“Broadband Speed” For Your Brain!

When you witness an amazingly skillful performance, whether it is an Olympic gymnast, a violin concerto or world-class aerobatic flying, the real process at work is the human brain functioning at its peak. The secret to acquiring and sustaining this level of technical perfection is revealed in a fascinating book; The Talent Code. Author Daniel Coyle is a very engaging writer and repeatedly demonstrates the essence of masterful instruction and performance across a spectrum of diverse pursuits–from Brazilian soccer to world-class musicians. (As a treat for pilots, Coyle also pays homage to the value of the original Link Aviation Flight Simulator).

In one ramshackle little gymnasium outside Moscow, The Spartak Tennis Club, talented coaches have created more world-class tennis stars in the last 20 years than in the whole USA. In a similar spartan Adirondack music camp, master instructors taught Yo-Yo Ma,  Pinchas Zuckerman and a host of other world-class musicians. Using these examples and many others, Coyle distills the essence of how amazing education really works, and how to turbocharge your learning. It’s also great news for every aspiring aviator that “talent” is more “how you learn” than genetic destiny. I highly recommend this short and exciting book to every flight educator.

In summary, as mentioned in a previous blog article about “Peak” , Anders Ericsson’s study of master performers, high motivation and a special deep practice are always necessary (no magic bullet here). But most interesting, it is the kind of practice necessary to create faster and better performance. To learn (or teach) rapid skill acquisition at a master level, it is essential to practice outside your comfort zone. Practicing in this “struggle zone” and working relentlessly toward a well defined goal builds skills six times faster than usual techniques. Simple repetition of what you already know is wasted time. Many other techniques Coyle reveals, like chunking and reframing, are also involved also in this fast-track skill development.

A key point of the Talent Code is that specialized practice techniques, in a wide variety of fields, lead to the formation in the brain of an insulating neurological substance called myelin. Much like insulation on an electrical wire, myelin wraps the carefully created skill pathways and creates “mental broadband.”  Master performances using these amazing myelinated pathways that are 3,000 times faster than the usual brain circuits. Deliberate, correct practice, outside your comfort zone creates greater technical mastery in a shorter time with better retention–the true secret to exceptional learning and performance.

Struggle is not optional—it’s neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit—i.e., practicing—in order to [build and] keep myelin functioning properly

As far as the educators inspiring to provide this “turbo learning,” Coyle calls them “talent whisperers.” Usually  quiet and offering minimal and very precise direction, there are many useful tips in Coyle’s book for educators about creating technical mastery.

Please join us this Thursday. SAFE will be presenting a follow up “Drill Down on LOC-I” with Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell on-line to further define skills and techniques to combat Loss of Control. The previous seminar is available as a YouTube (complete the Quiz also if you want FAA Master Wings Credit). Please sign up on-line at FAAsafety.gov and see you Thursday, Dec 14th at 8 EDT.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Prevent LOC-I; Please Train Turning Stalls!

We had great attendance for our national LiveStream with Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell; thank-you all for watching. You can watch (and share) it [here] Once again, however, I am amazed at the number of pilots (and CFIs) who have limited understanding of the aerodynamics of turns. Pilots on some deep level seem misunderstand and fear banking. We need to elevate our game to avoid LOC-I accidents. Training turning stalls (at a safe altitude please) is an effective way to build confidence and understanding.

In a stable, coordinated turn (level, climbing or descending), the lift on the wings is equal! Obviously, there was unequal lift while rolling the plane into the turn, but when it is established and coordinated, lift on the wings is equal. If you reduce power and decellerate to a stall, it’s no big deal, the nose falls away from the lift vector. For the CFI this is a very powerful and useful demonstration (and an effective teachable moment). I guarantee your student (who should already be comfortable with level stalls to be ready for this) will grab the seat and expect a spin (even though you already explained it all). This is a misunderstanding due to the flight attitude. The usual airplane reaction to this stall is a mushing motion away from the lift vector. Most pilots are surprised at the lack of a sharp stall break and fail to even identify the stalled condition!

Remember; the turning stall maneuver is also available to be tested on both the Private and Commercial flight tests. I also have had flight test applicants refuse to slip to land because it’s “dangerous” (and yes…that’s also on the FAA test) so I wrote this article to clear up this misunderstanding.


Here is some more stall information from SAFE member Robert Reser; “How To Fly A Plane”

—INADVERTENT STALL

Stalling an aircraft requires pitching the nose to the critical angle-of-attack. Remember, exceeding the critical angle-of-attack is when stall occurs. The aircraft being pitched to an attitude that reaches the critical angle-of-attack causes the stall! There are only two possible ways to cause the nose to reach the critical angle-of-attack in a positive stable aircraft.

  1. Pulling and holding the elevator aft…the pilot causes stall.
  2. In descent trimming nose up to a very slow indicated-airspeed at reduced power, then increasing power causing thrust component-lift which could add back enough pitch trim effect to reach the critical angle-of-attack…the pilot causes stall.

There are only two ways an aircraft can pitch to the critical angle-of-attack. One is for the pilot to pull and hold the elevator aft. The second is for the pilot to input a large nose up elevator trim when at a low thrust setting then add lots of thrust…again pilot induced.

It might be easier to understand if the pilot realizes the only thing the elevator ever does is allow change of indicated air-speed with angle-of-attack change. Also when operating at reduced thrust of descent, any increase of thrust increases angle-of-attack until in level or climbing flight.

It is difficult to see that in minimum indicated-airspeed descending flight, adding power can cause stall. The fact remains it can happen. In descent, there is a substantial reduction of thrust component-lift normally contributing to angle-of-attack. To compensate, and for maintaining the slowed constant indicated-airspeed, added aft-elevator control and/or nose-up elevator trim maintains the desired angle-of-attack.

If a slowed, hands-off level flight is operating at 12-degrees angle-of-attack, the corresponding thrust component-lift is contributing as much as 6-degrees to that angle.

Reducing to idle thrust removes 4-5 degrees of that angle-of-attack contributed by thrust component-lift, so allows acceleration. It requires adding aft-elevator or additional nose-up elevator trim to maintain the original constant indicated-airspeed in this descent.

Now the stabilizer is contributing 10-11 degrees of the angle-of-attack. Adding back the thrust toward a level sustaining setting is adding nose-up pitch to the trim as much as 8-10 degrees, so without forward elevator input can cause immediate stall.

—LOW INDICATED-AIRSPEED AND APPROACH STALL

All low indicated-airspeed maneuvering flight is subject to inadvertent stall. A turn when in a slow indicated-airspeed situation if requiring added power, while already holding the control wheel aft for altitude control, can potentially cause immediate stall.

When in a descending steep turn at reduced thrust with the elevator trimmed for very slow indicated-airspeed flight, the aircraft can be at a 12 to 14-degree angle-of-attack. Added thrust for reducing descent rate or leveling will cause considerable thrust component-lift, adding as much as a 6 to 10-degrees angle-of-attack…immediate stall…it requires coordinated forward elevator control to avoid attaining critical angle-of-attack.

A common condition where this occurs is the base to final VFR approach when overshooting the extended centerline. A pilot already in the trimmed, low-powered, landing configured slow-flight tends to increase the bank attitude and simultaneously pull the elevator attempting to correct back toward the extended centerline.

The increased bank reduces vertical lift and any added aft elevator causes more slowing from the added angle-of-attack plus increased “g” force. At this point, a power increase adding those 4-5 degrees to the angle-of-attack may cause immediate low altitude stall with no altitude for recovery.

Low altitude, slow indicated-airspeed flight maneuvering must be with minimum or no manual aft elevator input. There must be anticipation of applying forward elevator prior to or while adding thrust in this condition.

A pilot must understand how thrust component-lift affects flight. All flight instruction of normal level turns should be without elevator input but with coordination of added thrust for its thrust component-lift.

Descending turns use gravity component-thrust so for constant indicated-airspeed must increase descent rate during the turn. It is impossible visually ascertaining a steep nose-up attitude when descending but anytime using aft elevator, the increased angle-of-attack reduces indicated-airspeed.

In slow indicated-airspeed maneuvering, always expect stall indication and if occurring, immediate forward elevator toward zero “g” with coordinated rudder and aileron leveling the wings for maximum vertical lifting.

In all flight, always trim to a hands-off condition with aircraft controls. “You will be surprised how the airplane just wants to do its thing without all the fussing with the control wheel”.

—TAKEOFF AND GO-AROUND STALL

Takeoff and go-arounds are situations where slow indicated-airspeeds are transitioning into both increasing indicated-airspeed and altitude. Without using hands-off techniques for flight, a pilot will be manually holding aft elevator control for angle-of-attack. Inadvertent increased aft elevator input can easily lead to stall.

With the go-arounds, there is transition from trimmed slow indicated-airspeed descent to leveling for acceleration and then climb. In this case the added thrust alone adds back nose up pitch increasing the aircraft angle-of-attack trim to level flight and then any excess thrust continues pitching to a climb angle with increased altitude. Any added manual aft elevator initially added to stop descent can lead to stall.

These situations require specific training in awareness of what is happening and again knowing hands-off flight control techniques. A go-around should allow acceleration while leveling and then climb. The aircraft is already flying; it seldom requires immediately jamming lots of thrust.

In all cases, a trimmed hands-off aircraft cannot stall. The elevator sets angle-of-attack and only if at a descending power setting will that change and then with thrust change. Just don’t pull the control wheel!

For a free .pdf version of Bob’s book, “How to Fly Airplanes” e-book send an e-mail to Bob with “e-book” as subject!


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

To Err is Human! “NASA Form”

by Parvez Dara, ATP, MCFII, MEI (and our SAFE Treasurer)

Did you make a mistake today? If you said no. I would beg to differ. We make tiny errors in our daily lives that go unnoticed all the time because they are mostly isolated and of little consequence. The adage is “To err is human.” And to err is universal and seemingly inevitable also.  But here is the hard question, “Are mistakes always a bad thing?”

To answer that question, we may have to ride the train backwards in time. During WWII planes were falling from the sky. More lives were lost from mistakes than from enemy aircraft shoot-downs.

We obviously learned from those mistakes. The total fatal aircraft accident rate in the United States declined dramatically over time from 1959 when the fatal accident rate was 1 in 100,000. As 2016 became history the fatal commercial aircraft accident rate declined to an astonishingly low rate of 1 per 10 million flights. Imagine the log reduction in loss of life! A proof worth hanging your hat on. Education about Loss of Control, Fuel Management, Decision Making and Judgement were the important improvements to bring the number down. Yet if we were to look at airline safety data from 2009 (without jinxing anything) there has been a zero-accident rate in the seven-year period. That is incredible!

The General Aviation Accident Rate per year however is a different story. It is presented below and is based on the NTSB data available to date. The higher rate of fatal accidents in the general Aviation Community is partly because of lack of professionalism, single pilot operations and the “bold pilot” mode of thinking.

YEARS GA Accident Rate/100,000 GA Fatal Accidents GA Fatalities
FY10 1.1 272 471
FY11 1.12 278 469
FY12 1.09 267 442
FY13 1.11 259 449
FY14 1.09 252 435
FY15 0.99 238 384
FY16 0.91 219 413

So, let me get back to the issue of is “To Err” a bad thing?

The answer is a qualified NO. However, with a caveat, to repeat an error made by others, which has been used as a learning event, is definitely a bad thing. It is important to know that the NTSB data was created out of bent metal and loss of life. Errors made by expanding the envelope of flight teach us what not to do. Though it’s never easy to admit these mistakes, “fessing up” is a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving.  The FAA rules are created based on the NTSB information for pilot’s personal and his or her passenger’s safety and based mostly on the erroneous adventures of others.

The FAA has in place a NASA form just for this purpose. If you make a mistake or believe you might have, it is important to fill out the form and send it along for record keeping. The form is evaluated based on ATC tracking data and if no intentional errors were made, the pilot receives a response in kind. If however, there was an error committed, the pilot has protection by self-reporting of the error. This is the whole basis for a Safety Management System. A pilot is forgiven for any errors committed over a three-year period. A continuous flow of errors however point to the pilot’s competency and decision making that might require a rehabilitation and remediation strategy. Read the monthly intake here.

Electronic submission here, ASRS Form available below

https://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/docs/general.pdf

Assuming you are in a hurry and wish to fly for a $100 hamburger with impatient passengers tapping their toes. Allowing them to influence your preflight decisions to not drain the fuel or check the oil content, hazards will loom in that flight. These risks may remain only as risks and not bite you or your passengers, but the “kick the tire and light the fire” does have adverse consequences if repeated. And one day, when all the gremlins go for their “Labor Day vacation” watchout! Latest “Callback” Newsletter

Based on the FAA Fact Sheet

The Top 10 Leading Causes of Fatal General Aviation Accidents 2001-2013: 

  1. Loss of Control Inflight (see recent SAFE Livestream!)
    2. Controlled Flight into Terrain
    3. System Component Failure – Powerplant
    4. Fuel Related – contamination, starvation or exhaustion
    5. Unknown or Undetermined
    6. System Component Failure – Non-Powerplant
    7. Unintended Flight in IMC
    8. Midair Collisions Low
    9. Altitude Operations
    10. Other

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

 

Aviation Safety; We Can Do Better!

My condolences to the family of Roy Halladay, by all accounts a talented and generous person with so much potential. Not only has the world lost this amazing person, but aviation has suffered another very public black eye with the repeating question “How can this happen?” From what has become available so far, there seems to be some avoidable risks in the recent Icon A5 crash that could have been mitigated.

Identifying and mitigating risks is the essence of aviation safety and this includes the psychological discipline of saying NO to “having too much fun”. Exercising “executive function” and knowing where and when *not* to fly is critical to safety. (See Dr. Bill Rhodes “Pilots Who Should Scare Us”) Maintaining adequate altitude in the cruise phase of flight is one of our critical margins of safety as pilots. Low level maneuvering flight (below 1000 feet) usually comprises only 15% of our exposure as pilots but is where over 70% of fatalities occur. Loss of control accidents are disproportionately represented in this phase of flight. If you add intentional radical maneuvers this only asks for trouble. This type of demonstration flying, though exciting, requires a highly trained professional pilot and a aerodynamically robust high-G machine. This precise and demanding flying should be left to airshow pros! There is no way a new pilot should be flying an LSA in this manner.

And as Steve Pope of Flying Magazine has pointed out, marketing this kind of low level “yank and bank” flying as an obtainable and safe activity is scary to many veteran pilots.

Pope said “the plane itself is great,” but he had concerns about Halladay, a new pilot with little flying time, taking the craft out over water at low altitude, though the plane was marketed as a craft that could do that.

“They still think that that’s the way the airplane should be flown, and there are people in aviation who completely disagree with that,” Pope said. “They think you should not have a low-time pilot flying low over water. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

This kind of behavior in the hands of new pilots will certainly lead to more accidents. We will be talking about the aerodynamics and psychology of loss of control (LOC-I) this Thursday the 16th at 8PM EST with aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff and upset training specialist Rich Stowell. This livestream is presented by the FAA and qualifies participants for FAA Master Wings. As an additional incentive, our generous sponsors at Lightspeed Aviation are providing a Zulu 3 headset to be offered to a random winner at the end of the show; please join us.

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Channeling Patty Wagstaff; Focus and Discipline!

It is too easy to focus on the negative viewpoint when considering the overwhelming number of Loss of Control accidents.  The more positive flip side is just that every pilot should approach flying with a high degree of focus and discipline. Mastery of the airplane and environment should be a self-motivating goal for every good pilot. And hopefully, every pilot has in their heart the drive to continuously improve and be the top of their game.

Unfortunately, emphasis on only “fun and the easiest, cheapest pathway” can lead to a very dangerous aviation experience. Aviation requires we do our homework, practice and learn our skills, and only then engage in this amazing activity. This can be a wonderful motivation for improvement. Join us in our live Loss of Control discussion Nov 16th featuring Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell.

In this YouTube Patty very clearly explains her personal motivation for her obvious aviation mastery; she is charged up *because* what she does is difficult (and even more challenging for a female). She clearly emphasizes the need for complete focus on the mission at hand and a thorough knowledge of the airplane and its systems. Fortunately, we are not pursuing aeronautical control at the level of Patty Wagstaff, but channeling that same attitude of professionalism and mastery can make us all better pilots.

“I think that one of the major reasons I like to fly is the mastery of this machine in a three-dimensional airspace; when you’re really comfortable with an airplane and you’ve really mastered it, you really can control it. To be a good and safe [aerobatic] pilot you have to have 100% concentrated focus on the activity at hand. The reason that I love flying and love aviation is because it’s always a challenge, it could never be boring because it’s never the same.”


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

 

Addressing the “Loss of Control” Dilemma!

Loss of control in flight (LOC-I) is the “catch-all causal factor” for the NTSB, topping the list of fatal accident causes and the “Most Wanted List” for every year in recent memory. We are excited to have Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell for our live ScreenCast on November 16th unpacking this dilemma. NTSB Member Earl Weener has called LOC-I a “stubbornly recurrent safety challenge.” Please join us and you can even collect Master Wings Credit from the FAA!

Loss of Control Inflight is a many headed monster. People lose control after icing up in the clouds or after encountering turbulence from wake or weather. But they also inexplicably lose control and crash on sunny days turning base to final in their home traffic pattern. In almost all cases these encounters end up fatal; they mostly occur down low with no room for recovery. Spoiler alert but it seems all these accidents come back to the same cause of insufficient flying skill and knowledge in a challenging situation. We must also include judgment in the causal chain because pilots usually get into a desperate situation and lose aircraft command before they lose aircraft control. They wander into dangerous, often avoidable situations. The end result is pilots are put to an extreme test requiring our greatest piloting skills and unfortunately run out of talent. As a DPE, I always advise successful new pilots, “This flight test was not the *real* test; flying  in life is the ‘real test’; stay current and sharp out there!” Apparently, we are not doing too well passing the “real test” in aviation.

What I *do* know from examining pilots for over 20 years is that many have only the most basic grasp of the real aerodynamics of maneuvering flight. And unfortunately many do not continue to train and improve after passing their evaluation (FAA Wings is a good incentive program to keep pilots training regularly). Our FAA testing standards are specifically designed to require the basic minimums of skill, knowledge and judgment. Even so, many applicants cringe when I tell them we are going to perform our stalls in the test while turning (as the ACS allows) And I frequently hear “my instructor never trained that.” (But this is usually how LOC-I actually happens in real life.) During the oral, few applicants can unpack the real forces, risks and dangers of maneuvering flight without some prompting. And in every flight review I give, I assign AOPA’s “Essential Aerodynamics” course as part of the ground training. This wonderful ASI production has no Greek letters and nicely explains the “mysteries of flight” (which I guarantee are beyond most pilots’ understanding) Please dig in here if you honestly feel challenged (for your safety) and please get some dual if your skills are rusty.

We absolutely must acquire and retain critical, non-intuitive, “ready for action” flying skills and knowledge if we want to stay safe in the air. We have to understand aerodynamic stalls and also the effect of load on this poorly stated “stall speed”! As much as I love flying, it is certainly not all “fun and games!” (What you don’t know *will* hurt you in aviation.) But aviation *is* honestly rewards effort and what you invest in good training will be paid back in confidence and safety. This YouTube from Rich Stowell (who will be in the SAFE screencast) demonstrates amazing piloting control and situational awareness and Patty takes this even further with her amazing airshow performances. If we all could fly at this level of skill, LOC-I would disappear from the accident list and we all would be safer in the air.

Tune in on Thursday, November 16th and we will try to shed more light on why Loss of Control is so challenging. The free SAFE Resource Center has lots of good materials for pilots and CFIs. You can send your questions in the “comments” below and to #askgoldseal on Twitter or Facebook the night of the show.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Preventable Tragedies

by Parvez Dara, ATP, MCFII, MEI (and our SAFE Treasurer)

Pilot error is the single most important cause of fatalities in aviation. Especially when you allow the statisticians their free reign at numbers. The percentages that pile up suggest upwards of 80% of all fatal accidents are pilot related. One wonders then why these lamentable tragedies don’t ease up? If we as pilots know of all the various ways of crashing an airplane, why do we keep doing it? To get better at it? Hopefully not for that reason. There is something else here that escapes the eye. Let us dig deeper into this morass of prejudged eventualities.

Why does a VFR pilot fly into the clouds only to lose his way in the soft bitter blindness of gray? To be a little considerate of this poor bloke, let us look at how that is possible. Given the mind’s judicious use of fuzzy logic to plant an image where one does not exist, is one way. As the visibility lowers in haze, the mind continues to fool the decision maker into thinking that the buildings he was seeing are still there albeit a little hazy. He soldiers on, only to suddenly realize that the there is not there and panic sets in. I remember flying in a flight of two on a summers day with a VFR-only pilot and his companion. As the visibility lowered and my eyes diverted to the instruments, I realized that the other pilot did not have the same capability. I asked the Air Traffic Control to tell my “company aircraft” to reverse course back to our departure airfield. Upon landing, we checked the weather and further west of our 180-degree site had gone IFR.

Preflight is another big bugaboo. Multi-hundred-hour pilots will treat flight as if it is riding a bicycle. They will assuredly “kick the tires and light the fires” and off they go, as if they are exempt from the rigors of human fallacies. Most times it is okay, but then there is suddenly that one in thousand NTSB report that makes your heart sink. How could he? Why do we ignore a good and thorough preflight? Mostly because, a) we expect it to be okay, b) it is a time drain and delays our ultimate thrill to be up in the air, c) heuristics of laziness d) all others you can conjure up. But preflight is when you find all sorts of things that can go wrong: a) contaminated fuel, b) a broken spring on the landing gear, c) cowl plugs plugged in deep, d) a bird-nest e) open baggage compartment door, f) a fouled plug or a broken ceramic spark plug, g) low oil, h) a flat spot on the tire ready to go, i) a blocked pitot tube and myriad other potential maladies that can lead to those lamentable tragedies.

The pilot is the Commander of his aircraft. No one has the greater authority other than when he or she delegates to a flight instructor or another pilot in the right seat. One of the mainstays of safety is never ever to abrogate one’s authority to fly the aircraft. You are the boss. You make the decisions (you may elect to recognize another’s opinion especially if it is a contrary opinion for inclusion sake) but the ultimate responsibility still weighs heavily on the pilot. You decide if the rudder or your authority is breached in a crosswind landing. You decide on an alternate airport as the weather deteriorates. You decide on the weight and balance. You decide what is the safest and most favorable approach to a safe arrival at your destination. You are it. You are the Big Cheese! Take that responsibility seriously but with a dose of humility.

Above it all, as a pilot you must learn to respect two very important things: 1. The Aerodynamic limits of the airfoil and 2. Your own Experiential Limits. Never let the latter exceed the former and never let yourself be seduced into trying to find the edge of the aerodynamic envelope without first experiencing it with a more experienced and knowledgeable instructor. Loss of control take too many pilots.

In the end, then, all lamentable tragedies are a learning experience. They titillate the journalists into writing hyperboles but at the very core, these disasters are learning experiences. Unfortunately, others have shed blood and bent aluminum not to be rendered as a “stupid mistake” or an act of “incoherent idiocy” or be subject to the glowering mean judgmental eye, but they are to be used as a mechanism to learn from and avoid similar errors. Safety is like climbing on the shoulders of others and seeing what they have seen and learning to avoid where they might have erred.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!