CFI Pro; Teaching PIC With “Incremental Mastery”

I recently participated in a webinar with Russ Still and Nate Tennant from Gold Seal Ground Schools focusing on preparation for check rides, specifically the easier “low hanging fruit.” In the overwhelming push to prepare for a test, applicants often miss the simplest things. This webinar was great fun plus an opportunity to share valuable resources with our membership and the general public.  We will have more livestream videos coming for you in the near future. During these livestream events send your questions and input: #askgoldseal

Scenarios are Essential

Since we can’t physically transport an applicant to all the places and conditions they will encounter in their future piloting experience, during training (and testing) we have to simulate experiences with scenarios. Scenarios are a critical tool that you must train with and expect to see continuously during every evaluation. Because when a flight test is complete, one thing we have to absolutely *know* for sure; this pilot can handle or at least figure out all these situations. Also that our future pilot will have enough judgment, knowledge and integrity to know their limits and say “no” until they acquire more experience to handle advanced situations. We probably only train and test probably a minor percentage of what you will ultimately experience as a pilot. But unfortunately every failure in the real world will be an aircraft accident. In testing, the trick is extrapolating from a very small time and distance sample to all possible future flight challenges (in a couple hours).

Teaching PIC a Step at a Time…

A critical pilot skill for every flight (and pilot evaluation) is demonstrating “pilot in command” authority. A pilot flying absolutely has to “own it” in a very literal sense. If an applicant on a test is continually unsure and timidly asking permission for every operation, they have not adequately internalized this important quality. They are still tied to the apron strings of their CFI. How to foster this transformation from “student” to “person in charge” in training is difficult and requires “incremental mastery;” You cannot will this into being and it will not happen in a day.

To build “pilot in command authority” in students during my teaching, I continuously hand over each proficiently demonstrated operation to the student. As soon as they have a solid command of take-off, climb and turn, these areas are delegated entirely to their control. They will “solo to the practice area” (with no help) by lesson 3.  I make this very clear in the briefing and in the cockpit; all decisions and aircraft control are entirely their responsibility! In this way the student essentially takes over complete authority for the aircraft in a series of incremental steps. This  gives a huge motivational boost to your student throughout training; they see and feel the progress. And when the crosswind is too much or an operation is in question, I rely on the student’s judgment to say so and ask for assistance; we all need to learn our limits. Once mastery in normal operations is assured it is obviously essential to challenge our students with many creative “abnormals and emergencies” (more on the sadistic CFI later 🙂

Unfortunately, when I ran a flight school I discovered most CFIs subconsciously teach dependence on the “sage in the right seat.” Teaching the “student” to rely and depend too much on the CFI is a big mistake that will forever cripple the future pilot. Much like parenting, it is essential in flight training to continuously foster independence and allow small mistakes for clients to figure out and overcome on their own (or with minor guidance). In this manner they will be come confident masters of their aviation world. Too much micro-managing and help by the CFI results in a timid and dependent pilot. The old saw of “teaching them to fish” and not just supplying dinner applies here. Dependency is very clear during a flight test and your student will probably not be a successful candidate that day. And any mistakes during initial training are incredibly durable and difficult to overcome. Get it right in those first 50 hours!

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!

 

Managing Risk: “Cleared For Take-Off!”

By Steve Rossiter, an ATP/CFII in both helicopters and fixed wing. After flying two tours in Vietnam he served two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot (one in helicopters and one in airplanes). Steve has been a CFI and professional pilot for over 50 years.

I live on a hill overlooking the airport in Missoula, Montana (KMSO), so I have an opportunity daily to see airplanes taking off and landing. It has always been interesting to me that so many pilots choose to make intersection takeoffs instead of using the full length of the runway. Of course, at Missoula there is plenty of runway in both directions for most general aviation airplanes to takeoff. But is it a good idea to only use half the runway? We each have our own opinion on this question. However, I’m taking this opportunity to discuss my position.

When I’ve talked to pilots about intersection departures, not just in Missoula, I hear all sorts of rationales: It’s faster. It costs less to taxi the shorter distance. It’s not unsafe. It’s not illegal. I operate from shorter runways all the time. All of these comments are absolutely true. So, why the discussion then?

Having been a professional pilot for 52 years, a certificated flight instructor for 50 years, and a graduate of the USC Aviation Safety Management and Accident Investigation Program, I’ve sat around many airports “hangar flying” with lots of pilots, most of whom were professional pilots, and the consensus has been that, as a rule, intersection departures are not considered the best idea. Say what?

My main concern is safety. The fact is that it is not as safe to depart from an intersection as it is to depart using the full length of the runway. The operative term here is as safe. Consider this situation:

You accept a departure clearance from Taxiway Golf on runway 29 at KMSO. From Taxiway Golf you have 3,950 feet of runway available, more than enough runway for your airplane. When you get about 3,000 feet down the runway (either flying or still rolling on the ground), you suddenly experience a problem and need to be back on the ground and stopped as fast as possible. Let’s say that you are extremely proficient and you are able to get your airplane down and stopped, only overrunning the end of the runway by a few hundred feet. Oh, yeah, and you also ran through the first couple of layers of approach lights. Or you landed in the rolling hills west of the airport or in the grain field east of the airport.

If you’d had the same emergency situation using the full length of the runway, it would likely have been a non-event. It is unquestionably safer to depart from the beginning of the runway than it is to make an intersection departure. You will never need the extra distance of the full length of the runway until you need the full length of the runway. Is your crystal ball good enough to know the difference?   Mine isn’t.

A friend of mine’s crystal ball was not good enough either. He and another friend made an intersection departure in an airplane they had just purchased. About 400 feet in the air, they lost power. With no more runway ahead of them, the pilot attempted to turn back toward the airport. They ended up hitting a power line, a tree, and a fence before coming to a full stop in someone’s backyard. Although the airplane was destroyed and there was some damage on the ground, both pilot and passenger walked away from the accident site.

When the aircraft first lost power, how much do you think that pilot would have paid to have all the unused runway behind him back? Do you think he has thought about his decision to make an intersection takeoff since the accident? From the starting point at full length on a 9,500 foot runway, there still would have been runway in front of him or at least relatively flat ground. Do you think a pilot who has had such an experience might rethink the concept of full length departures as opposed to intersection takeoffs? Most important, will you learn from this pilot’s unhappy experience?”

Please remember that there is nothing more useless to a pilot than the runway behind him, the air above him, and the fuel left in the fuel truck.

I’ll always opt for the full length of the runway for takeoff except on the rare occasion when air traffic control requests the use of an intersection. In those cases, I am aware of and accept the higher level of risk associated with complying with their request. Whenever you make the choice to make an intersection takeoff, please acknowledge to yourself that you are accepting a higher than necessary level of risk and ask yourself if it is worth it.


Steve Rossiter is a Lifetime Member of SAFE. He started his flying career as an Army Aviator with two tours in Vietnam and two tours as an Army Instructor Pilot one in helicopters and one in airplanes. After his military service, he worked as a law enforcement pilot, an airtanker pilot, a helicopter firefighting pilot, an air taxi pilot, a helicopter external load pilot, a check pilot for the Department of Interior and US Forest Service, and prior to retirement, served as the National Aviation Safety Manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Steve holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate for both Airplanes and Helicopters and has several type ratings, Steve is also an Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor and held CFII Airplane and Helicopter until 2014. He is currently President of EAA Chapter 517, Inc., and Vice-President of Five Valleys Hangar of the Montana Pilots Association.


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!

What We *Do Not* Teach…”Null Curriculum”

Educational Excellence; Board member Dr. Sherry Rossiter on Curriculum.

With the recent FAA change in how “slow flight” is to be taught and demonstrated, flight instructors have had to make some changes in their training curricula. A few weeks ago I began ground training with a new flight instructor applicant and that caused me to think about changes I needed to make in my own course syllabi due to the FAA replacing the Practical Test Standards (PTS) with the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS).

For many flight and ground instructors, the first and last time they thought seriously about curriculum development and delivery was when they were studying to pass the FAA’s Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) knowledge exam. This is unfortunate because a well-designed curriculum is the basis for an effective transfer of knowledge. And unfortunately, the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A) really doesn’t say much about curriculum development.

Former Stanford University professor Elliot Eisner (1985) believed that there are actually three curricula being taught simultaneously during every lesson. These curricula are called the explicit, the implicit, and the null.

All educators are familiar with the explicit curriculum. This is the authorized or official course syllabus that, if properly constructed, clearly states the course objectives, elements of study, and learning evaluation criteria. The implicit curriculum is what is actually taught by the educator and consists of the particular information presented, examples provided, stories told, and answers given to student’s questions. But, as Eisner theorized, there is a third curriculum that isn’t talked about and often not even considered. Eisner called this the null curriculum, wherein “null” refers to what has been left out of the explicit and implicit curricula.

By now you may be wondering where this discussion is going because you pride yourself on being an excellent instructor who doesn’t leave anything important out of a lesson plan or presentation. However, we are imperfect human beings with different biases, opinions, and life experiences. Generally, we do not consciously leave important information out of the curriculum or lesson, but Eisner postulates that all educators, consciously or unconsciously, may leave out certain bits of information or values discussion when teaching.

An example of null curriculum at work would be a flight lesson focused on learning to fly the traffic pattern without the flight instructor mentioning the importance of being vigilant in watching for other traffic. I’m sure you can think of many other examples, but the big question is, “Why would any professional educator leave important information out of a lesson?”

I would like to believe that when important safety information is left out of a lesson, it is done so unconsciously and likely due to the inexperience of the instructor. However, some instructors and teachers intentionally leave out certain bits of information or avoid certain discussions because they don’t want to appear negative or controversial.” Unfortunately, this leaves students with potentially false impressions that could jeopardize their safety or inhibit their decision making process in the future.

When I think back to various aviation instructors I’ve learned from over the years, the ones who stand out as truly remarkable were not the ones who only taught the explicit (i.e., written) curriculum. The ones I learned the most from were instructors who supplemented the explicit curriculum with “cautionary tales” from their own aviation experience. They had a talent for breaking down complex information into easily digested bites. They weren’t afraid to give their opinion about which airplane they liked better – high wing or low wing. They were willing to explain, and then explain again and again, if I didn’t understand the first explanation. Whether in the classroom or in the cockpit, they gave their full attention to the teaching process. These aviation educators not only provided useful information to their students, but they also explained why that information or bit of knowledge was important. In short, these instructors were very conscious of the implicit curriculum – what was actually taught through words and actions.

But what about the null curriculum? How can we as aviation educators be sure we aren’t leaving out important bits of knowledge or safety-related information in our teaching efforts? The answer is that we can’t be absolutely sure, but we definitely should spend some time thinking about each lesson we deliver and ask ourselves if there is any other information our student can benefit from knowing.

We flight instructors sometimes take for granted what would be useful information for a student or inexperienced pilot to know. For example, knowing that the engine of an airplane with a gravity fed fuel system (like a Cessna 152 or 172) may sputter and even quit in an extreme side slip in a low fuel condition could be important information for a student to know, but I don’t recall ever being told this when I was learning to fly. If I had not experienced this for myself and then talked to another pilot about that experience, I would not have learned this useful bit of information.

Sometimes instructors are not as careful with giving directions to student pilots as they should be because they assume a certain level of knowledge and/or “common sense.” I’ll never forget a scene I watched unfold at the first flight school I worked at. Another flight instructor told his new student to “crawl on up that wing and check the fuel.” Then he went back into the office for some reason, but when he returned, the student was literally up on the wing peering into the fuel tank. While it is an amusing story to tell now, it could have been a story with a very unhappy ending if she had fallen off the wing. What this flight instructor learned was that words do matter and to never assume a student understands what you said.

While it is virtually impossible to insure that each flight lesson or classroom presentation includes every possible bit of information a student is going to need to stay safe in the air, aviation educators should be aware that what they say – or don’t say – has an impact on their student’s flight safety. For this reason, careful attention should be paid to all three curricula– explicit, implicit, and null.

There are many curriculum resources in our public area for everyone (and much more for SAFE members. 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 Fun! Visit SAFE at AOPA Fly-Ins

Join SAFE at the AOPA Regional Fly-In at Camarillo April 28/9 if you are in the area. We support AOPA in their exciting regional shows as they become bigger and better…we want to meet our members too! This year AOPA is expanding the educational seminar selection and pumping up the fun with a barnstormer party Friday night. MCFI Michael Phillips will be at the show representing SAFE. (He could use some help if other SAFE members are willing!) Michael is a 50 year aviation addict and active CFI in the southern California region. Also at the show will be SAFE member (and winner of AMT of the Year) Adrian Eichorn. Adrian flew his V-Tail Bonanza around the world solo last year for his 60th birthday…talk about a bucket list item! Please support AOPAs energetic initiative and also our new SAFE commitment to meeting our members…stop by and have some aviation fun!

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!

PIREPS Save Lives; Please Report!

The pilot of a Cessna 310 lost his life on a missed approach while shooting an ILS in “VFR conditions.” He was current and fully briefed but the weather worsened enroute and no one reported the downpour at the airfield (or that the tower had been struck by lightning!) There is no way an FSS specialist developing a forecast in Kansas City can help you here. Your fancy internet-driven apps are blind if no one is talking. Even your nexrad is lagging by 20-30 minutes from collection to aggregation and display. This is where PIREPS, critical timely reports by actual observers, are essential to safety. All we need to do is take the time to report the conditions we see to save lives.

PIREPS are a tough sell for a CFI until you demonstrate their value. Our job as CFIs is building those insights in our clients and creating a safer flight environment. If the snowy clouds at your airport are at 800agl and you are wondering where the tops are, there is no reliable information (without a PIREP) You will be sitting (not flying) without that timely data. All our fancy app-driven data is useless without an observer willing to share their experience. And that is what a PIREP is; pilots talking to other pilots and advising them of the current conditions…”this is what I just saw.”

Automated “Official Weather” on http://1800wxbrief.com

As a flight school manager, my former students (now CFIs and regional airline captains) fly Dash 8s into home base and *always* give a tops and icing report when inbound in the winter. This is a personal gift. When the 7:08 Philly flight reports “top of overcast 4100, no ice in the descent” we can safely go flying instead of sitting; PIREPS are essential.

And not surprisingly, PIREPS are an increasing focus for safety professionals; see this recent NTSB special report. Rob Mark covered PIREPS in his recent article in Flying Magazine, which reported the Cessna accident above;

The NTSB revealed during last year’s forum that, “Between March 2012 and December 2015, the NTSB investigated 16 accidents and incidents that exposed pirep-related areas of concern,” adding that, “The pirep information, if disseminated, would have increased the weather situational awareness of the incident flight crews, which could have helped them avoid the weather hazards and prevent the aircraft-damaging events.”

We all need to promote a more active sharing of timely information through the PIREP system.

Aerovie App (free to SAFE members) allows the direct input of PIREP information to NWS.

If you are a CFI educating students, especially at the instrument level, get your clients in the habit of issuing and gathering PIREP information. This system is pilots directly informing their peers of unforecast situations from weather to “the runway lights inoperative” or even wind shear and turbulence on final. Be sure when issuing an advisory to mention “a PIREP” to insure it gets entered into the system and disseminated correctly. A simple “tops 4K” may be dropped if your controller is busy. Using the PIREP system also tunes up your local ATC staff to get in the habit of collecting and processing your reports. The information helps them when they are vectoring traffic and assigning visual approaches. If the radio is too busy call a briefer when you get landed. Newer applications like Aerovie (free to all SAFE members) allow you to input PIREPS directly to NWS right on the app. PIREPS are vital and a tool in a savvy pilots’ kit to assure and improve safety.

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!

“Google Planes;” Switch off “The Magic”

Aviation has always led the way in automation, with both the technology and also the challenges of our problematic “human interface.” As modern media is discussing the problems of “human accommodation” in self-driving automobiles, aviation has already handled similar challenges for over a century.

The first “autopilot” in an aircraft was actually demonstrated on June 18th 1914 in Paris by Lawrence Sperry. He flew his Curtis C-2 biplane with his hands in the air in front of an excited crowd at the Concours de la Sécurité which went wild for the show. On his second pass he climbed out on the wing as the plane executed complete “pilotless flight” past the assembled masses. This “gyroscopic stabilizer apparatus” continued to develop and Sperry’s “Mechanical Mike” aided Wiley Post on the first solo flight around the world in 1933. Captain Thomas J. Wells, of the U.S. Army Air Force demonstrated a completely autonomous flight, from take-off to landing in 1947 in a C-54 Skymaster from Newfoundland to Oxfordshire in England (the crew was reportedly not even told of the destination). The challenges we face now are largely not mechanical but how to interface the technology with the human pilot so vigilance and skill are retained despite hours of “monitoring.”

As anyone who has followed the commands of a GPS navigator knows, there are many problems to totally trusting technology. First the device makes us totally dependent with it’s flawless operation. Then when you are confident and stupid, it has the potential to fail catastrophically and lead you completely astray. In humorous and benign situations, people have driven into the ocean trying to navigate to the next island (by car). Unfortunately, in more extreme examples of technological dependence following a failure, like Air France 447 or Air Asia 8501, many innocent lives have been lost. For pilots our major problems are the deterioration of our hand flying skills and mental disconnect as ‘the magic” flies our plane. This interface of human and machine cooperation has many problems and few solutions; perhaps caution and awareness of the perils are our best defenses.

The paradox of automation has three important aspects. First, as mentioned, automation removes responsibility from the operator diminishing skill levels by eliminating the opportunity for sufficient practice. Second, technology in it’s amazing precision and control can easily mask increasing mental and physical incompetence in the operator by automatically correcting mistakes. Third, automatic systems tune out and mask small errors in the control system until they ultimately disengage, usually at a critical point, and leave the startled human monitor with a huge problem at the worst time (with diminished skill and awareness levels). Ironically, the more reliable and capable the automatic system, the more vulnerable the human operator may become.

Pilatus PC-12 NG

We are all guilty of depending on technology when available. (Pilots tend to be geeks and predictably love new tools and toys) But thanks to automation, airline crews have evolved from five person operations in the 1950s to the current two person flight deck. In my 135 operation, we are allowed single-pilot IFR with a fully functioning autopilot! And not surprisingly, increasing dependence on automation is cited as a factor in the popular “loss of control” accidents. Consequently the recommendation is to switch off the magic more often and hand-fly (even in difficult situations) as a tonic for maintaining mechanical and mental acuity. Reverse the roles and hand-fly with the technology monitoring and backing you up. Hopefully you will sharpen or regain your skills as you practice your procedures and manage the greater workload; only the ego suffers 🙂

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!

Amazing Patty! Lessons for Learning…

Patty is a learning monster, transitioning from new private pilot to National Aerobatic Team in only five years! That is commitment!

Patty Wagstaff is an amazing aerobatic performer and person. Her record of achievements is unmatched in our industry. Her Extra 260 hangs next to Amelia Earheart’s plane in the Smithsonian National Museum! After achieving so many trophies and shattering records, she continues to perform and thrill crowds with her aggressive yet beautifully smooth aerobatic flying. (see her perform at Sun ‘N Fun again this year) Her flight school in St. Augustine is a resource for all pilots seeking to hone their piloting skills.

But the real question for SAFE, with the stated mission of promoting excellence in aviation, is how does a person go from new private pilot to a member of the US National Aerobatic Team in only five years? How does someone maintain this super human level of performance, and what is the take-away for mere mortals to improve our flying? It is not for no reason Patty Wagstaff is featured on Mentor Insight as a “Supernova” and recognized learning and motivational coach. Patty is not only an amazing flier, she is a professional at learning and training.

One answer to achieving optimal human performance is it takes lots of hard work. Patty trained full speed, full-time, with a grueling schedule of practice to achieve her level of mastery. And though most of us cannot devote our lives to training (and nope, we probably will not become aerobatic champions), “Maintain a commitment and passion for improvement and a set schedule for skill and knowledge growth in your flying.”

Patty sought out and learned from professionals instructors and mentors. She was an aggressive student good friend of seven-time National Aerobatic Champion Leo Loudenslager and the amazing lifetime aerobatic performer Bob Hoover. She sought out and accepted critique from every professional she could find. “Seek out qualified mentors; gratefully accepting advice is essential to honing your professionalism and growth.”

And part of the above initiative and consistent with learning theory is the need to “surround yourself with professionals and people with the same high standards.” A professional community inspires and motivates continual learning. Though the aerobatic world is a highly competitive forum, behind the scenes, the performers support and help each others continually. Join a support group (local club, EAA Chapter, or SAFE) and build your professional attitude and assist others on the way up…we are a group of passionate professionals.

Join us at the SAFE booth A-59 at Sun ‘N Fun Thursday April 6th, 9:30am and meet Patty Wagstaff. Have her autograph your logbook and use this for inspiration in your commitment pursuing professionalism. SAFE celebrates aviation excellence and thanks Patty for all she has done for aviation (and for SAFE).

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!