SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) is a relatively new and dynamic not-for-profit. Our mission is to promote excellence in aviation education and thereby raise the level of safety and professionalism in our whole industry. We want nothing less than to change the aviation world for the better. Thank you for reading our blog. We have enjoyed a tremendous following here thanks to your interest. Please “follow” us for notification of new content. We also publish a quarterly magazine for members edited by the very talented Mark Phelps. Our SAFE Toolkit App has received amazing activity and rave reviews. Utilizing this FREE software makes all CFIs better prepared in the field. It contains the FAA endorsements and pilot experience requirements (and so much more) right in your pocket to do your job more professionally. [See it at work].
One of our proudest and most effective safety programs is our SAFE mentoring system. This enables a new CFI to sign up and gain an experienced guide in the process of becoming a really effective and excellent instructor. A lot of learning as an educator is necessarily an apprenticeship. This program passes on the wisdom from experienced, sage-like wizards to fresh excited beginners. Become a mentor and pay it forward.
We are currently working with a talented web and media designer, Chris Palmer, to entirely revamp our web presence and make it as exciting and inviting as all of aviation; a portal for member participation. And lastly, we are organizing, with other aviation partners the Pilot Proficiency Aviation Symposium to occur in Oshkosh on July 24-25, just before Air Venture. This gathering will actively engage all aviation professionals and help us discover a better way forward in flight training (just as our last gathering in Atlanta did.) Expect great things, join us and help support our mission of raising the bar on aviation education professionalism. Our amazing member benefits pay you back and make this commitment painless and fun. Visit us at Sun ‘N Fun in Building A Booth #59. Attend a seminar by a SAFE member, we would love to meet you!
Nothing is more disappointing as a pilot examiner than meeting with a potential applicant for a certificate or rating and discovering either the endorsements are incorrect or the applicant lacks some required experience. We are dead in the water. All that work and preparation, anxiety and studying is wasted because we cannot go anywhere….done! This is a failure on the part of the (non) professional aviation educator. We have a responsibility here to professionally execute our duties in preparing their applicant in the most critical phase of training; the evaluation (I still train and endorse applicants for tests). The new AC61.65F just out is, of course, the official guidance for the correct endorsements. They just have to be there or the process stops.
After 18 years of examining for the FAA and endless disappointments like this I wrote the SAFE Toolkit App (it’s FREE). This app puts all the required endorsements right on your phone or iPad *and* all the experience requirements for every certificate or rating. (there is great mobile weather, Skyvector and FlightAware too) No paper to find and sift though…it’s in your pocket! Give this a try and please don’t disappoint your eager applicant on test day!
Striving for perfection is a very worthy goal. But being driven by a deep need to achieve personal perfection in every case can cause serious problems. I believe all good pilots value excellence and strive to meet the very highest standards. But in flying, true perfectionism is often not just tolerated but occasionally encouraged; a bad idea. If perfectionism is about high standards, persistence, and conscientiousness, what’s not to like? Hopefully I can explain the dark side without offending any friends.
Perfectionism can cause serious psychopathology because perfectionists believe they themselves also have to achieve an impossible standard—no hesitations, deviations, or inconsistencies. They can become hyper-sensitive to imperfection (in themselves and others) and can fall easily into helplessness and self-recrimination. Perfectionists believe their acceptance is a function of never making mistakes. For a true perfectionists there is never “good enough,” and the “perfect” is always (by definition) out of reach. Psychologists catalog perfectionism as a defense mechanism with a rigid set of rituals designed to avoid failure and shame. Operationally, perfectionists are vulnerable to distress and cognitive rigidity; haunted by a chronic sense of failure as well as indecisiveness, procrastination and shame. Perfectionist pilots can be truly painful to work with since they often display a sense of superiority and condescension as well as an unwillingness to adapt to changing situations.
If you see yourself in this description, that is not unusual, since pilots are statistically well represented in this group, (and we probably all have “tendencies.”) I would personally argue however that though we should maintain and aspire to the highest standards and ideal outcomes, we should also fight against rigid perfectionism as a source of weakness. Our game is just too fraught with variables and surprises to be amenable to the rigidity of perfectionism. Our best strategy for decision-making in a rapidly changing, high stakes environment is “satisficing” and heuristics.
My common metaphor for decision making in flying is a football game. We of course practice hard, drilling skills and technique. We even run all the hypothetical scenarios and decide the perfect desired course of action with detailed execution in the huddle. But as soon as the ball is snapped and the situation evolves, and everything can change rapidly. In this fluid word of multiple variables and limited time, fast action, improvisation and ingenuity are the more successful strategies. We must employ “fast and frugal decision-making” rather than being frozen and directed to a perfect pre-decided outcome.
This decision making concept was developed by a genius (and Nobel prize winning) computer scientist named Herbert Simon way back in the 1950s. He was the first behavioral psychologist and debunked the Renaissance idea of “perfection in knowledge and action.” We live in a fast-changing world where we have limited time, resources, or information and can never make “perfect” choices. He advocated the best choice limited by circumstances which he called “satisficing.” This is also the core concept which pilots call “aeronautical decision making” (ADM). We cannot freeze the action, we must decide on the fly and achieve the best outcome given the limiting factors of time information and resources.
The aeronautical origin of this concept was Colonel John Boyd, the famous developer of energy management fighter tactics (and later the F-16 aircraft at the Pentagon). Boyd ran the Nellis AFB “Top Gun” fighter school for years and created the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act model for decision-making in fluid, rapidly changing (usually wartime) conflicts. This was gratefully accepted by the Marine Corps and is taught at every business school in America for business decisions. The book Team Of Teams by Gen. Stanley McChrystal incorporates many of these ideas employing fast-cycle iterations. When the action is fast and furious, the decision making is fast and frugal.
The heart of fast and frugal decision-making is the application of “heuristics” or rules of thumb. These predetermined scripts simplify the decision-making process through mental shortcuts. Heuristics bypass the careful, rational (but time consuming) deliberation process and occur decisively and immediately in areas with a clear need for action. These also encompass the habits we, as pilots, work so hard to embed almost instinctively in our operating system. Another term from the military that often describes this ability is TLAR and an anathema to perfectionists. This translates to “that looks about right.” When Apollo 13 blew up (the famous “Houston, we’ve had a problem”) and the play book had to be thrown out, calculations on the “back of the napkin” brought this crippled craft back home with the most accurate splashdown in history. So trust the force a little and work with “satisficing” to achieve the best outcome given the circumstances. You might be better off than frozen looking for the perfect choice. I will be talking about this at Sun ‘N Fun Friday 11AM, in Room 9 at the forums. SAFE will be at booth A-59..see you there. Our other SAFE presentations are listed here.
Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
Why do you need to carry a bottle of water in flight, or on a commercial flight travel and ask for, “May I have more water please!”
70% of the body weight is water based. 87% of that is inside the cell (intracellular). The “functional water” is required for oxygen enrichment and for maintaining the pH balance.
Water is vital for digestive juices, blood, sweat and tears. Any discrepancy will lead to complications with delivery of these “humors,” including oxygen to the body cells creating relative (stagnation) hypoxia. Thus optimal health needs good hydrated balance. This coolness of Scientific judgment helps dampen the randomness of confusion and chaos within the brain. The brain, we all agree, needs an uninterrupted supply of nourishment.
Not having enough water leads to the following complaints: Nausea, thirst, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches, angina (chest) pain, migraine (headache), restlessness and most importantly Central Nervous System symptoms like confusion (imagine that communicating with the ATC), paranoia and anxiety (irrational fears).
Did you get that? DID YOU GET THAT? Oops, sorry for yelling.
Dehydration can occur as a result of high altitude, excessive exercise, sweating and fluid deprivation. This hidden prism of self deception is the main element of weakening the pilot’s learned arts; decision making skill and the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of control.
The balance to maintain optimal body water level is coordinated by the kidneys mostly by concentrating urine. If the water is restricted or lost through vomiting, sweating or diarrhea, the osmotic pressure increases in the blood vessels, which draws the water from the cells into the blood vessels. The dehydrated cells become less functional. Similarly at altitude where the air pressure is low as is the water vapor content, the compensatory hyperventilation (increased rate of breathing) is a norm thus there is excess water loss through breathing – the exchange of dry air (incoming) for moist breath (outgoing). The shriveled cells slow down their activity in the muscle (fatigue), heart (heart rhythm), brain (decisions), kidney (filtration) etc. The most damaging effect is in the brain! Adding alcohol at any quantity in that circumstance accentuates this effect, as does smoking (imagine that during Spring-break, but then, very little brain function is acquired or required during that volatile period). A pilot can ill afford such psychological trauma, especially with the need for advanced decision making needed in the cockpit. Beware of this enchantress that woos the confused mind and sends it hurtling down to the ground prematurely.
Did I mention that oil flows slower than water? Similarly a thicker blood (dehydrated/concentrated) flows slowly. This congested flow limits transport of life’s nourishing goods into cells and transfer of life saving oxygen within.
Good hydration encourages the following: Increased energy, Reverse cellular damage, Normalization of the pH, Balance blood sugar, Fortify immune system, Better sleep, Clearer mind and Better memory.
So drink plenty of water before, during and after flight and enough water daily to keep your urine light yellow and less concentrated for optimal health.
And here is the additional kicker: Drinking 2-3 glasses of water reduces sugar, salt, cholesterol intake as well.
OK, let’s be honest, a human really cannot multi-task (simultaneously perform two tasks demanding intense concentration). Sad but true, neuroscientists have clearly proven this. Here are some great exercises to make sure you truly believe this. It is especially important to embrace this truth in our world of technological distraction. We all still see people texting and driving who are not yet believers and natural selection will probably soon remove them from the gene pool.
What we *can* do is rapidly share attention between essential tasks. The only time rapid task switching (or scan) is recommended is when these competing demands are equally important. Then prioritizing and triage are impossible. Think of an instrument scan, “you mean I have to maintain heading *and* altitude?” This article suggests a useful method to execute cognitive time-sharing I have found useful while piloting.
If several tasks are demanding immediate attention we first must carefully sort out the “most important” from the “urgent” and avoid getting caught in mere “busy.” That is why we emphasize the classic (and valuable) order of operation “aviate, navigate, communicate.” This is prioritizing and all items must be accomplished. We also must occasionally “triage” a word from medical emergency operations. This is also handling the most important and manageable emergency first but also picking your battles and ignoring some demands. Sometimes we have to shove less important (or impossible) tasks off the table or develop a strategy and advocate for a delay or diversion.
One reason prioritizing and triage can be especially frustrating for pilots is our almost genetic striving for perfection. And though this is a wonderful goal and continuous improvement is very desirable attribute, we don’t often, if ever, achieve perfection in this world. The impulse for perfection, if not controlled, can paralyze effective action and lead to unsafe operations (future article) since we try to do everything and nothing works. The perfect is indeed the enemy of the good. Our goal during intense pilot workload demands is to achieve the “most good” or “best solution given the circumstances.” (More on aeronautical decision making)
For equally important items, the scan I recommend in piloting is called “micro, macro, meta.” This method requires continuous shifting of our level of detail. Let’s say we are setting up an approach. Assume our plane is in stable flight so we carefully attend to a detailed operation (micro) e.g. selecting the desired approach in your GPS while hand flying. Almost immediately we expand your focus to “macro” to monitor and tweak any aircraft control issues. Just like an instrument scan it is essential not to fixate on any level of detail but continuously shift our focus in and out (like a lens) and check the different pictures e.g. “are we on course and at altitude?” With practice, this cognitive scan of micro/macro can continue several times to achieve a detailed set-up without losing the bigger picture of control. Essential is an internal alert timer that prevents fixation. After several oscillations between “micro” and “macro” I encourage “meta” to check the larger overview. This is the more global scan or “situational awareness.” Does the whole picture make sense? e.g. we may be on course, at altitude (macro) and I have everything set-up (micro) *but* does it make sense to be continuing this flight into convective through a cold front? These levels are presented in no particular order and starting big is probably the obvious choice. Most important is a continuous cycle of changing attention without fixating at any focus level.
The “meta” here is short for “meta-cognitive” which is the essential functioning of our “higher order thinking skills” or HOTS found in Bloom’s taxonomy. This global awareness (SA) utilizes our executive brain functions that always need to be engaged while piloting. This insures we are not operating on a single defective habitual script (mouse in a maze) but instead actually directing our flight like the super pilot we all want to be! (Did you ever arrive home while driving and realize you were on “mental auto-pilot?”)
Our minds can also easily gets stuck at the “meta” level and miss essential details. I call this the “human power-saver” mode. During a longer flight we can easily enter this mode and fail to drill down and cross-check at the essential level of detail. Too much automation can lead to dangerous disengagement (fat, dumb and happy?). If you keep the “micro, macro, meta” scan going you will more easily detect important fluctuations and early signs of trouble. I have the privilege of flying with many pilots more talented than me. One in particular, a retired Air Force General driving a Mooney, has taught me a lot about the essential discipline of an enroute scan. This is similar to the FAA 3P ADM scan and is critical for maintaining constant vigilance over longer flights. Let me know if this works for you. I would also encourage you to join SAFE and support our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
Master Instructors LLC designated its next class of Ten-Time Masters. The historic achievement marks twenty years of participation in the Master Instructor Continuing Education Program (MICEP). Three instructors comprise this second group to reach the ten-time milestone: David Faile of Fairfield, Connecticut; Lonnie Hilkemeier of Boulder, Colorado; and Lou Wipotnik of Wheeling, Illinois. All three are charter members of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE)
David Faile is an AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) representative, a FAASTeam representative in the Windsor Locks FSDO area, and the holder of the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. The 1999 National CFI of the Year, David instructs at Bridgeport’s Sikorsky Airport (BDR).
Lonnie Hilkemeier is the senior flight instructor and president of Specialty Flight Training (http://www.SpecialtyFlight.com/), a Cessna Pilot Center at Boulder Airport (BDU). Colorado’s first Master Instructor in 1998, he also serves as a FAASTeam representative in the FAA’s Denver FSDO area.
Lou Wipotnik is an independent Chicago-area flight and ground instructor at Chicago Executive Airport (PWK). The holder of an FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot award and the 1996 National CFI of the Year, he is also a FAASTeam representative in the FAA’s DuPage FSDO area and serves in the Civil Air Patrol’s Illinois Wing.
According to MICEP co-creator JoAnn Hill, “We are honored that these individuals have continued with the program for so long, and are excited to share their amazing accomplishment.” Others will soon join the ranks of Ten-Time Masters over the upcoming months.
As a reward for long-term commitment to professional development as aviation educators, Ten-Time Masters receive embroidered MA-1 flight jackets sponsored by PilotMall.com of Lakeland, FL. Additionally, Master Instructors LLC commissioned special wings pins reserved exclusively for Ten-Time and Emeritus Masters, sponsored by Aviation Instruction of Camarillo, CA and Specialty Flight Training of Boulder, CO. The names of Ten-Time Masters are also listed on a dedicated page on the Master Instructors websiteunder the menu tab “With Distinction.”
The Master Instructor Continuing Education Program was conceived and developed in 1995 by JoAnn and Sandy Hill of Longmont, Colorado, and launched in 1997 during AirVenture with the blessing of then-FAA Administrator Barry Valentine. The Hills, highly experienced educators with a passion for aviation, developed the program as a means to encourage and recognize higher levels of professionalism in aviation education. The program also sets professional standards to which all aviation educators can aspire.
The Hills initially administered the program through another organization; in 2009, however, they formed Master Instructors LLC. According to MICEP co-creator Sandy Hill, “We, along with a vast majority of Master Instructors, believed the program stood for something much larger than any one organization.” He added, “moving the program’s management to an independent entity has provided much greater autonomy and ensured impartiality in the accreditation process.”
The peer-reviewed designation process is rigorous. In addition to other requirements, applicants must document at least 500 hours in qualifying activities within the previous 24 calendar months. To foster well-rounded aviation educators, the hours must be distributed among five categories: Educator, Service to the Aviation Community, Creator of Media, Continuing Education, and Participant.
The Hills are quick to point out that Master Instructors have “earned their black belts” in aviation education, thus setting them apart from instructors who merely use the job to further their air carrier careers. The evidence bears out the Hills’ assertion: since 1997, a combined 37 individuals have been honored in the National CFI and FAASTeam Rep of the Year categories, 27 of whom are Master Instructors. The marketplace has also responded to their commitment to the profession: a poll revealed that most Masters realize a 10 to 40 percent increase in income as a result of their participation in MICEP.
MICEP’s success has been the model for other aviation accreditation programs. The Soaring Society of America (SSA), for example, drew on the Hills work to develop its Master Instructor Cross-Country program. The derivative programs, however, require membership in the sponsoring organizations to participate. MICEP, on the other hand, is open to all qualified aviation educators regardless of their other affiliations; membership in a particular organization is not a prerequisite. With more than 160 active Masters, MICEP remains the largest accreditation program of its type for aviation educators.
JoAnn Hill says the program will “continue to serve current Masters while improving outreach to other aviation educators.” Continuing to influence training standards and doctrine, promote industry programs such as General Aviation Awards, and form new partnerships with training providers are goals as well.
Adaptability is an important defining trait of human existence and probably most responsible for our survival and growth as a species. Humans live happily in every corner of our planet from polar wastelands to equatorial rain forests and in every case seem to adapt and flourish. I am sure you have seen pictures, or experienced first hand, some amazing conditions people become comfortable with and contentedly call “home.” At first it might be awkward and weird but pretty soon it becomes “normal” as we adapt!
Adaptability is also an important trait for pilots. We must overcome diverse challenges transitioning to new equipment or flying in challenging environments. These new conditions at first require courage and ingenuity, but ultimately we conform and become comfortable. Air Inuit in northern Canada has an Op. Spec. to fly passengers “VFR” in Twin Otters with only 300′ ceiling and one mile viz (though this requires <90K, flaps 10 degrees and synthetic vision system for safety).
There is, however, a dark side to adaptability and that is the “normalization of deviance.” This term was coined by Diane Vaughan, a professor at Columbia University investigating NASA’s Challenger launch decision in 1986. The process of “normalization of deviance” is when a person or organization becomes so familiar with an odd or deviant behavior that it no longer seems strange and alarming but becomes accepted as the “new normal.” This chameleon psychic process seems to be an integral part of our human survival mechanism. Given time we seem to adapt and accept just about any deviant structure and made it a comfortable part of our world. This is also why a objective “standard operating procedure” (and the discipline to follow it) is such an essential tool in aviation safety.
In the 1980s, NASA’s Space Shuttles were being launched on increasingly short intervals. And despite the solid booster “O” rings leaking at launch temperatures much lower than specified, time pressures, historic success (the absence of immediate bad outcomes) and “group think” led to acceptance of these increasingly unsafe conditions. This “normalization of deviance” ultimately resulted in a dramatically public national tragedy. The fact that a similar NASA accident occurred only 8 years later with the “normal shedding of fuel tank insulation” on launch shows how pernicious this problem can be. (The only benefit gained from these tragedies is that recent work by NASA on accident theory is amazing.)
“So that was NASA but how does this effect us in our everyday flying?” Please look around your airport carefully. I am sure you have been witness to a pilot who has strangely unsafe practices that they personally regard as “normal?” Over time these “rogue pilots” have unfortunately drifted far from objectively accepted safety practices and personally “normalized” techniques that are clearly unsafe. Maybe they have just become “less than proficient” but this too has become “acceptable” or “justified” due to high cost or time constraints. We pilots are a pretty respectful and tolerant bunch so often this “accident waiting to happen” continues unchallenged until the inevitable occurs. Let’s change this please and take action *before* the accident. “Friends don’t let friends fly unsafe!”
This dangerous “normalization of deviance” occurs even more easily in private aviation where the only normative filter is a (often perfunctory) 2 year flight review. Please don’t stand by if you are aware of cases of compliance drift and normalization. Embrace your normalizing friend and talk some sense into them, carefully and honestly. Let’s embrace the same culture change that cured a lot of unsafe drunk driving; “Friends don’t let friends fly unsafe!” It would be much better to have this friend mad at you than injured. Let’s modify our culture and help everyone embrace a higher standard of safety in their flying. And please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.