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FAA Secret: Part 91 Pilots Set Their Safety Standard!

Some GA pilots have the mistaken impression that our Friendly Aviation Association regulates safety under part 91. Nope. For GA, the FAA only draws the line you should never cross and implores pilots to “make good choices.” They actively *promote* safety elsewhere. There is a lot of freedom here (and plenty of rope to hang yourself). If you just “follow the rules” under CFR 91, you may find yourself in hazardous conditions – the regs are not safety guidelines! Every pilot must specify their own personal margin above the FAA minimums.

The FAA only actively regulates safety for the airlines and charter, where paying customers are a risk. (And the safety contrast is pretty stunning in the graph below). Fun, freedom and flexibility rule GA flying; the 91 regs. are only “legal limits.” The FAA leaves most of the safety decisions to the pilot. So how’s that working out for us?

The first critical step for safety improvement is to understand the FAA minimums are definitely not “operating recommendations! Each individual pilot must choose their personal “safety margin” above the minimums to assure long life and happiness. This “margin” is also what every applicant must demonstrate on ACS flight tests to earn a certificate. Aviation has a lot of “freedom and  fun” but the consequences of careless blundering are severe.

1) Class G airspace weather minimums;  1 sm and clear of clouds.

If you are a safety-minded pilot these legal minimums have very limited application. This *might* work for a slow single on a short leg to a well-known airfield (in non-hazardous terrain). Anything else would be crazy. Educators must make this point loud and clear to all pilots as well as emphasizing PIC responsibility for safety. Some applicants on flight tests specify 3 miles as their enroute visibility on cross counties. Obviously these pilots have never flown very far “VFR” in these conditions.

2) Zero/Zero IFR take-offs (and approaches).

Though part 121 and 135 have very extensive (and complex) safety limits in all operations, but the FAA is very permissive under part 91; “go for it!” The FAA is again trusting the pilot to use good judgement  here and specify their own safe margin. CFR 91.175 specifies pilot “flight visibility” when landing under  IFR and a pilot can proceed to 100 ft above touchdown with just the lights…wow! (some IFR applicants express their readiness for this challenge even on test day). That is why risk-management is such an important part of pilot training and testing. How is GA doing with this “FAA trust?”

3) Pass/Fail Pilot Training/testing with limited recurrency: “perfection is not the standard!”

A pilot earning an FAA certificate may be a “solid 70%” but they become a pilot. Nothing corrects the missing 30% abilities to 100% and future training to improve are entirely voluntary (and rare). The ACS test is a “sampling” and does not require demonstration of critical skills (crosswind landings) or test vital pilot knowledge like self-fueling, grass runways, tiedown, etc.

4) Recurrency: “One hour ground one hour flight”

The FAA mandates an annual inspection for every GA aircraft flying which often takes days or weeks to return a plane to type-certificated standards. A pilot, by contrast, could potentially  get a very brief 2 hour review every *two* years to stay “legally current.” Who thinks this would be enough to return to a high state of proficiency equal to the FAA test standards?

Similarly, the FAA issues ADs for deficiencies discovered in aircraft. Can we (please) issue a “pilot AD” for crosswind landings? Take-off and landing with wind are responsible for 80% of accidents!  If any pilot need a syllabus for what to work on to stay proficient? Look here.

The “Safety Solution” for pilots (see the fatal rate above) is risk management and strategic decision-making. This often involves being honest with ourselves about abilities and saying “no” to flights that we (and the family) want to take; a difficult task. Aviation is a high consequence activity and most of the risk-management tools come from the military. P-A-V-E came directly from “Man-Machine-Mission and the 3P (Perceive-Process-Perform) is a variation on Col. John Boyd’s O-O-D-A (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act). We are basically trying not to end up dead, and any wise and caring pilot should dig deeper into risk management.

This should be the “core subject” for all instructional events too: “these are the skills we are working on today” AND “why are they important for safety?” Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 Responsibility; Continuous Improvement!

If you are a pilot, congratulations! All that work to acquire the skill, knowledge and judgement is quite an accomplishment. But for everyone that holds that role there is an ongoing responsibility to keep learning and improving. Being a pilot is not a static “one off” achievement but involves a continuing mandate to improve. To be safe in aviation we must work every day to improve our skills and awareness. And a lot of that learning is about ourselves, how we react to situations and what we can do to be better; the pursuit of excellence. We manage risks with every decision we make, and the consequences may be huge for even very small choices.

The recent Watsonville mid-air collision is an example of how two pilots can die horribly by small choices they make. In this August accident, just before #OSH22, both pilots were aware of the other’s position and intentions, and they still ran into each other! How many times are accidents like this *avoided* by simple pilot actions? Every little choice we make as pilots may determine life and death; that awareness is the key to safety. We need to practice and disseminate better risk-management skills; decision-making. Please watch this excellent AOPA production.

For flight instructors reading this, please share and teach these lessons.”What ifs” and other’s misfortunes inform our learning and improvement. Terrible outcomes like this can often be easily avoided by simple choices. The overall awareness that terrible consequences are possible and close at hand is part of this lesson too. As a recent blog pointed out we pilots operate in a “high consequence environment” but often are unaware of the risks. Awareness and small choices tilt the balance toward safety and a much better outcome. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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).

 

Fix the DPE Problem? Start Here!

Our aviation industry is once again trying to solve the persistent “DPE problem.” The highly-publicized FAA ARAC has considered this issue for over a year and generated a report with many good recommendations. There is even a “DPE Symposium” being marketed to potential DPEs to “fix the DPE problem,” like some airline hiring job fair. But there are several persistent problems in the DPE system, so obvious that everyone is missing them entirely. (And this is only my personal opinion and does not represent my designation as an FAA DPE – every designee represents the FAA administrator in public).

To me, (personal opinion) the largest problem is the legal agreement between FAA and DPE; one-sided and and capricious. To become a DPE or renew your designation, every examiner is required to sign an agreement (every year) with the FAA. The DPE process, as well as the daily job, is completely colored by this legal contract. It basically states that every designee is potentially a temporary worker and can be legally removed,  immediately and capriciously, for absolutely no stated reason or cause.

This contract is obviously designed to protect the FAA from bad actors without excessive legal costs but this relationship offers no trust or security for the DPE; it’s an “HR nightmare.” This agreement poisons the designation relationship and discourages many qualified individuals from even applying to be an examiner. Every DPE serves entirely “at the pleasure” of their local FSDO. The ax can (and does) fall at any time for no reason at all: done – gone, thank you, and goodbye. This is clearly stated (and agreed to) by every DPE in their guidance! To be designated or renewed as a DPE, this is (among other things) the required statement in the application:

 

It is hard to believe that good-hearted, committed professionals would sign onto a “job” where the terms of engagement are so capricious  and one-sided. A DPE is not an “employee” but contractor. In the modern environment, this becomes a DPE’s sole income – a problem in itself (one DPE I spoke with gave 56 checkrides last month). What kind of people would be attracted to this kind of contract or career? The FAA obviously did not engage the HR department here. “If you want this ‘job,’ these are the terms.” Yes, it is an honor to serve the FAA as a DPE, but a contract like this is a huge disincentive to attracting committed, compassionate professionals.

Another problem involves optimizing DPE availability. Every CFI should insure that their applicants are fully prepared, and properly endorsed. Currently, an estimated 1/5 of applicants never even get to start their flight evaluations due to problems with incorrect endorsements or insufficient experience! I wrote the SAFE Toolkit App over 7 years ago as a streamlined solution to this problem. If properly consulted, this app will insure that every pilot applicant has the experience and endorsements necessary for their flight test; and it’s FREE. The test preparation process needs more careful attention to reduce the problem of wasted flight test opportunities.

There is a huge scarcity of qualified DPEs right now. But every qualified aviation professional I have approached about becoming a DPE cites these horror stories of DPE termination and the “political nature of the job” as primary reasons for not getting involved; there is no trust and security in the system for DPEs. How can a competent, lifetime aviation professional be serious about this occupation, if it literally can go away in a day with a notification from the local FSDO? And if DPEs, are basically treated as temp. workers, how can they be expected to conduct their business professionally and honorably while serving the FAA?  We need to attract committed, compassionate professionals who focus on putting the applicant in a positive testing environment if we are going to grow aviation.  To “fix the DPE problem,” this “employment agreement” should definitely be the primary and immediate focus for positive change. Fly safely out there (and often).


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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).

Maintaining the “Maybe” for Safety!

For safety, it is critical to remember that no flight is ever a “done deal,” a “slam-dunk” or “EZ-PZ” until the chocks are in the wheels at the end of a flight. Every planned flight is a “maybe” and we need to avoid falling victim to all those human biases that might put us into an unsafe situation (sunk cost, completion bias, optimism bias, mission mentality…) Humans are by nature overly optimistic – “all systems go!” We tend to push forward with a plan even when good sense would dictate “Delay, Divert, Drive.” And the standard pilot personality is equipped with even more hubris than ground-based humans. Safety requires “maintaining MAYBE.”

The NASA Artemis One “attempt” at launch last week was a perfect example of proper “safety mindset.” And today, NASA is carefully controlling expectations by saying we “might” have a launch *if* everything works according to plan. If a couple of minor things go wrong, perhaps delay and pivot to mitigate the risks. Pressing on with a plan in the face of obvious risks and dramatic environmental changes is just dangerous. We should always regard any planned aviation event as a *MAYBE* for safety; cultivate a stoic attitude for safety.

PLAN

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.
(General/President Eisenhower)

Exaggerated planning constrains your freedom of action and leaves you less time to get things done. Complicated planning paralyses. So let simplicity and common sense guide your planning. IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad 

There are lots of useful quotes pertaining to planning but the important caution is not letting your plans get a life of their own and dictate your actions in the face of changing circumstances. The process of planning is essential to gather data and analyze risks, but “no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.” Regard your plans like those made in the football huddle. They are immediately subject to change as soon as the ball is snapped.

Persist (GRIT)

How long should we continue to push on and persist? This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Hold the stock or sell, stay the course or divert? A personality trait which can be important to success like “grit/perseverance” can become a liability if carried to far. As long as a safe “Plan B” is in place and safety margins are maintained, we can afford a bit of “grit” and determination. But there is a point where it is also wise to “cut and run.” Three tries on an instrument approach is my personal limit (and that is only with changing weather or other objective justification) then it is time to go to the alternate.

DOn’t be afraid to “Pivot!”

“Only a fool never changes his mind.” As Desmond Ford said: “To change your mind is the best evidence you have one.” Richard Branson

Every good pilot has a Plan B (and maybe even C?) so we are not “painted into a corner.” It takes courage to pivot. But boy is that a lonely place to be when you run out of options while airborne! Maintain the margins and don’t count on luck as a planning tool. Time to execute the Plan B option.

John Boyd (Again)

The master of maneuver warfare, Col. John Boyd constructed the famous “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act cycle” for fast action in threatening, changeable environments. This mental model is taught in every major business school and also every branch of the military. We have to remain flexible  and “maintain maybe” as we face complex tasks…it is never a “done deal” until the chocks are in the wheels. It is not only necessary to fly with this important caution, it is also critical to teach dynamic decision-making. Fly safely out there (and often). Fingers crossed for Artemis One.


Join SAFE and get great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight!) Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts 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). Recent CFI-Pro Seminar

Understand *Unlearning;* Critical to Teaching!

The first goal in learning any new and unique skill is unlearning. What?? Don’t educators teach people stuff (add knowledge)? A central understanding for success with adult learners, however, is that there is no “blank slate.” Adult learners come with “content” (andragogy vs pedagogy) Teaching adults is different. Every person has a preconceived notion of “how it works” – even for something as exotic as flying. To be successful, an educator has to access, understand and overwrite this original version. Unlearning (forgetting some things) is a critical step in creating new and lasting skills and knowledge.

Additionally, though some issues (driving) may be predictable, most content are is unique and must be discovered by the educator and corrected. (sounds like therapy?) Otherwise, these ideas lurk and interfere with your new (hopefully accurate) learning  – remember primacy and negative transfer? This “original/unique learner” part keeps the CFI job continually challenged.  As I passed 10K hours of dual given as a CFI, I thought I had “seen it all” but the learning for educators is a continuous process!

Unlearning as a necessary and positive learning tool is not addressed in the perfunctory FAA FOI materials or in the traditional Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is more common in modern, comprehensive learning theory. Preconceived habits/notions are very deep, and often not explicit and lurk in semi-conscious awareness. A critical example in aviation is the urge to “pull to get away from danger” – the “natural” but erroneous stall recovery urge. This seems to be almost built into our DNA. This “monkey pull” must be aggressively “unlearned” or it leads directly to the LOC-I/stall and spin accident. How do we “unlearn” this harmful script?

“Yes, learning requires focus. But, unlearning and relearning requires much more—it requires choosing courage over comfort. Brené Brown, Ph.D.

First, as educators, we must surface and understand the lurking error. It must be stated and agreed to; the elephant in the room. Then you need to overwrite the “naive rendition” with correct knowledge. This involves asking and listening first – rather than actively talking/educating. A good strategy is to have your “learner” teach you first; “how do you think this works?” Or ask specifically; “what creates lift?” OR later, “if we were stalling how can we effectively remedy this situation?”

The second step is to actively create friction with the new; a technique called cognitive dissonance in psychology. This is where the brain wakes up, shakes itself, and says “what?” And this is where the educator has a “learning opportunity” to meaningfully engage the learner and inject the correct information. The critical ingredient here is trust. People passionately embrace half-truths and love to be right. The educator must be a trusted, reliable source so the information provided is more valuable (respected) than what is already “known.” Adult learners have powerful “BS detectors”, especially when encountering scary survival situations. (see student failure to turn over controls).

Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. —“Think Again”

Once there is a trusted acceptance of information, your learner must actively engage and decide: “what I originally thought I knew is wrong (I trust the instructor) let’s fix that!” This is a very active and conscious process. Obviously a bond of trust is necessary between educator and learner for this to happen. Active “unlearning” requires creating a new understanding to build correct muscle memories. This starts with something as simple as “we do not drive the plane on the ground with the yoke (steering wheel?) we use the rudder pedals!” We similarly cannot “pull away from the ground” when we are stalled” (though every student seems to come equipped with this naive rendition). A solid trusting relationship is especially important for the parts that can be potentially scary; slow flight and stalls. Again trust and a safe learning environment are critical to learner progress.

“The ability to retrieve and generate information that is wanted, relevant, and appropriate is made possible by the ability to inhibit, and thus forget, information that is unwanted, irrelevant, and inappropriate,” Benjamin C. Storm

Another critical fact is that this process of relearning requires actual physical time. This is why a three-week private pilot course absolutely cannot work well. It is neurologically impossible to myelinate new knowledge pathways and create lasting habits in that short a time. Learning to fly is a huge psychological change of how we relate to the world. Only extensive meaningful repetition can form habits (“muscle memory”) and correct behaviors.  These have to be coded in and reinforced to be repeatable for more than just a short time. There are physical changes that have to happen in the brain for enduring learning to occur. Procedure trainers and chair flying do help a lot, but there is no magic…just hard work.

In practice…every memory we retain depends upon a chain of chemical interactions that connect millions of neurons to one another…The typical human brain has trillions of these connections. When we learn something, chemicals in the brain strengthen the synapses that connect neurons. Long-term memories, built from new proteins, change those synaptic networks constantly; inevitably, some grow weaker and others, as they absorb new information, grow more powerful.  How to Unmake a Memory

It is very important that the pattern you are creating with every new learner is perfect and consistently repeated over time, with as few variations as possible. This is why “drill and repetition” beats scenario training for all early skill learning. The “discovery method” of learning has been repeatedly proven to NOT work in this area – though necessary later when the higher-level processing takes over in the flying curriculum. This is like using the correct tools for each different job.

Make sure your “learner” is an active participant in this process of rewriting latent misconceptions. Tangible progress in learning is very motivating for both students (and CFI). Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits (like 1/3 off ForeFlight!) Your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts 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). Recent CFI-Pro Seminar

Real CFI Learning *Begins* With Temporary!

If you are a new CFI, congratulations and welcome to the challenge of aviation education. If you know someone that just qualified, please share this article with that person since their learning is just starting. Enjoy the aura of accomplishment and the social media adulation for a week or two. But it is critically important to accept the fact that your serious work of *really* learning how to teach flying has just begun. Learning to teach flying begins with the CFI temporary certificate.

No new CFI wants to hear this, but in every other country in the world, a new CFI is only a “student teacher,” or “licensed beginner.” In Canada, new CFIs, Class Four, are required by regulation to be directly supervised. In the US, FAA CFIs can legally teach solo immediately – normalizing risk anyone? Good sense requires learning how to teach for real with some careful supervision. An experienced CFI model or mentor is necessary to facilitate this process. Becoming good at aviation education requires continuous effort and attention (MCFI anyone?)

Real aviation education is totally different from the skills you demonstrated on your FAA CFI test.

Passing a CFI practical test requires continuous talking and handling the controls to demonstrate proficiency to your examiner. Real aviation education requires that you conscientiously do neither – and this is initially very difficult for accomplished pilots. You have some serious “unlearning” to do to be a successful CFI! You will also have to get used to going sideways in the plane and endure awkward communications as you guide your learner. This is the painful reality of teaching – you will live in a world of small errors constantly being corrected; crappy flying and bad comm. And despite what many new CFIs believe, you cannot micromanage your student into perfection by fixing every error immediately (and your learner will not benefit from watching you fly all the time). This is probably the most common “beginner CFI mistake.” Your learner has to discover and embrace the required skills  and operate in the “struggle zone” experimenting with your (hands off) guidance and encouragement. Suffering through some bad flying is, by definition, exactly what you signed up for when you became a CFI (no need, no sale!)

Your real CFI education begins with your temporary certificate.

Just ask any CFI who has gained a couple thousand hours teaching to reflect on their early days of teaching. They will recount with horror stories of “what I did not know…” As a student teacher it is essential to embrace an attitude of “humble learner.” Your goal is to become a “compassionate coach” for your learner; keeping them safe and guiding insights while they are building proficiency and confidence. An inflated attitude of “god of the aviation universe,” common in brand-new academy CFIs, prevents your personal CFI improvement and also eliminates any student progress. Caring and compassion are important skills to develop too. But like many important skills, they are not part of the FAA flight test either.

Allow your learner space to think and do; stop talking incessantly!

This chatter habit was created only for the FAA practical test, where verbosity is necessary to demonstrate knowledge to your pilot examiner. Talking continuously is NOT how we actually teach flying. In a quiet, undistracted environment, human communication is only about 20% efficient. In the cockpit your efforts are like the “dog watching television” and usually distract more than help. (Your student only sees your lips move and perhaps hears 5% of what you say). Teach only on the ground, and demonstrate (briefly) in the air. This allows time for your learner’s experimentation and exploration in the air. If brief verbal reminders are necessary in flight, carefully “chunk” your communication and deliver it only at undistracted times.

Allow your learner to fly, don’t handle (or shadow) the flight controls!

Flying the plane was required for demonstration purposes during your FAA flight test, but this is not how we teach people to fly. Your student should be doing almost all the flying, this is the experience they are paying for. Besides talking too much, most new CFI hog the flight controls preventing any opportunity for their learner to experience flying and grow. It is necessary to work conscientiously at “letting go” and empowering your student. (and yes, you will endure some pretty bad flying as your learners discover more precise control). We must hand over the controls – and increasingly the decision-making also – ASAP. Remember, our job is to get out of the plane and create independent (PIC) pilots. Effective CFIs are quicker at this, acquire a reputation for efficiency, and have more student pilots seeking their services.

Your learner has to learn to talk on the radio (from day one)

As a CFI it is necessary to only talk on the radio if safety is compromised. It takes serious effort to restrain yourself here because we all hate bad communication. Prepare your learners to understand and talk accurately by practicing a script (all the world’s a stage). Make sure they understand we are not just speaking English here but  a unique argot called “aviation speak.” Above all brevity and clarity rule the day, and the NAS is full of pilots who never learned this.

Shred those carefully constructed “CFI prep” lesson plans; every flight lesson is unique!

Well, maybe retain them for reference, but don’t make the mistake of believing these are useful for any individual lesson. Instead, copy a stack of blank lesson plan forms and write a new one for every lesson (include “prerequisites.”) Each hour with a different learner is a unique experience with different requirements and techniques. After you debrief your learner’s actions and improvement on a lesson, also rate your own performance. What could *you,* as a CFI, have done better?  Did you get across the points you intended? Did learning occur with demonstrable improvement? If the student has not learned, the instructor failed to teach.

Transfer responsibility to your learner ASAP.

Your ultimate job as a CFI is to “become superfluous” and we need to “get out of the plane” one step at a time. Transferring skills and responsibility to your learner as soon as they are competent is a great way to build confidence and motivation. This is consistent with the points mentioned above of empowering our learners and not micromanaging their actions. As soon as they can safely check weather and preflight the airplane, that becomes their responsibility. You will fine-tune this as they progress, but make sure they understand they are in charge and PIC for this operation.

Define Expectations and Goals Early On and Revisit Overall Progress Continuously

Most aviation learners cannot accurately tell where they are in the process of becoming a pilot and they become lost. Their motivation will suffer unless there is a continuous view of the bigger picture. Keep you learner informed and motivated with reference to the syllabus and the progress they have achieved. Always encourage reflection and goal setting to inspire progress.

Get Feedback from a Senior Mentor or Master

To be a good educator it is essential to continue learning and remain a passionate student. If learning ever stops, it is too easy to become a self-important “know-it-all.” Learning requires challenges and projects, getting out of our “comfort zone.” Struggle for the educator also creates empathy for your own learners. Seek out a mentor and get regular feedback on your progress as an instructor. Fly safely out there (and often)!


Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone or iPad. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight and CloudAhoy!) A discounted Flying Mag subscription which includes a free digital copy.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.

The Perils of More Flying Hours!

There is a natural tendency to assume that more hours (experience and ratings) somehow “automagically” makes a pilot almost wiser and safer; NOT! I can tell you from experience (50 years in the game) there is also a definite force toward stupidity in every added hour unless you work very intentionally to learn more every day and sharpen your awareness. The peril of more flying hours might be called the “ground hog effect?”

A pilot can experience thousands of unique learning experiences while accumulating hours (eyes wide open) or alternatively they can have that “same hour” thousands of times due to complacency. The repetition can either be deadening, or be a unique learning experience that is joyful (and safer). The difference is all in our awareness and attitude. The same force that makes a 300 hour pilot (in a “fifty mission leather jacket”) dangerous, also makes a jaded 50 year flying pilot dangerous; pilot attitude!

The safety challenge of “attitude” is not necessarily the practice of skills (though heightened awareness will inspire skill practice and improvement). This daily challenge is awareness; how we mentally approach the whole process of flying. Greater awareness and attitude is the heart of safety because risk hides in the familiar. Surprisingly, 73% of accidents start at the perceptual level. They involve a failure to even perceive the threat in front of us; arghh!

One way to inspire greater awareness and combat complacency I would recommend for *every* pilot (at every level) is listening to an excellent audio book by Michael Maya Charles; “Artful Flying!” I have written about the hard copy previously, but during COVID, author Michael Maya Charles recorded an audio version of this book that is even better than the written version (my opinion). He is an amazingly engaging reader that makes his message come alive.

Download and listen to this excellent book, and I guarantee it will improve both your safety *and* your enjoyment of this amazing flying adventure we are blessed to be part of.  What Artful Flying inspires is “beginner’s mind.”  This is disciplined approach to living/flying, which is ready to learn and avoids the “comfort zone” (and associated complacency that we as humans tend to crave). To stay sharp as a pilot, we must  conscientiously stay a little “on edge” and constantly anticipate new and novel situations. A fresh view of the world avoids stereotyping and is open to surprises. Give this audio book a try here with a FREE intro online. Full disclosure; no freebies for me, I bought this new audio book  and I love it!

SAFE #OSH22 Dinner and Poll

Thanks to everyone that was able to attend our  SAFE dinner at #OSH22! This was a much larger venue (on the EAA campus). We swung for the fences and filled the house. Richard McSpadden was an incredibly engaging speaker with a wonderful message for all educators. This larger venue on the EAA grounds was a big success, thanks for your support and also for ideas on our SAFE poll.


There are more pictures from this show in our SAFE Strategies. Professional photographer (and SAFE member) H. Michael Miley provided a full Flicker file from the event. Subscribe to our SAFE StrategiesMagazine for a monthly bundle of CFI resources and flight training news. (10K subscribers now and growing)! Update your CFI knowlege with CFI-NOTAMS. (all these are on the SAFE App) Fly safely out there (and often).

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone or iPad. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight and CloudAhoy!) A discounted Flying Mag subscription which includes a free digital copy.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.

1/5 of FAA Checkride Applicants Are “Unqualified!”

When an applicant shows up for an FAA evaluation with a Desgnated Pilot Examiner (DPE), the first step is validating the applicant’s experience and endorsements; “qualification.” According to a gathering of 36 senior DPEs at Oshkosh, approximately 1/5th of scheduled flight tests never even start due to incorrect CFI preparation of the applicant.  A DPE cannot legally accept the IACRA 8710 and begin a certification activity, unless all the applicant’s experience and endorsements are correct and meet the regulatory standards. We are wasting 20% of checkride opportunities! We could boost availability dramatically by just getting the qualification part correct.

As a frustrated DPE, I wrote the SAFE Toolkit App 7 years ago, to address this exact problem. Continuously updated and expanded, the toolkit provides all the required pilot experience (landings/hours) necessary for all the FAA certificates and ratings. It also contains the FAA-approved 61.65 endorsements and  ACS and PTS test codes that need to be endorsed for every flight test (CFR 61.39 the “meta-endorsement”).

The real casualties of these errors are the scheduled test applicants preparing and suffering “test anxiety” but never getting an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. Most DPEs (legitimately) charge for traveling and showing up (and wasting their time) so there is a financial hit to the applicants as well. One way to fix this problem is to download and use the SAFE Toolkit App.

Since many CFIs do not assiduously adhere to the FAA guidance or use the SAFE App (surprise me…), I subsequently added “Checkride Ready!™” to the app directed at pilot applicants so they can directly access the “DPE gouge” and avoid the common checkride problems. “Overcoming Flight Test Anxiety” is also linked in the app. Every good DPE really wants every applicant to be successful; just show up prepared and earn your certificate. The app also has lots of free articles from IFR Magazine and Aviation Safety and the weekly SAFEblog articles are usually also featured there. Give it a try here. Fly safe out there (and often)!


Get the SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone or iPad. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight and CloudAhoy!) A discounted Flying Mag subscription which includes a free digital copy.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.

Finally: EZ (FAA) WINGS!

Finally: EZ (FAA) WINGS interfaces with FAA Safety.gov and makes awarding WINGS credit a snap!

If you can’t move a bureaucratic mountain, sometimes you can instead create a bridge to it. That is what the new EZ WINGS App does. That creaky FAA Safety website is finally easily accessible with a clever progressive web app created by the Wings Industry Network. I just added this to the SAFE Toolkit App and it should be live by the time you read this today!

When a flight instructor or DPE wants to apply credit for a pilot accomplishment, the process is now super easy. Just use this new progressive application. Progressive apps are hosted on the web and when you go to the website with your phone, just press on the page and “save to home screen” and it will function on your device just like a native app.

Find EZ WINGS on the SAFE Toolkit App or shoot this QR with your phone to get started. Press and hold to install on your device and give it a try. Our “beta bunny” Doug Stewart, with no prior experience, (and a very negative attitude) was able to give five successful award  five candidates FAA WINGS credit in under 10 minutes! (For CFIs, this represents 1/3 of the requirements for 2 year CFI renewal). This application is a game changer. Please spread the word and build up activity in the FAA WINGS system. Lifetime learning and continual proficiency is the heart of aviation safety…fly SAFE out there (and often)!


Visit SAFE at #OSH22. Our booth is in the Bravo Hangar #2092/3. The SAFE dinner was a huge success. We filled the room and Richard McSpadden was a very inspirational speaker🙏.

All readers of this blog are also invited to enter the  SAFE sweepstakes! Prizes include a Lightspeed Zulu 3, Aerox O2 system), Sporty’s PJ2)

Educating Better Decisions; Pilot Proficiency!

Thanks to some very generous donors, the new Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA will be open during AirVenture this year. This facility has many potential applications, but the primary emphasis is on teaching better decision-making with pre-scripted scenarios flown on Redbird simulators. Pilots are guided through a series of “decision gates” that may lead to success or demonstrate the error chain that can lead to an accident. Over the past 10 years, thousands of pilots have benefitted from these scenarios (and the hard work of volunteer CFIs at Oshkosh).

This project started in 2010 – also at Oshkosh – when SAFE’s Doug Stewart and Rich Stowell decided to use the brand new Redbird simulator to train better decision-making using cleverly scripted scenarios. At the time, scenarios were not a commonly used tool in flight training,  and the SAFE Pilot Proficiency Project finally popularized this process. This scenario focus in flight training (with associated risk-management) and was embedded in FAA guidance with the new FAA ACS published in 2016 following the SAFE Pilot Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta in 2011.

The Pilot Proficiency Center began in 2009 when SAFE incorporated a Redbird FMX AATD—the full-motion model—into its exhibit tent during AirVenture. The Redbird was configured as a Cessna 172. With the help of the CFI, visitors were offered a variety of scenarios ranging from backcountry flying to VFR laps in the virtual pattern at Oshkosh-Wittman Field (KOSH) to landing on the deck of a virtual aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego.

SAFE, with the assistance of Redbird and a handful of CFIs, continued to offer this drop-in training not only at AirVenture, but also at Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Women in Aviation conventions. Flying Magazine 2022

The bigger Pilot Proficiency Project was envisioned as a regional show traveling to pilots and premiered in San Marcos Sept 11, 2013. Starr Insurance was an early supporter, granting insurance discounts for pilots completing the program. The program repeated in San Marcos in 2013 generating even more industry buzz and media attention. The documented benefits were clear but the program never gained sufficient industry funding to support the necessary expenses.

The EAA took over the Pilot Proficiency Program and ran it annually at Oshkosh for hundreds of grateful pilots at show center under the leadership of Radek Wyrzykowski but it took a robust aviation community to finally achieve the beautiful brick building recently added to the EAA Museum. Billy Winburn, of Community Aviation, has been a major force in organizing and leveraging the power of these Redbirds on the ground and online. Enjoy an open house at the facility if you are at Oshkosh, Wednesday from 5:30-7:30. Fly safe out there (and often)


SAFE is everywhere at #OSH22. Our booth is in the Bravo Hangar #2092/3 and the SAFE dinner is on campus at the EAA Partner Resource Center. All readers of this blog are invited to dinner; tickets here!

All readers of this blog are also invited to enter the  SAFE sweepstakes! Prizes include a Lightspeed Zulu 3, Aerox O2 system), Sporty’s PJ2)

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