close call issue. The harder, and more important areas of concern for future pilots (based on accident data) are the judgment and risk-management areas of flight. These areas now receive full focus in the new “Know, Consider, Do” ACS format. As John King points out in his Flying Magazine Article, these judgment and attitude “soft skills” are the areas that keep you up at night as an instructor or pilot examiner. I have had applicants that fly a pilot flight test very well (and pass) but sometimes they still scare me in these judgment areas. The new ACS will provide the CFI and DPE tools and granular justification to be more rigorous here. Human factors will always be the “final frontier” for every CFI, pilot examiner and also conscientious pilot(!) if we want to improve our safety record. I know there are “ACS haters” out there, we have already heard from you. Please remember though, the ACS is a courageous effort by the best people in our industry to improve our flight safety record. I think it deserves a fair chance and our full support.

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Are *You* Ready For Flight? CFR 91.103

A majority of accidents are caused by “inadequate preflight preparation”

Sorry, I know an article on the FAA regs can be *quick death* in a popularity contest but please stay with me, I’ll keep this brief and provide good reasons to pay attention. For professionals in aviation this one simple legal requirement is both infamous (but as I hope to show) essential.

DecisionMakingCFR 91.103 is the much maligned “all available information” reg we all laugh at initially. No one has “all available information” almost by definition so most people chuckle and immediately move on. But if you read this reg. more carefully, it provides really great guidance. It is the one reg. I insist all my students know from day one for basic safety.

91.103   Preflight action.

Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include—

(a) For a flight under IFR or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by ATC;

(b) For any flight, runway lengths at airports of intended use, and the following takeoff and landing distance information:

Please look at (b) first: every flight requires basic performance data, your take-off and landing distances and the length of the runway. Why? Because this is probably one of the most popular ways to hurt yourself in an aircraft! Complacency develops pretty quickly because it “always works” and aircraft are well designed to take offs by themselves (if everything goes right) As a result this phase of flight is statistically the most toxic! On flight tests if an applicant does not know the length of the runway or take-off data this is a non-starter! As professional CFIs we must embed respect for both gathering essential performance data and maintaining an attitude of “ready for anything” on each and every take off. This has to start with lesson #1 and continue on every future operation.

The other part (a) above “flight not in the vicinity of an airport” requires that if we are leaving the pattern, we need to gather information on weather, fuel, delays and alternates. Again, anyone familiar with aviation safety can recognize these requirements as the most popular ways to end up in a cornfield instead of a runway. Surprise weather enroute (unplanned IFR) is equally toxic to both VFR and IFR pilots if they do not expect it. Checking weather and fuel are essential (and legally required) if you are leaving the pattern again because they are the common “killers.”PilotTemptation

At our flying club the bottom of the dispatch sheet has a “fill in the blank” for all these 91.103 requirements and a PIC sign-off (just like the military). You check and accept the aircraft as inspected and verify current flight conditions as well as personal readiness. A little awareness before committing to the skies goes a long way toward improving safety!


Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

IPC Dilemma: Is the system broken?

There is a new FAA NPRM out with reduced currency and training requirements; “Save money, Easier!” Is this the correct course or is safety being compromised? Here is a reprint from the SAFE Magazine a few years ago by accident investigator Jeff Edwards

As an aircraft accident investigator, I have seen pilots come to grief due to fundamental IFR flying mistakes that occurred within a short time of passing an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC). The IPC is supposed to be a comprehensive review of all of the Practical Test Standard (PTS) tasks. So how could these pilots perform so inadequately so soon after the accident pilot demonstrated PTS proficiency to an instructor?
SAFE-IPC-lead-photo-scroll1

The answer is, maybe they didn’t, really. In some cases, reviewing logbooks as part of the investigation showed that the IPC omitted required material from the PTS checklist. In other accident investigations, 21st century technology tells the tale. Crosschecking the accident pilot’s logbook with a recovered GPS navigator datacard or with ATC records (via FlightAware) reveals that instrument approaches logged during the IPC (or as part of the pilot’s currency requirements) were not actually performed. Where does that leave the CFI who gave the endorsement that fell short of the PTS standards? And for pilots who falsify logbook entries, how does it them?

As a CFII, I have seen my share of flight review and IPC candidates. When a pilot calls to schedule an appointment, I ask about flying history, including instrument currency and proficiency. Occasionally, pilots will tell me they are proficient but not current. On further questioning, they admit to not having flown any instrument time in well over a year. Yet they still believe they are proficient. There certainly is  a mismatch between their skill level and their belief system. This is dangerous.

When put to the task under the hood it is obvious that their instrument skills are very rusty from disuse and would be dangerous in actual IMC. Some are put off when I decline to endorse them for an IPC. I explain that they must meet all of the PTS requirements set for their level of certificate.

When pilots call me about regaining instrument currency after a lapse in IFR flying, I explain that they will not likely pass an IPC on their first go. I go over the differences between currency and proficiency. Since I have adopted that proactive policy I have not had an unhappy client after the flight, whether or not they earned an IPC endorsement.

Instrument proficiency is a perishable skill that needs constant practice and refresher. If you do not practice instrument flying skills regularly you may end up in a situation where you cannot hand fly the aircraft while in instrument conditions. This could be deadly. According to AOPA survey data, the average pilot is flying 60 hours a year. This amount of flying is likely not enough to maintain your instrument skills, particularly if you are using the autopilot for a majority of that flight time. Currency and proficiency are critical to maintaining a pilot’s skills – especially instrument flying skills. Instructors who grant IPCs for pilots who are not proficient to the level of test standards are placing their client – and their own careers – at risk. For example, I am the President of the Lancair Owners and Builders Association (LOBO). I recently had a conversation with Nationair, an aviation insurance broker and our insurance partner, and we realized that some of our members may not be getting all of the training and documentation required by the carrier. There are only a handful of insurance underwriters that insure the Lancair IVP and Evolution, and 2008 was a bad year for accidents in Lancairs. Some insurance companies were not renewing policies, so the following year we drafted the LOBO training program and convinced the industry to underwrite Lancair owners who participated in this training.

Believe me, this was not an easy task. Unfortunately it has come to our attention that a few individuals have told their insurance company they have completed the training when in fact they have not. If you take LOBO training and complete all of the training you will be issued a LOBO training certificate that you can forward to your insurance company as proof of training. Without that certificate, your insurance coverage may be compromised.

With advances in computerized avionics and the easy availability of historic air traffic control records, pilots and instructors are well advised to maintain scrupulous standards when it comes to currency and IPC performance.

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Safety Culture: Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Stupid!

You probably detect a similarity between this title and the alcohol awareness program “Mother’s Against Drunk Driving”. If you are younger than me, you may not even be aware of this program’s existence since MADDgraphic“sober driving” is now the accepted cultural norm. Now we use designated drivers and “friends don’t let friends drive drunk!” Unfortunately this was not the case in my teenage years when drunk driving was almost a locally accepted sport. MADD was founded on September 5, 1980, in California by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. This highly commendable movement ultimately created such a new awareness that drunk driving is culturally unacceptable and morally reprehensible. In my opinion, a similar awakening would be a great improvement in aviation safety if we could similarly curtail our highly prized “freedom to do dumb things” and leverage a new aviation safety norm.

We all have seen other pilots do amazingly stupid things in planes (as we also have certainly done some dumb things ourselves). When someone hurts or kills themselves in a plane, it often is not a “surprise” but an “inevitable result” sometimes after years of drifting into increasingly unsafe practices. Though we in aviation all have a wonderful respect for personal freedom and the privacy,  it often prevents us from intervening and saying something even when safety is clearly compromised and the results are predictable and preventable. I highly prize and defend personal freedom, as you probably do, but I think here it is time to make a change in what is “acceptable.” We all have the potential to make bad decisions and should appreciate a “nudge” toward safety. Even the famous aerobatic performer Sean Tucker publicly shares how Bob Hoover approached him after watching one of his early airshows, put an arm around him and advised a little more safety margin in his routine. Sean says this was a necessary and ultimately welcome intervention that later saved his life after an unexpected mechanical difficulty.

PilotTemptationSo if you see a clearly unsafe action, I would ask you intervene and compassionately suggest a safer course of action. How about we tell our fellow aviator (in a careful, gentle way) we would like to have them around as a friend and point out  that their current trajectory is not conducive to survival. I believe friends should not allow friends to do unsafe things in aircraft…we can all can benefit from this caring intervention. We can create a safety culture and watch each others’ backs (See “Brother’s Keeper” in Air Facts)

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 10.32.37 PMAnd better yet, if you are proactively safety minded, I would encourage you to arrange a group of like-minded friends to voluntarily join in a “safety net.” This prearranged group of pilots who empower their buddies to oversee their operations to assure safer operations and “no bad days”. In Part 135 charter flying, nothing moves without the sign-off from the “director of operations.” This required oversight and additional set of eyes assures that all the pieces are in place and we have managed all the risks before dispatch. The amazing safety record of charter flying is the enviable result of this oversight. Of course, for GA we certainly do not need this level of regulation and formality. But what if you have an agreed group of flying friends who are available to cross check each other. If an operation is edgy you call for a second opinion (or perhaps a co-pilot to help) and mitigate the risk. Create your own “safety culture.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 10.27.31 PMIf we build voluntary safety nets to proactively address risk and empower our fellow aviators to cross-check and “nudge” fellow aviators toward safer operations, I think we can move the needle on aviation safety. Freedom is precious, but too much “freedom” (as in the freedom to hurt or kill yourself in a plane) is not worthy of protecting (at least in my opinion). Our industry suffers a continuous black eye from the very public loss of pilots and innocent lives in repeatable, predictable accidents. As a flight school operator I hear from too many in the door how unsafe “little planes” are. We can fix this!

Please “follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and please write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute. We need more articles on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a 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 fun (How about $66 off your annual ForeFlight subscription?)

Get Ready! New FAA Knowledge Tests June 13th

The new ACS Testing Standard Is Here!

This is an urgent notice to all pilots currently in training to complete your knowledge test soon.  On Jun 13th the new ACS (Airman Certification Standard) knowledge tests go live on the computer testing sites for private, commercial and instructor level certificates. If you have trained with the old knowledge testing bank of questions, you should try to complete your FAA knowledge examination before that date! The new questions will be entirely unique and will also not be available before the test to study (or memorize).

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.31.03 PM

Ultimately, we all know this is the correct method of testing true understanding of a subject at the correlative level. Ideally, you should know the subject matter in it’s entirety and the questions should accurately reflect your understanding with a grade point reference. The pilot training process was broken and that is what the ACS is designed to repair.

Not only was the historic rote memorization game a broken system of evaluation, the material it tested was hopelessly outdated. There will be no more non-movable-card ADF questions and more focus on GPS and relevant information. The FAA has provided a list of now deleted subject areas here. Moving forward you will have to know your material thoroughly to test well, memorization at a rote level will not be available.

NewACSTestQuestionsThere is whole pilot test prep industry built around the current questions and the preparation of pilot test applicants.  This will be in turmoil until the new testing system becomes a known challenge. The FAA provides sample test questions on their ACS website and the private test sample is here. Best of luck!

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile fun ($66 off annually on your ForeFlight subscription anyone?)

 

Sign The Aviation Professionalism Pledge!

Please commit to an attitude of aviation safety by taking Tony Kern’s challenge and signing his Aviation Professionalism Pledge. No matter what area or level of aviation you are involved with; piloting an Aeronca 7AC or a Gulfstream G4, maintenance, dispatch or controlling aircraft, please join us and sign this pledge. We need to create an industry awareness that professionalism at every level matters! By handling your aviation duties in a professional, disciplined manner you will enhance your safety and greatly benefit our whole industry! Signing and posting your commitment (an attractive pdf certificate) you will help spread this message and push this vital issue into daily awareness. Safety requires discipline and daily commitment to excellence from all of us.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 2.23.06 PM

Dr. Tony Kern is an very compelling author that any committed pilot will appreciate reading. His Flight Discipline and Rogue Pilot and  are already classics.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 1.14.38 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-08 at 1.15.11 PM

He runs a private consulting firm Convergent Performance that provides training and products to enhance aviation safety and increase pilot professionalism. A sample of his Pilot Reliability Certification training (very good and FREE) is available here:

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 1.06.09 PM“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun.

Addressing I-LOC: More Training?

Author Randall Brooks is a SAFE member with Aviation Performance Solutions and President of the Upset Prevention and Recovery Training Association (UPRTA)

 SAFE-extreme-attitude-byline

I was talking with another pilot regarding the general state of airmanship in the piloting profession. It brought to mind the distinction between the pilots we think we are, versus the skills we actually possess.

Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) clearly sits on the top rung on the ladder when it comes to fatal accident causes. Across the board in airline, corporate, and general aviation, more people die from pilots losing control of an aircraft in flight than from any other single cause. Yet LOC-I remains a relatively invisible threat that most pilots do not appreciate.

A large international corporation that comes to Aviation Performance Solutions for Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) recently evaluated the safety hazards affecting its flight operation. One executive questioned the expense of UPRT under the assumption that mid-air collisions posed a greater threat. This company’s flight operations involve hundreds of aircraft worldwide and had experienced two mid-airs in the previous year. As harrowing as a mid-air collision is, there had been no fatalities associated with these two. However, during the same period, the organization experienced five fatalities due to LOC-I.

The problem is that unlike the persistent presence of the mid-air threat, the rare yet catastrophic nature of LOC-I means that it may never be appreciated until it suddenly appears in the form of a fatal upset accident. Why is this?

The Small Aerodynamic World We Live In!
The Small Aerodynamic World We Live In!

One reason is we are highly unlikely to lose control in the region of the flight envelope in which we normally fly. Proficiency within the normal flight regime gives no hint at what lies beyond the boundaries of our everyday operations. But in those regions beyond the threshold of an in-flight airplane upset, situations can escalate amazingly quickly into aerodynamic regions and behaviors that are not at all common to flight within the normal envelope. These situations require quick responses, but to the pilot unfamiliar with the all-attitude/all-envelope domain, reactions will become slower rather than faster. The brain is called upon to process confusing information in an unfamiliar environment. Accident statistics provide evidence of this cognitive impairment that can accompany a LOC-I accident.

This author participated in a study that was published through the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2012. Titled “Unexpected Pilot Performance Contributing to Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I)”, the analysis focused on fatal airline LOC-I accidents worldwide from 2001to 2010. Among the four factors evaluated was whether or not the pilots acted in a reliable and predictable manner when confronted with an unexpected airplane upset event.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 7.22.14 AMIn a startling finding, all 16 accidents for which data was available revealed that the pilots reacted in a way contrary to how common training practices should have prepared them to react. This does not indicate a few pilots with weak skill sets. Rather, it suggests a systemic deficiency in the way today’s training prepares pilots to react to unanticipated airplane upsets.

It is important to note that the knowledge, skills, and abilities of pilots in the normal operating envelope are no indicator of success in safely or effectively navigating the unfamiliarity of an airplane upset event.

Because there is little time or opportunity for creative thought beyond a certain threshold of upset escalation, the only way to mitigate this rare but potentially catastrophic situation is through pre-emptive, comprehensive UPRT. This is why the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is calling for the amendment of pilot licensing standards to include on-aircraft UPRT for all pilots, worldwide, prior to Commercial Licensing. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is fast-tracking this proposal and hopes to have a requirement for UPRT in place next year.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 7.22.41 AMWhen implemented in the future, the requirement for universal UPRT prior to receiving a Commercial Pilot certificate will ensure that in the face of an airplane upset event all pilots should possess the skills needed to execute recovery when the threshold for prevention has been exceeded.

“Follow” our blog to receive notification of new articles and write us a comment please if you see a problem or want to contribute. Write us also if you have an article to contribute on aviation excellence or flight safety. Most importantly, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun.