Ready to React? “Reflexive Skills!”

Any fan of action sports, whether it’s football or air racing, knows that the greatest moves and memorable moments are not in the huddle (reflective) but during time-critical (reflexive *1) action. These “snapshot moments” are automatically deployed (but previously trained) skills that occur in a few microseconds. The reflective, thoughtful mind is not even in gear. We certainly should make plans (prebrief) on the sidelines or in the huddle, but the amazing moments come when the surprise blitz occurs and we must respond reflexively. This is true for pilots as well as in sports.

A fastball at 90mph takes only 4/10ths of a second (400 milliseconds) to reach the batter. It takes more than half that time, 250 milliseconds, just to make a decision whether to swing or not and execute that action perfectly. Psychologists still do not totally understand this subconscious process but some insights are available and important for pilots with time-critical challenges.

The neural circuit that makes this “snap judgment” to swing (or not) and tunes the response correctly, is not reflective and language-based. There is no time for this “slow thought.” Reflexive action is immediate and subconscious and comes only from hours of practice and rehearsal. These tuned-up brain circuits are developed through careful practice that is then myelinated for immediate, appropriate response. These memories are even stored in a different part of the brain (and this too requires a time investment). Though the practice and development occur as a methodical, conscious process, the resulting “immediate action capability” is then stored like books on a shelf ready to go with the correct triggers from the environment. Scenario flight training can develop judgment for the “when” but drill and repetition are essential to sharpen these reflexive pilot reactions.

Our action timeline for pilot decisions varies considerably depending on the challenge of the day.  In most operations, we have time to research, plan, and adapt a fairly predictable flight. And most challenges we face allow time to consider and decide a plan of action. But there are definitely moments in flying that require immediate, reflexive action that must be both appropriate and accurate to assure safety. These challenges require confidence and an appropriate “automatic” trained response.

In aviation the times that require “reflexive action” are usually during take-off and landing or when “surprises” like loss of control inflight occur. These are time-critical and the brain circuit at work here is not the reflective (language) part, but the embedded, trained reflexive part. Not surprisingly, this is also where most accidents happen. (We spend only 5% of our time in the pattern, but 60-70% of accidents occur here.) Similarly, startle and loss of control require immediate and appropriate reactions, but this is the primary cause of fatal accidents. In both areas, drill and repetition practice is required to build the necessary basic skills for “immediate action” responses and safety. Without this practice, we are stepping up to the plate for a fastball and complacently capable of only a slow pitch game.

Many researchers talk about “cognitive unavailability” when analyzing LOC-I or landing accidents. But cognitive (reflective) brain function is not involved here at all.  During time-critical reactions, especially with “startle incapacitation“, it is the “reflexive,” immediate action brain circuits that must respond appropriately to save us. These deeply-trained “reflexes” are either honed sharp from appropriate and recent practice, or we fail and crash (see “startle response“)

To be clear, cognitive “rehearsal” before every expected challenge is valuable to prepare for potential surprises (e.g. pre-take-off briefing) This highly effective technique improves pilot response by creating an alert state of mind (“code yellow“). But the kinetic skills in time-critical maneuvering must be automatic and appropriate, ready to deploy. Any “out-of-the-blue” surprise is going to require the subconscious implicit brain domain not “cognition.” There is a lot more to examine and explain in this area of operation – especially tips for the instructors who need to build these skills. We will examine those in future articles.

Please visit our “WIngs Up” YouTubes from Gold Seal this week and enjoy some aviation learning and FUN during the CV-19 lockdown. We’ll be flying more soon!*1) “reflexive” is used herein as “subconscious, habitual and unthinking behavior, not subject to conscious reflection or review”


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).

Go Fly (Solo!) and Join Us (LIVE online!)

These are tough times for pilots in flight training with our inability to “social distance” safely in little planes while flying. For this reason, doctors advise against sharing the same “respiratory space” in a small plane with untested students and passengers. But solo flying seems to me to be available and encouraged (and therapeutic). Pilots thrive on the freedom of flight and most controllers will actually appreciate a little company at the (mostly empty) airport; go flying solo! Please be careful to check for fuel and FBO services at the smaller fields, since most are suffering from lack of traffic. And there is that nagging question of whether it is legal to drive in some locked-down states (not my call!)

We do know that federally-funded airports cannot be closed by state or local laws and the federal guidance on “essential services” protects “flight training” and aiports specifically. If you are qualified to fly solo – as a student or as a certificated pilot – going flying by yourself is a great break from the home-bound routine. And we all need to keep both our skills and the aviation infrastructure lubricated. It is too easy to get rusty with a layoff of even a few weeks so please take an opportunity to go stretch your wings (solo) and preserve our freedom to fly as aviators.

Other great ways to stay mentally sharp and connected to aviation is the wonderful library of resources. AOPA has put together a collection specifically targeting aviation addicts during this quarantine.

Also, this next week SAFE will be collaborating with Gold Seal Ground Schools to offer a live substitute for the canceled Florida Flight Expo. Check here for times and channels. This launches Tuesday at 15:00 on Gold Seal Facebook, YouTube and GoldSealLIVE. See you soon (LIVE) and support aviation excellence with 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).

Brief and Understand “ATC ZERO”!

Several recent ATC outages have caught pilots by surprise at busy locations. “ATC Zero!” (No ATC Services) puts a shiver into any pilot at a busy airport. This has recently occurred at Midway in Chicago, McCarran in Las Vegas, and also NY Center – the busiest airspace in the U.S. – leaving 270,000 square miles of airspace “uncontrolled” for pilots to operate according to non-radar separation procedures. ATC specialists have been real heroes during this pandemic but keeping them healthy will no doubt necessitate more closures. The Midway tower is still closed –  Click here for SouthWest operating there very professionally. Pilot resilience and flexibility is a key attribute to continuing as a safe system.

If you are still flying, it is now essential to brush up on your non-tower rules and non-radar separation procedures. If you are grounded, what better to than improve your knowledge while “hunkering down?” Tune in KMDW and listen. Above all, it is important to remember, these procedures are safe, but were never designed for such busy operations as Midway with daytime traffic so some adjustments and accommodation are essential to safety.

Pilots do not like surprises, and fortunately,  ATC-Zero has been historically rare. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, this is an increasingly plausible possibility anywhere due to random infection. During ATC Zero the ATC system is designed to “gracefully degrade” to the next lower level of control. Download this brand new FAA guidance from our SAFE webpage. Pilots familiar with non-tower IFR procedures (small Echo fields, Bahamas?) will adapt quicker to these surprise occurrences; and  this article might help. The FAR AIM basics are in 4-1-9 (and scattered elsewhere), please review these essentials if you are still flying.

One of the critical safety concerns is to understand that every pilot/crew needs to exercise a cooperative attitude to successfully (and safely) work through these emergency situations. There are procedures but often no precise playbook. And though everyone wants to be efficient and on time, the usual consequence of non-sequenced arrivals is delay and accommodation. Patience, knowing the rules and compliance are the key attributes every pilot needs to exercise to get through these situations safely. Be especially careful during ground operations in non-tower operations. Many of these airfields were not designed for elegant “cooperative operations.” Fly safely out there (and often!)

 

As always, comments and corrections welcome here! Stay 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).

 

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).

 

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).

 

“Technedure” and Spin Recoveries

I am in Florida presenting SAFE CFI-PRO™ to a flight academy here. Please read (and comment on) this very interesting give and take on spin recovery and the general topic of “technedure” – when a personal technique becomes an accepted – and passed on – procedure. (and a bit about aircraft manuals)

First read Natalie Bingham Hoover, AOPA Pilot, March 2020

And here is a reply from SAFE Founding and lifetime member

Rich Stowell

Master Instructor Emeritus
34,700 spin entries/recoveries in 240 single-engine airplanes representing 44 types.  AOPA Member since 1984

While the article by Instructor Hoover raises several interesting points, her use of the PARE acronym as an example of issues with so-called “technedures” highlights persistent misunderstandings among pilots about spin recovery.

The PARE acronym evolved as part of the Stall/Spin Awareness module taught in our Emergency Maneuver Training program. The acronym has been around for 30-odd years now, and its use in primary flight training has become widespread. The acronym and associated recovery checklist merely restate tried-and-true NASA Standard spin recovery actions—actions that were first identified 84 years ago by NACA (the forerunner to NASA). NASA confirmed the veracity of these actions between 1977 and 1989, during the most comprehensive research program ever undertaken regarding spins in light, single-engine airplanes.

As detailed in my book, “The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness,” use of PARE comes with clearly defined caveats. Among other requirements, the acronym and associated checklist must be:

  • Applied in the context of typical, light, single-engine airplanes (which make up three-quarters of the general aviation fleet);
  • Applied only in conjunction with tried-and-true NASA Standard spin recovery actions; and,
  • Used for educational purposes by ground and flight instructors as part of civilian stall/spin awareness training.

That some in general aviation would suggest that PARE could be applicable to military aircraft not only misrepresents the acronym, but also illustrates operational human errors and omissions that are being committed during flight training.

If procedure is the “what,” technique is the “how and when.” Thus the recommendation “power off” is procedure. Techniques include closing the throttle, pulling the mixture to idle cutoff, or turning the mags off. Each satisfies the procedure. With all things equal, the question becomes, “which technique is superior?” Further, as soon as recovery actions are embellished with words such as “before,” “simultaneously,” or “after,” or arranged in a numbered list, procedure has been infused with technique— the very definition of technedure. Published spin recovery information—including PARE—is technedure. So the question remains: Which spin recovery techniques are superior?

Instructor Hoover compares the manufacturer-supplied spin recovery technedures for the Piper Tomahawk and the Cessna 152. Both manufacturers adhere to “power off.” The technedure in the Tomahawk manual places this action as Step (d) with the wording, “close the throttle.” In contrast, Cessna technedures for the 152 range from listing the power action in:

  • Step 2 with “retard the throttle to idle position” in the airplane manual; but,
  • Step 1 with “verify ailerons are neutral and throttle is closed” on the cockpit placard; but,
  • Step (a) with “verify that ailerons are neutral and throttle is in idle position” in the pamphlet, “Spin Characteristics of Cessna Models 150, A150, 152, A152,172, R172 & 177.”

Some manufacturers don’t even mention power. Examples include the Robin R 2100, Grob G 115C, de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, and Great Lakes 2T-1A-2. Are the manufacturers implying that power setting is irrelevant during spin recovery in those airplanes? Or are the manufacturers assuming that power is already off? Are you willing to gamble that spin recovery won’t be delayed or thwarted altogether because the power was left on? Power is known to aggravate spin behavior; thus, taking the power off and doing it earlier rather than later in the recovery process is a superior recovery technique, whether or not the manufacturer includes it in its published technedure.

A deep dive into certification spin testing also reveals the following:

  • The 1989 and 1993 versions of the “Flight Test Guide for Certification of Part 23 Airplanes” recommend the use of NASA Standard spin recovery, i.e., “Recoveries should consist of throttle reduced to idle, ailerons neutralized, full opposite rudder, followed by forward elevator control…unless the manufacturer determines the need for another procedure.”
    • Ninety-four percent of spin test pilots believe the actions listed above are the most effective for spin recovery in typical, light, single-engine airplanes.
    • The wording “unless the manufacturer determines the need for another procedure” was deleted in the 2003 revision of the “Flight Test Guide.” This wording does not appear in the 2011 revision, either.
  • Sixty-three percent of spin test pilots said it is not normal practice to try to find the optimum sequencing of spin recovery actions for a given airplane during spin testing for certification.
  • Fewer than half of spin test pilots believe that flight manuals adequately present spin recovery information.
  • Little to no guidance is provided regarding how spin recovery information should be presented to pilots. The typical Beechcraft spin recovery technedure, for example, is not listed chronologically even though a sequence of events is unmistakable: “Ailerons should be neutral and throttle closed at all times during recovery [emphasis mine]” appears after the pilot “execute[s] a smooth pullout” once rotation stops.

Should we continually question what we think we know? Absolutely! Do instructors need to do a better job of pointing out technique to their students, including providing some justification as to why they prefer a particular technique? Yes! And while it can be difficult to separate good information from bad, instructors need to remain vigilant against spreading inaccurate or incomplete information.

The most effective technedures for spin recovery in typical, light, single-engine airplanes have been known for a long time. Do some exceptions to the NASA Standard exist even among single-engine airplanes? Of course. But does that justify perpetuating the status quo, where manufacturers and instructors alike deliver critical spin information without regard to spin dynamics, consistency, or human factors?


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).