Support “Essential Workers!” But #stayhome

These are unique and frightening times. Every day we watch the COVID-19 virus spreading further out of control across the whole globe, killing many in a terrible fashion. Government authorities have shuttered “non-essential services” to slow the spread of this infection and flatten the curve.” Here in NY State, a full lock-down starts tomorrow. Obviously, CV-19 is very contagious and also often asymptomatic so it’s mostly undetectable in any social setting.

Since flight training does not permit “physical isolation” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it seems prudent for schools to cease flight training/testing. Though there is a clause that makes it technically legal  for schools to continue (as essential transportation service)  this seems short-sighted in light of the greater community benefits of isolation. Can we really claim flight training is “essential” when real heroes are out there struggling to keep our ATC, infrastructure and health care systems functioning? In our flying world, this is like continuing “1sm/clear of clouds.” Even if it is legal, it is unwise. We don’t want to make this problem worse. #stayhome And support our brave “essential workers” in any way you safely can.

In 1665 when Cambridge University closed for a year because of the Great Plague of London, a young scholar named Isaac Newton was sent home.

While at home, he discovered Calculus and refined the ideas that later became his theory of gravity.

In 1606, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, King Lear, and Anthony and Cleopatra while quarantined at home.

The positive spin here is that this break from training provides an opportunity to review, reinforce and improve your knowledge. A home ATD is a wonderful tool to practice some tougher scenarios and improve skills. SAFE is collaborating with Gold Seal to Livestream a week of aviation excitement during the canceled week of the Florida Expo; sign up here for notifications! Be SAFE…


SAFECFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

Managing COVID-19 Risk in Flight Training/Testing

In facing the COVID-19 threat, it is fortunate that aviators are trained in the factual analysis of environmental threats and risk management. Pilots mostly deal with reality and physical laws. If we avoid the social media-driven hysteria, it is still possible that flight training at some level can proceed (but carefully!)

From the information we’ve seen, COVID-19 is transmitted through environmental contact with infected surfaces or airborne close contact with infected people. Though avoiding infected people is the key, COVID-19 has a “stealth mode” of “infected but asymptomatic” that makes this virus tricky (it can take 5 days to show symptoms). To avoid asymptomatic carriers,  considering location, mobility, and honest historical record are key factors for assuring your safety (unless you totally isolate yourself). Regarding everyone as infected (social distancing) is the wisest strategy (but not possible in a training aircraft!)

To be clear, the only absolute safety from COVID-19 (like absolute safety in flying) means total avoidance. To paraphrase Wilbur Wright on being “perfectly safe” in aviation; stay on the ground!  Similarly, wIth COVID-19 please stay home (and perhaps fumigate your mail and groceries) if that is the level of “perfect safety” you are seeking. Personally, I think if we carefully manage the COVID-19 risk by applying careful precautions and protocols, we can continue to flight train and test. For the best, very detailed, analysis of the COVID-19 virus and propagation see this blog post by our SAFE Treasurer, Dr. Parvez Dara.

Obviously, all the now fully understood CDC protocols should be followed: avoiding unnecessary travel, social distancing, frequent hand-cleansing etc. But since”social distancing” in a training aircraft is obviously not possible, constant cleansing, by the pilot before (and after) every flight of all surfaces with approved disinfectants is essential. Obviously, NO sharing of any personal items (especially headsets) is axiomatic. And to be honest, there is an element of trust here too. People training together have to be personally careful and absolutely truthful about previous recent travel and contacts if the group of pilots sharing airplanes and facilities is going to be safe. If there is even one confirmed case, everybody has to go into quarantine and these fliers are done until cleared. A good (and simple) precaution before flying is a simple body temperature check with a non-contact digital thermometer. This will not eliminate risk (or identify all infections) but catch any undetected symptoms. Elevated temperature is one of the first symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

Regarding this issue, an urban setting with a more transient clientele is going to be more dangerous since the chance of exogenous COVID-19 contact from social mixing is greater. If you are a smaller club of less-mobile, regular known members in northern Idaho, you are probably going to be safer. I would highly recommend eliminating “Discovery Flights” to strangers for the same reason – potentially bringing germs into your “protected zone of known operators.”

And ultimately, flight training is not all “yank and bank” requiring flight to learn and grow. Safe flying also requires building knowledge and keeping your mind in the game which can be done safely at home through webinars and “chair flying.” If you have a personal simulator, you have a great method of currency. And accessing quality online education will keep your mind in the game and prevent backsliding.

SAFE is working with Gold Seal Ground School to present a weeklong aviation experience for frustrated aviators disappointed by cancellations. We are still working on a title but the idea is to simulate the canceled event in Florida. Gold Seal will have a daily live game show featuring aviation trivia questions with prizes. And live evening programming will feature guests and new products you would have seen in Florida. Log-in here to get on a list for upcoming announcements and more details about this exciting week-long show as we build it out!

Many schools have closed due to the threat of COVID-19 infection and spread. Please comment below on the precautions your flight school is taking in these challenging times. In our district three schools have suspended training and two DPEs are not flying any flight tests due to COVID-17 threat.


SAFECFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

CFI/DPEs Need Proficiency Too!

Most CFIs log thousands of hours as PIC but unfortunately often do not personally fly enough to stay sharp. DPEs are even worse about flying on their own and maintaining their personal proficiency – and by regulation, a DPE does not log their flight time during tests as PIC. The FAA recently discovered that some DPEs were flying for years and not getting any experience as PIC.  This can be a tragic situation since these people are the professionals we trust to be experts in the cockpit. The FAA is now enforcing new guidance requiring a minimum of 60 hours of PIC annually for every DPE to be recertified – but no “commander time” is yet legally required for CFIs!

“Right seat rust” is a common problem in our industry but it is largely not exposed or addressed. Retaining piloting privileges as a CFI or DPE only requires the same flight review every pilot gets, signed off every two years by a CFI. This is despite flying at the edges of the flight envelope with clients and applicants. (a CFI teaching aerobatics also has no extra requirements) And we all know a flight review can be a brief and perfunctory experience. Since DPEs and CFIs are regarded as “industry flight experts” it is easy to believe they are not vulnerable to loss of proficiency through inactivity. The joke in our flight school used to be that every “expert in the right seat” instantly loses 20 IQ points and lots of skill when they grab the yoke – “why did I say “I have the flight controls?” There is no magic assuring flight proficiency for anyone; we all need to get out and stay sharp!

SAFE worked with the Flight Safety Institute and other industry partners to develop the Focused Flight Review and highly recommends this program for pilots at all levels. The training here is fun and exceeds the minimum FAA requirements. Following this guidance enhances and expands every pilot’s skills and knowledge. If you have not reviewed this excellent series of flight profiles, please check it out and use it with your clients http://focusedflightreview.org  We also recommend finding a current and qualified instructor and flying the more challenging maneuvers in our SAFE Extended Flight Envelope syllabus. To be safe in flight we all need to be deeply and recently trained to respond correctly to an upset – instinctively unloading and controlling our aircraft. It is especially important for our “aviation professionals” to be current and sharp. Fly safe out there (and often).


SAFECFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

 

CFI-PRO™ “Better Training=Safer Flying!”

The ASI Study on stall/spin accidents provides a very comprehensive analysis of the dilemma that has haunted pilots since the time of the Wright Brothers; Loss of Control In-flight followed by stall/spin (crash/burn). Poor flight training is implicated in this continuing carnage:

The stubbornly high percentage of stalls associated with personal flying (more than two-thirds) may indicate a weakness in typical pilot training. Most pilots are taught to recognize and recover from stalls in a controlled, predictable, and stable environment, with focus on recognition of aircraft response followed by proper recovery technique. Outside the training environment, though, pilots continue to maneuver into the stall envelope unexpectedly with little time to recover. Seemingly, some pilots fly closer to the critical angle of attack than they realize. Adding a little more bank, G-force, or both can trigger an accelerated stall without the slow, predictable performance indicators pilots are taught to recognize…

Stall accidents usually arise from sloppy control inputs and a weak understanding of aerodynamics, which means that an improved training focus on the areas identified in this report can continue to drive down the number of inadvertent stalls.

This analysis provides direct support for SAFE’s Extended Envelope Training (now FAA mandated for the airlines) We all need to train more thoroughly to the edges of the maneuvering envelope. This will be presented in detail at our Sporty’s CFI-PRO™ June 10/11th.

One additional takeaway from this study was highlighting where the stall/spin threat is the greatest; 50% on take-off and initial climb (not the usual base-to-final turn!). Take-Off and initial climb represents 24% of fatalities according to the NTSB.

SAFE member and long-time educator, Dudley Henriques, posted on FaceBook and was most incisive and is copied here (with permission) for your consideration. We all need to teach stall/spin more frequently (and accurately) and emphasize “Code Yellow” vigilance during single every take-off.

The problem here is insidious. First of all stall “training” for the most part is ridiculous and has been for many years. There is a huge emphasis driven by a strange dichotomy within a flight training industry caught between a need to “sell” aviation as a comfortable and safe endeavor and an unwritten law that stresses a need to avoid “scaring” students Add to this in many cases instructors who themselves feel “uneasy” in any stall entered above 1g and you have what we have now, a GA community where everybody is happy “avoiding” stalls as opposed to feeling comfortable and completely trained in what stalls are and how to be comfortable with them.


All this has resulted in a training community dedicated to keeping exposure to the stall environment as comfortable as possible for the student AND the instructor!
The answer to the stall problem isn’t obvious and needs to be said over and over again by instructors who DO understand what is needed.


To train a safe and competent student working within the current FAA structure, CFI’s MUST teach above and beyond the flight test requirement. Instructors must first become comfortable themselves in the stall environment by adding to their own training, especially in the area of stall above 1g and in cross control where the real danger lies.


Instructors have to learn to talk to students; make them comfortable in the left side of the envelope, and TEACH their students that there is absolutely nothing to fear from stalls when a pilot knows what to expect and how to deal with it.


To address the point on takeoff stall:
This is obviously a training issue. Students HAVE to be taught to control angle of attack on rotation. No pilot who understands what is present at rotation will have any issue avoiding a stall as the plane leaves the runway. All the bad guys are present as a plane rotates; low airspeed, increasing alpha, P Factor as the prop disk forms an angle with the relative wind, gyroscopic precession as the prop rotates in pitch, spiraling slipstream forces, and of course torque (in roll).


The solution requires instructors to stop reading the FAA requirements that attempt to dot every I and cross every T and instead start TEACHING PEOPLE TO FLY THE DAMN AIRPLANE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SAFE highly recommends exposure of all students in training to secondary stalls. Failure to understand angle of attack (“an airplane only stalls nose high” training myth) is at the root of many accident surprises. Failure to automatically “unload” in an upset is critical to safety.

Get ready for spring with ASI’s new “Spring Tune-Up” advice: https://youtu.be/G4EstJP2N9E Fly safely out there (and often!)


SAFECFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

YouCanBook.Me App for CFI Scheduling

We all have experienced the amazing capability of comprehensive planning apps for flying. These simplify life and improve safety (when used correctly) and where would you be without those in the modern airspace?

The YouCanBook.Me app seems perfect for busy CFIs scheduling their day. Set it up and advertise your availability (custom url) and it allows your clients to access your calendar from any internet portal. Additionally, if you schedule a time on your calendar for an appointment (dentist?) the app syncs to the scheduler and prevents a flight appointment during that time. LMK what you think? Better apps for CFIs?

Thanks to SAFE member Zach (San Diego) for sharing his calendar and ideas! Fly safely (and often)!


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

Surviving Startle; More Training!

Jet upset (startle!)

In everyday flying, most pilots value a  predictable, controlled flight (we are not talking about thrill-seeking “flying cowboy” stuff here). When you put the chocks on the wheels and there have been no “surprises” we usually succeeded in our mission. One flight last fall was notably different though, involving a wake turbulence encounter at 16K deadheading into Chicago Executive.

This unannounced, surprise encounter rolled our jet 70 degrees to the left and put us 20 degrees nose down (with a view of just Lake Michigan) in only a second or two with all the lights and alarms. The negative G force totally trashed the cabin (if there had been unbelted pax in back they would have been severely injured). The 20lb pilot handbook on my left even became airborne and bruised my legs when it ended up in my lap. Fortunately, automatic training took over and standard “power to idle, roll wings level” restored normal flight (we lost 1200 feet and were going rapidly to over-speed – sorry to ATC!)

This incident gave me an “up close and personal” experience with the “startle response” and how these events can happen anywhere/anytime to even the most careful and prepared pilots. Startle can originate from any sudden upset (weather, wake, mechanical) when the pilot experiences sudden G force (especially negative) or loss of normal horizon orientation. It can hit any pilot unexpectedly during any day of “normal flying.” These disabling experiences are often implicated in Loss of Control-Inflight accidents (the number one causal factor in pilot fatalities). Unfortunately, a casual reading by the fireside cannot do justice to – or prepare us for – this extreme visceral experience. A sudden startle can disable our ordinary operating system in a second. The critical question for safety is “how can we assure an antidote or inoculation to startle?”

SAFE has developed the “Envelope Extension Training” syllabus for CFIs, and we know there is great value in “fear inoculation” and experiencing extended envelope flight attitudes regularly. Part 121 regulations now require airline pilots to practice “envelope extension” regularly. And though I have flown all these maneuvers often and even some aerobatics in the past, I wanted to go beyond what a normal category airplane could supply. I headed down to Patty Wagstaff’s aerobatic school in St. Augustine a week ago to extend my envelope even further with an Upset Prevention and Recovery course (UPRT). What a fun and amazingly useful experience this was!

Allan Moore, the chief instructor at Patty’s school is an amazing educator with years of aerobatic and upset teaching experience. We spent an hour exploring their understanding of startle/upset and the prevention techniques they have developed (and teach) for “desensitizing” pilots. After a couple of hours in the Super Decathalon with Alan, I can attest to the value of their recovery formula: “Look-Unload-Roll-Recover.” Upset Prevention and Recovery really works. (See more in SAFE Resources)

One continuing enigma in aviation safety is the fact that though all part 23 and 25 aircraft are, by regulation, designed “nose heavy” to recover stability by pitching down in response to an excessive AOA (stall or loss of lift), humans predictably overpower this safety design by pulling back when encountering a stall creating most of the problems.

“STARTLE FACTOR – CLUTCH REFLEX:
The answer is simple, we are all Human! As humans we have walked around on earth for a long time at 1 G. None of us like to fall down, when we do fall, we always clutch or brace ourselves, falling induces a sensation of less than 1 G. Take an infant moments old, subjected to a slight down motion causes them to startle and cry. This is called the moro reflex, and while its called “startle factor” or “clutch reflex” in an adult, the reflex remains with us our entire life. By the way, there is no crying in stunt flying! With proper de-sensitivity training to the 1/2 G experienced during a stall I believe we could almost eliminate the occurrence of spin accidents.
It is the startle factor (clutch reflex) that is responsible for taking an airplane that has been initially upset and turning it into a spin. The involuntary clutch reflex on the yoke as the airplane is pitching down stalls the wing even more. Additionally, if there is any roll motion the pilot will involuntarily deflect the ailerons to raise the low wing, inducing adverse yaw and drag and stalling the wing deeper on the aileron that is deflected down.”    Allan Moore

Though startle is covered in a recent GAJSC startle handout, and there are many articles written on the subject, reading alone will not create inoculation. You must fly and experience and actual negative G force and resulting disorientation. It is essential to feel your body’s ancient, visceral reaction to this experience to understand it fully. “Startle effect” can render any pilot helpless and incapable of effective action without some previous and recent experience (see a comprehensive analysis here). This surprise bodily reaction and loss of cognitive bandwidth from the fear and adrenaline is shocking.

I recommend every pilot prepare for “startle” by finding an experienced instructor and “extending their envelope” with some “old school” maneuvers found in our “SAFE Envelope Extension” course (covered more fully in the upcoming CFI-PRO™  Workshop at Sporty’s). I also highly recommend every pilot also continue this learning with a UPRT course at a high-quality school like Patty’s or the well-known APS courses. (Patty also has a new video course on aerobatic training just out at Sporty’s Pilot shop) Extended Envelope and UPRT will open your eyes and make you safer when an unexpected “startle” slams you during an “ordinary day in the cockpit!” Fly safe out there (and often!)


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

 

Pilot & CFI: Different and Distinct Skill Sets!

If you are an FAA CFI, you carry two pieces of plastic in your pocket. One certificate allows you to pilot airplanes. The other certificate says you are an approved aviation educator (thank you!) Unfortunately, many CFIs do not appreciate that the demands and skills required for each of these different certificates are unique and sometimes contradictory (me too sometimes!)

On the piloting side, we are a rare and unique breed; part of the 1% of our population that has achieved the unique skills required for safe flight. There is some pride here and as pilots, especially at the higher levels, there can be a (sometimes humorous) self-selected or acquired “pilot personality” (which may occasionally also involve fancy watches and expensive sunglasses) The Airline Pilots Association lists 24 unique characteristics of pilots that may cause disdain or laughter depending where you share this information:

Physically and mentally healthy ⊗ Reality-based ⊗ Self-sufficient ⊗ Difficulty trusting anyone to do a job as well as themselves ⊗ Suspicious ⊗ Intelligent but not intellectual ⊗ They like “toys” ⊗ Good at taking things apart and putting them back together ⊗ Concrete, practical, linear thinkers rather than abstract, philosophical, or theoretical. ⊗ More analytical than emotional ⊗ Reality-oriented ⊗ Goal-oriented ⊗ Short term goal orientation and not long-term goal-driven ⊗ Bimodal (black/white, on/off, good/bad, safe/unsafe) ⊗ Tend to modify environment instead of their behavior ⊗ Hunger for excitement ⊗ Competitive ⊗ Do not handle failure well ⊗ Low tolerance for personal imperfection ⊗ Long memories of perceived injustices ⊗ Draw conclusions about people at a glance rather than relying on long and emotion-laden conversation ⊗ Avoid introspection ⊗ Have difficulty revealing, expressing, or even recognizing feelings ⊗ When experiencing unwanted feelings, a tendency to mask them with humor or anger.

I do not know if this list resonates with you but I certainly confess to some of these less-than-complimentary traits (AvWeb on this). Some of these attributes are necessary for the job, some are baggage and even harmful. I was more guilty of this “type” (emotionally cold, driven, self-reliant, etc) before becoming a parent and then teaching flying for many years.  Effective education requires patience, tolerance, compassion, and trust; the toolkit of emotional intelligence that can take experience and effort to acquire. Having “ice water in your veins” might be valuable when piloting century series fighters through incoming flak, but it is detrimental to successful aviation education. We need to embrace a very different skill set for education – that of a “compassionate coach.”

Rod Machado “Bad CFI”

We have all seen the impatient, draconian CFI meme, with the instructor swatting a hapless student on the head with a sectional while screaming incomprehensible instructions. Or worse, terrorizing unprepared students with early stalls or spins to “weed out the weak and unqualified.” Obviously, this classic CFI ogre has no place in modern education. But humor aside, we all can miss the mark if we do not work very hard to be patient and empathetic when teaching. Being an effective educator requires patience and understanding often missing from the pilot personality profile. One reason we selected the term “educator” in our organizational name “SAFE” was to distance our mission from the more narrowly defined historic term “instructor.” An “educator” engages the whole person as a unique individual, whereas an “instructor” is usually thought of as someone just conveying mere physical skills (good dog, bad dog). In any case, effective education requires emotional intelligence skills not often found just in piloting – a warm heart.

Emotional intelligence is universally recognized as the required meta-skill for modern business success as well as educational effectiveness. Harvard Business Review published a whole series of books on the subject and it is now integral in all business school curriculums. And I guess the best news is these emotional skills can even be improved by those of us born male and also in the age of dinosaurs. Whenever I ask an audience about their best educational experience, it usually involves a caring professional patiently guiding a student. SAFE has resources to help with this…we need more professional educators. Fly safe out there, and often!


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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

Kobe Crash – A Safety Wake-Up Call

We all were shocked and saddened this week by the tragic helicopter crash in California that claimed the lives of 9 people including charismatic basketball star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter. There are the usual crazy conspiracy theories all over the internet, but here are a few cogent thoughts from aviators.

These sad events are always a wake-up call for all pilots to sharpen our risk management skills and keep our instrument skills sharp in case they are suddenly needed. Fortunately, if you examine the whole of aviation, it is remarkably safe.  As aviation educators, we must maintain high standards of excellence and rigorously train these important skills to keep all our aviators safe. No one wants to rush to judgment but here are a few ideas and comments:

 

Click for Plane and Pilot commentary
Click for Flying Magazine commentary

…and from Richard McSpadden at the Aviation Safety Institute (posted on FaceBook and reprinted here with permission): 

The tragic helicopter crash claiming the lives of Kobe Bryant and 8 others reinforces some sober learning for all pilots, regardless of the NTSB’s findings. 1) Flying vfr into imc conditions is dangerous, regardless of your experience and ratings. A third of these accidents happen to experienced, ifr-rated pilots. 2) The nether land between kind-of flying on instruments and kind-of flying via visual reference is far more challenging than just flying on instruments. This hybrid arena lends itself to visual illusions and spatial disorientation. The consequences of which are exacerbated by proximity to the ground and reduced time-to-impact. 3) Reduced visibility in hilly terrain is especially treacherous. Lights from cars, houses, other sources have a subliminal disorienting effect that creates false horizons, difficult to recognize until its too late. 4) Fog, and in particular coastal fog is highly unpredictable and can move in dense waves. 5) Flights, conditions and decisions must be assessed differently when you operate single-pilot. This flight, under these conditions, was extraordinarily demanding for a single pilot.
Fortunately, most pilots are aware of these issues, I’m sure this pilot was. By all accounts, he was an exceptional pilot. But it only takes one lapse in judgment, on one flight. It’s possible the NTSB findings will reveal a completely different cause for the accident…but its also unlikely they will. The crash is an unfathomable tragedy for the families involved. It also damages the credibility of general aviation and helicopters. These operations have a phenomenal safety record, but we don’t hear about the millions of flights a year that operate safely. We only hear about the tragic ones.

KobeCrash
Click for FORBES article on Kobe crash…

The NTSB has already started their comprehensive investigation (as with the Hudson River Liberty crash last year) and will have more details in a year or so. In the meantime, extract what lessons we all can learn. Fly safely out there…and often!


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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

“Habit Stacking” For Aviation Efficiency and Safety

We all like to imagine that we run our lives as bold free agents, consciously determining every action and impulse. But if we are aware and honest, we realize that our daily activities are largely run instead by habits and powerful non-conscious influences – and I know this can be a bit depressing for a “PIC” to admit. But if we curate and control our habit-formation we will lead a more effective and efficient life (and safer flying!) A recent short book Atomic Habits, by James Clear, can be very helpful in this quest.

Carefully-replicated psychological studies reveal that non-conscious influences actually determine between 50-90% of our daily behavior. Our habits and culture are who we are!  What we can determine on a smaller scale, is our personal environment (where we hang out and our friends) and some of the habits we inhabit. If we seize conscious control of these drivers of behavior and apply thoughtful, methodical discipline, we can change our lives and outcomes through new habit formation.

Clearly, there is not a lot of awareness or focus on habit formation in our larger culture. Maintaining good habits and applying discipline almost seem to be evil words. But in high-performance activities like business productivity and aviation, discipline, habits and culture charge have become very hot topics. Books like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits by James Clear have all become rapid bestsellers.

You may not have thought of aviation in exactly this manner, but flight training and safe flying are largely learning and adhering to a series of context-dependent safe habits. The formation and execution of our checklists, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and repeated techniques mold behavior through habits, giving us a script to follow. Learned skills and techniques execute these actions on predetermined cues with smoothness, determining exact force and adjusts to precise conditions. Situational awareness, the critical 3 levels of perception and insight, determines which script or habit to execute in a given context; e.g. “this is a short field with a crosswind.” And once you are beyond your initial training, YOU are the curator of your personal improvement and pursuit of excellence. Carefully determined and operating habits free mental space to enjoy the beauty and other pleasures of flight.

Habit stacking” is a conscious way of creating new adaptive behaviors that improve your flying (and life). This involves inserting new scripts into already existing (well-established) habit patterns. For instance, we know every flight will involve a take-off, cruise and arrival/landing (on a good day). Within that predictable existing structure are endless sub-texts we can improve with reflection and discipline. If we want to improve our flying, we need to analyze and consciously improve our “habit stack.” For example, “when I line up on the runway, I will also verify the heading indicator and runway, start the clock, etc” (most pilots have some form of “line-up check” but is it really working for your?) If we overload this system with too many details it will fail. Or if we disregard it entirely or do not value this discipline (culture) we also will also fail. For safety, a pilot must carefully curate and modify their personal “habit stack” to work for their personal situation and demands of the mission. This process takes constant discipline, reflection, and refinement.

A wonderful new book that will improve your flying (and your life) is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. “Atomic” here does not mean radioactive but rather many tiny habits reassembled into a consciously-determined adaptive whole. This author has devoted his life to organizing his habits and conveys the mechanics of this process beautifully. Fly safely out there (and often!)


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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

“YouTube Roulette” – Verifying Your Information!

Red you win! Black = “Game Over!”

As a thought experiment, imagine you are at a food buffet with a wide variety of options freely available to you. The only problem is half are nourishing and good for you and the other half will make you sick and might even kill you. And the most attractive might be the most poisonous. Welcome to the world of YouTube (and the internet) as “aviation education!” The internet is a great tool to disseminate valuable information but we have to continuously remind ourselves it is also very good at propagating myths and fallacies. And as humans we are often too willing to believe and reinforce our own personal biases – just look at our current political climate?

On a check ride a while back, a CFI applicant terrified me with a monster skid turning base to final and described it as a “slip to landing” – Game over, no replay! (Can you imagine him spreading this error to 20 new people a month?) His source was a 30K airline pilot online who very clearly described this erroneous maneuver as “an easy way to slip to final” – “just add bottom rudder and hold aileron out of the turn.” (Please don’t try this!)  The source seemed valid with credentials and lots of other useful information. But this totally wrong and dangerous information was a “poison pill” mixed in with useful hints. The result was a very unhappy (and unsuccessful) applicant.

In another case, I recently watched a well-credentialed online CFI from a bigger school (with a pretty well-produced series of training videos) teach and simultaneously perform a chandelle (presumably to help commercial applicants). This maneuver was so far from correct it was embarrassing. It really could have been a perfect demonstration of “common student errors” instead. And guaranteed some unfortunate student is going to believe this video and show up for a flight test and fly this procedure as a model (it happens). Game over!

Your pilot knowledge and skills should be a protected vault of trusted learning and techniques that has to be verified and correct. It should never be a public thoroughfare of opinions, but firewalled from everyday casual inputs. It is essential to suspiciously examine and test every opinion or recommendation you take in against known valid sources before importing it into your operating system. Bad information is like malicious computer code in a system -it can fire off an inappropriate or dangerous action at the worst time. And once you acquire and reinforce a bad habit it is very difficult to eradicate.

As a CFI and examiner, I see bad techniques and erroneous ideas way too often – this is both online and elsewhere given as advice or “education.” Personal online sources are just the easiest “vector for the virus” – clicks are dollars and truth is rare! Everyone with a GoPro is an “expert.” Unfortunately, being able to tell good from bad in “aviation truth” almost presupposes a certain advanced level of skill and knowledge – coupled with a discerning bull$hit detector. So step one is carefully verifying every source and “fact.” Choose your reliable, trusted providers and verify the information against known industry “references.” For aviators, these are the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook or Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. All the FAA manuals and handbooks are available FREE and you can take that knowledge to the bank. Peer review and careful screening ensure good content.

In addition to the FAA source material, the quality of “trusted providers” in the industry for years are also solid and online learning here is wonderfully convenient and useful offering a variety of perspective.  Information from Sporty’s, King Schools, Bold Method, GoldSeal, Gleim, Pilot Workshops, etc is almost universally helpful. These large “trusted providers” all have extensive product development and review systems to filter out errors.

The danger of questionable safety culture and errors is largely found in the Vlog “home movie” crowd trying to be exceptional and stand out with some unique perspective or exciting angle. Remember, homebrew YouTubers create content to be sensational and attract attention solely for fame and profit; “pimp my channel.” They are not necessarily intended as good guides for safe procedures or standard acceptable practices. (Hold my beer and watch this…)

Similarly, finding a good CFI with trusted advice, effective techniques and a compatible demeanor can be challenging.  The first person a school “assigns” might be the wrong person for you. As the “consumer” (paying the bill?) you are entitled to select your own professional and to a certain degree decide your training. Especially in aviation, I would never say “the customer is always right,” but in matters of compatibility, you are the boss. Execute your due diligence and check their credentials. Remember, you will “become this person” in your future flying behavior.  The reason they call an FAA evaluation a “check-ride” is that the DPE is “checking” the work of a CFI that did the training (and of course the final demonstration of skill, knowledge, and judgment). The CFI creates the pilot over 40-50 hours together, molding techniques, knowledge and to a certain degree attitude. The DPE is very simply just the “gatekeeper” with an hour or two to decide “yes or no” based on an objective standard the FAA enforces. Many times on flight tests, it is abundantly clear that the reason for an applicant failing was (unfortunately) the “source”- their CFI’s errors and omissions. It is worth shopping carefully for the best CFI to do your aviation education. And as you persist beyond your initial training, YOU are now the arbiter of your “aviation truth” so shop wisely. Fly safely (and often!)


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

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