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!

 

Combat Advice for Pilots (Mario’s Rules)

We do not fly in combat but these are great ideas for every pilot!

I am a sponge for advice from qualified people. In aviation, these “been there, done that” people possess a wealth of knowledge that is usually overlooked in our modern pursuit of the “new and shiny.” The finer points and greater general truths in aviation are subtle and obscure. True learning in our world is an apprenticeship that never ends. So when I present safety seminars and need fresh material, I often solicit “best practices” from these proven aviators. The stories and advice are often amazingly helpful. One such man, a veteran of 125 combat missions over Vietnam (and still flying) shared these three fine rules to apply to your flying for greater safety.

Never assume you know it all, there is always more to learn and in fact, situations continually change so more study is essential. Mario Tomei is an older gentleman who gives knowledge tests for the FAA at our flying club. When some aviator rejoices at barely passing with the minimal 70 points (mensa!) Mario usually sighs quietly and conveys his important counsel; “You proved you know enough to pass, but not enough to fly safely…please go home and study more, you will need this knowledge at some point” And as a pilot examiner I can second that advice. There are some applicants who might scare us a little but by the FAA rules of engagement are entitled to pass (we administer the government’s test). They may skate along the edge of failure for a whole evaluation but also barely tumble over the bar. These people, just like the lowest score in medical school, are “fully qualified” and no will know how marginal their skills might be. Same advice, “for safety, more study and practice is essential.” And to be a safe pilot at any level, we are always studying and learning.

Always rely on standard operating procedures and a checklist. This is especially helpful when the fertilizer hits the fan. When I inquired about this advice, Mario mentioned being inverted in formation in a high performance jet fighter when an engine flamed out. “Disengage the formation, descend below 30,000 ft and attempt a restart.” (I am paraphrasing here but apparently it worked, and he convinced me) How many accidents could be avoided by simple reliance on standard, operating procedures and checklist guidance? A basic humility is required to accept that we are human and consequently subject to mental errors. Most pilots seem uniformly “alpha” and inclined toward over confidence. Only our better nature can control this “inner child” and apply discipline to everyday flying for safety.

Always maintain a sense of wonder at what we accomplish daily as aviators when we defy gravity. A little fear is a good thing. It is essential to always keep your guard up and entertain a little fear (or healthy concern if you prefer) to maintain your vigilance in aviation. The Marine Combat Hunter Program calls this “Operating in the Condition Yellow” for optimal situational awareness. If you perceive no threat there will be no awareness. Applying this precept has saved many lives in all areas where danger lurks. Always entertain the possibility of surprises and failures because nothing about “it worked before” really means it will work this time! “Fat, dumb and happy” is a sure recipe to turn a shiny aluminum plane into future beer cans. Thank you Mario Tomei for all you have taught me. Let’s all fly safe out there!

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!

Trump Proposes Corporate ATC

By any measure the US air traffic control system is the envy of the world for travel efficiency and safety. As GA pilots we enjoy the benefits of this huge managed system. But paying the huge bill for these services becomes a political football every year with congressional squabbles that create continual budgetary uncertainties, sequestration and great inefficiencies for that system. AOPA is a critical voice in the defense of General Aviation pilots in this squabble as is NBNA representing corporate aviation.

Obviously, secure funding of some form is needed to create long-term stability, efficiency and progress for the current ATC system. Additionally, though financially bloated and occasionally controversial, the FAA’s multi-year modernization program called NextGen, (the upgrading from ground-based radar to satellite-based GPS systems) is the obvious next step in air traffic control. Whether we want the airlines running our ATC as a private corporation is obviously a question of concern for those of us in the General Aviation arena.

The Trump proposal is part of a $1.2 trillion discretionary budget blueprint for the year starting Oct. 1 to “Make America Great Again.” The proposal would have the Transportation Department start moving controllers “to an independent, non-governmental organization” claiming the move would “make the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety.”

These proposals are nothing new in Washington. Last year President Obama proposed the same thing and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed legislation that would have privatized air traffic control and imposed user fees on Part 135 charter operations based outside Alaska and Hawaii. This legislation was supported by the major airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association but failed to make it to the floor and died amidst intense bipartisan criticism.

This year however, privatization is a more solid keystone of President Trump’s mission and this adds strength to these proposals to “corporatize” ATC and fund it through user fees. We will see how this plays out in the coming months. I would advise all concerned pilots to be vigilant and active in protecting the rights of general aviation (less than 1% of the electorate) or our future will soon  resemble the European model.

(BTW; these are *my* comments and may or may not represent the official viewpoint of SAFE. Approving every sentence included here would sure slow our ability to stay current with the evolving issues. We appreciate *your* comments below.)

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!

Leveraging Learning Technology in Aviation!

As aviation educators and flight students, we finally can enjoy the amazing new technology that makes learning much more efficient and enjoyable. “Artificial intelligence” or “machine learning” are really not about scary robots taking over our lives. “Intelligent technology” is more accurately the incrementally increasing difficulty that is the heart of every video game. Using this same “learning technology” to your advantage makes your aviation education much more efficient and enjoyable.

To help you pass your instrument knowledge test, the new GoldMethod program learns which aviation questions are most difficult for you in your study and refocus your effort specifically in these problem areas. After you take the first quiz (and reliably miss some questions) all future versions of that same material focus specifically on the areas where you have demonstrated weakness. Easy questions you have mastered disappear as you progress. These technology tools enable more rapid, thorough learning (rather that the usual rote memorization) for FAA tests. Especially with the new ACS integrated knowledge/skill format thorough learning of the knowledge elements is critical.  This proven pedagogical technique, know as “dynamic persistence factor,”  is as old as Aristotle but is now leveraged with on-line teaching technology thanks to Gold Seal (the first company to put a private pilot ground school on the internet).

Not only is the GoldMethod more efficient at improving your knowledge base and recall, it is more motivating and fun, incorporating a social sharing function with badges and a leaderboard. You can have fun competing with your friends as you learn; have you noticed pilots are kind of competitive? Why slog mindlessly through the same knowledge bank questions you already know? GoldMethod optimizes your effort with this new technology and raises the “intellectual resistance level” as you improve.

The IFR intelligence-based software is only $99 and it’s so efficient Gold Seal guarantees your success; they will actually pay for your test if you fail! For members of SAFE you can access this new instrument course for only $29! (and yes our membership is still only $45 a year)  Gold Seal is donating all this money to SAFE during this promotion (group hug!) This is a limited Sun ‘N Fun promotion so jump on it now and turbocharge your aviation learning.

All proceeds from the special SAFE/GoldMethod Promotion go directly to SAFE!
The folks at Gold Seal have made this program available at a deeply discounted price and donate all proceeds to our organization! (Group hug!)

SAFE provides resources for educational excellence and professionalism and Gold Seal’s new GoldMethod perfectly exemplifies these ideals. SAFE CFIs also get a free access to the related FAA Ground School website to create their own personal website and track their students as they progress. Leverage Gold Seal technology for faster and more effective aviation learning.

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!