GA “Extended Envelope Training” (Required For Airlines!)

This is from the road; if you are at the AOPA Fly-In at Tullahoma, TN. please stop by the SAFE booth and say hello.

CFR 121.423 requires “Extended Envelope Training” for all airline flight crews to combat Loss of Control-Inflight. Practicing outside of the “comfort zone” of ordinary, comfortable flying is good preparation for a surprise encounter with upset. Unfortunately, this training has not been implemented (or even suggested) for GA flying except by SAFE. But since the average pilot only flies in an estimated 7-11% of the available flight envelope, “Extended Envelope Training” should be practiced for safety. These maneuvers are not aerobatic (or even close to it) and can be flown with an experienced CFI in any GA aircraft. For CFIs these are your tools. They are designed to keep your “flight chops” sharp!

This final rule [121.423] adds training requirements for pilots that target the prevention of and recovery from stall and upset conditions, recovery from bounced landings, enhanced runway safety training, and enhanced training on crosswind takeoffs and landings with gusts. Stall and upset prevention require pilot skill in manual handling maneuvers and procedures. Therefore, the manual handling maneuvers most critical to stall and upset prevention (i.e., slow flight, loss of reliable airspeed, and manually controlled departure and arrival) are included in the final rule as part of the agency’s overall stall and upset mitigation strategy. These maneuvers are identified in the final rule within the ‘‘extended envelope’’ training provision.

These maneuvers have been the subject of previous blogs here (which are referenced below) and are designed to build skills and knowledge beyond the FAA minimums required for pilot certification. A more comprehensive program with sample flights will be presented for aviation educators during the SAFE CFI-PRO™ Workshops.”Extended Envelope Training” is exciting and fun and and will make every pilot safer (and every CFI more effective). The “yaw awareness” maneuvers” should be part of every syllabus of training for a certificate. The stalls and turns are appropriate for later in private training and also for certificated pilots as an inoculation against LOC-I during a flight review.

1) Yaw canceling practice demonstrations: full power in and out while on a long runway to demonstrate yaw – Initial training – also during climb-out, raise the nose from level to Vx aggressively to demonstrate left yaw.

2) Climbing turns right and left (20 degree bank) to build pattern coordination skills and understand the need for “cross-coordination

3) Level off >3000agl Pitch/accelerate/power reduction/trim (eyes outside: remove pressure- trimming could be a whole lesson for beginners) Vary power in level flight to illustrate yaw of power application.[reference]

4) Execute 30 degree bank turns 90 degree duration back and forth. Emphasize roll with eyes outside directly over the nose to sense yaw. (Be vigilant for “driving habit” of looking in direction of turn to clear then rolling the plane with the eyes on the wing)

5) “Dutch Rolls” left and right with eyes outside directly over the nose to see adverse yaw. If necessary demonstrate aggressive aileron only to show adverse yaw. This should be performed at progressively slower speeds with more adverse yaw. Also can be performed nose high on a cloud or low. [reference]

Yaw inducing maneuvers: slip/skid:

6) Horizon slide left and right with rudder; slow to approach cruise (top of white arc) and while maintaining wings level slide the aircraft nose L/R with rudder maintaining wings level with aileron (yes- skidding). [reference]

7) Normal stalls power on and off but let the nose of the aircraft fall through the horizon and recover with AOA reduction: aerodynamics 101

8) As above but in 30 degree banked turns, left and right.

9) Level at Vy initiate full slips left and right holding the nose on a point.

10) Steep Turn Reversals: start with 720s then 360/1 80 and finally 60 degrees bank reverse after 90 degrees turn 🙂

11) Teaching landings, demonstrating crab and slip for crosswinds: “Centerline Slow Flight”

We will cover many other skills at the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop include the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training. We need to fix our 80% drop out rate during initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Teaching Crosswind Landings (at Altitude!)

Yeah, sounds dumb right? Training crosswinds at 3,ooo feet? But those 5-10 seconds of terror right over the runway are not an opportunity for nuanced description and durable learning. Teaching rudder patiently and accurately at altitude builds basic skills that transfer perfectly to the pattern. Deconstructing any complex maneuver to teach the component parts first makes learning something complex like crosswind landings a predictable and efficient process. No more terror on short final and flare worrying if your student “will lose it?” And good crosswind landings are a rare skill in our pilot world.

In prior blogs we discussed rudder for basic “yaw-canceling,” first as a training exercise, then applied to real-world flying. We also emphasized the need for coordinated patterns (especially climbing turns) in normal operations. This blog covers the more advanced rudder demands where we intentionally create yaw for maneuvers like crosswinds and this is best learned at altitude.

Start by clearing the area while flying at a safe altitude. Then slow to approach cruise or top of the white arc and have your client move the nose of the plane right and left while maintaining the wings level with opposite aileron. Initially this is very difficult for most people, especially if you did your initial “coordinate or die” training correctly. Inducing yaw can initially just seem wrong. But moving the controls in opposite directions and yawing the plane is a critical skill in crosswind landings. Maintaining rudder pressure to hold the aircraft nose on a point is exactly what is required in a crosswind landing.

Once this basic “horizon sliding” is mastered, carry this skill development exercise further by raising the nose on a straight vertical line up to a Vx picture. As mentioned in a previous blog, this will require appropriate right rudder to cancel the yaw created. Try to also draw a straight line down to bring the nose back on the horizon. The finished form of this maneuver is sketching a complete square box in the sky with nice straight lines and no wiggling. “Rudder boxing” is an old school training maneuver that teaches very accurate control of the nose position. It is also a wonderful tool to remove the attention from the conscious manual control and direct attention entirely outside to creating a performance result.

Now try banking while applying opposite rudder pressure to keep the plane from turning maintaining the nose on a point on the horizon. Carry this right to the limit of the rudder travel (full slip) and perform it in both directions. Try alternating back and forth in a rhythmic fashion. Many good exercises are described nicely in Sammy Mason’s book Stalls, Spins and Safety. Review the previously mentioned coordinated “Dutch Rolls” too at speeds just above a stall where adverse yaw is more pronounced.

After a few repetitions of these skill-building maneuvers at altitude, fly a crosswind landing and try some low centerline slow flight passes all the way down the centerline as described in an earlier blog. Vary the airplane configuration from a coordinated crab, tracking the centerline, to a slip to compensate for drift. Finally demonstrate some crosswind landings on just one wheel. Maintaining  the landing on one wheel is quite easy with a little power and builds confidence while emphasizing the stability (and necessity) of this flight attitude. A very common error during crosswind landing for most new or inexperienced pilots is to release the control pressure countering the wind immediately on touchdown. The correct method is to increase the aileron pressure and deflection into the wind as the plane deaccelerates (especially after it has touched down). Lack of this essential follow-through creates a rolling motion away from the wind and creates a potentially dangerous situation; a bad habit to avoid.

The crosswind landing is one of the most difficult maneuvers to master and maintain proficiency in, and one of the primary sources of landing accidents. But ironically, it is not required to be demonstrated in any of the FAA evaluation standards. DPEs usually see a discontinuance if the crosswind goes much over 6 knots. I am not sure if that is good risk management or pathetic pilot preparation. A pilot will not get much utility from their pilot certificate with that level of landing skill (and it seems skills seldom increase after the test). I personally advocate for full crosswind proficiency in all pilots even though it is not required on any FAA test. Please let me know how these techniques work for you. More “radical rudder” soon. We will teach deconstructing as an instructional technique at our upcoming SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop. Fly safely out there (and often)!

Other skills at the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop include the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training. We need to fix our 80% drop out rate during initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Creating Productive Scenarios; “Struggle Zone”


Scenario-based training has acquired a stigma in aviation though misuse. But if done properly, these experiences can be the most powerful tool in an experienced educator’s arsenal. And scenarios are the required core focus of all modern FAA ACS testing (what your good DPE is going to use during every evaluation). Every CFI must be an astute evaluator to be an effective educator. Proper application of scenarios requires discretion and creativity. Using the right tool at the appropriate time creates the most effective educational experience. Properly constructed scenarios add  a world of valuable challenge and motivation to training and more accurately resemble the real flight experience. Deployed properly, scenarios expand a small geographic area into the whole country (with no added cost!) and build higher level judgment skills making safer pilots.

The Misuse…

The misuse of scenarios comes primarily from imposing unimaginative (generic) scenarios onto every student without customizing the challenges to the proper level. Many scenarios are applied too soon and exceed the learner’s skill level.  Every flight operation requires some level of fluid skill – often acquired by drill and repetition – before the scenario can be effective (why piano scales are taught before Haydn!) Failure to consider the unique needs of each student wastes valuable time and money. “Learning opportunities” instead become “play time for instructors” building hours. Complex and inappropriate scenarios become an expensive burden for the pilot-in-training; 50 hour solos and 100 hour X-C levels.

The critical skill for the aviation educator is evaluation so the proper level of challenge is achieved. The heart of a successful scenario is customizing each learning experience to achieve optimal challenge (struggle zone). Creative generation and applicatiion of new experiences creates rapid skill acquisition, excitement and judgement (higher level learning). The result is versatile, resilient pilots (and often at a lower cost through efficiency). But in every case the pilot-in-training needs the prerequisite skills to adquately meet the scenario challenge -again – initially learned by rote and embedded through muscle memory, then extrapolated to each creative challenge with a scenario.

The Necessity…

The proven necessity of scenarios is simple. Your new pilot, or “rusty recurrent pilot”,  has the FAA privilege to fly day or night, anywhere in the country, for the rest of their life.  And this is despite being only trained in a small geographic area on good weather days, mostly in daylight.  To safely meet the challenge of real life flying, a student and educator must engage together in some “active imagining.” If done correctly, scenarios challenge the pilot and transport your learner to all the places and challenges they may encounter as a pilot.  Working together, you must mentally extrapolate from the local area to the challenges of the whole country, in different terrain and weather, encountered over the span of a lifetime.

Scenarios Done Properly…

If properly constructed and executed, a scenario puts your student into the “struggle zone” or what educational psychologists call the “zone of proximal development”.  An effective scenario presents the optimal level of personal challenge for an individual learner and enables an educator to both teach and evaluate at the highest correlation level of learning.  Done poorly, scenarios merely run up the flight training bill and become an excuse for extraneous trips to exciting lunch destinations on the client’s dime. Buying specialized scenario books or apps to deploy cumbersome generic scenarios usually fail; to be successful, each scenario must be personal and challenge each unique leaner. To present an effective scenario, it is essential to your student well so you can craft realistic challenges appropriate to their level of skill and realm of experience. Remember, a solid relationship of trust is the #1 ingredient to success in any learning situation.  Let’s unpack the “why” and “how to” of SBT  and also provide a sales pitch for this creative way to turbo-charge your teaching.

How to…Let’s get started!

Scenario training can be as simple as scrolling on Skyvector ( or ForeFlight) to a far off state and “mentally relocating” your student to a certain unique and surprising location with a mission and set of weather conditions. Active engagement and “buy in” from the learner is essential so adding a personal need to the mission is essential; make it personal! “You’re transporting your sick dog to the clinic and need to know what airspace we are in? And what viz and cloud clearance (radio/nav equipment) are required? Who do I talk to here and how will the plane perform at this altitude?” The more personally relevant and realistic each scenario is, the more actively your student will engage and the more effective their learning. (A previous blog revealed the learning benefits of practicing in the “struggle zone“) And all this can also happen effectively (and economically) on a bad weather day when flying might not be productive at your student’s level. If you have a simulator you obviously have an even better tool and the scenarios created for the EAA-PPC are available now on-line and available for FAA WINGS credit on

So  if I am dealing with a Cornell aerospace student, a plausible scenario might start with “You are back at the Mohave Spaceport for Cornell and suddenly have an opportunity to do some personal flying in Mohave…how would you unpack the challenges of mountains and high density altitudes, unique “traffic”?” Or present the “Oshkosh Fly-In Challenge” with the Fisk arrival (this and others are in the EAA-PPC list) And remember these are also exactly the kind of challenges a good DPE is going to present during a practical test. Scenarios build a flexible, thoughful pilot that can unpack challenges and manage risks with skill, knowledge and imagination.

Creating mountains…

And how do you create those mountains? Perhaps after some low level ground reference maneuvering, impose a hypothetical “service ceiling” on your plane in MSL (2000 over the terrain but below the hilltops) Then limit the airplane power to 2100rpm (density altitude) and now transit the “mountains”. “Can we safely transition through the hills to our home airport?  Should we divert instead>”  Similarly you can impose a solid cloud ceiling and  leave the weather decision to the student. Then accept the client’s decision -good or bad- if conditions are within your minimums and you can keep the flight safe and legal. Once  you are flying with too much wind or too low clouds, the client experiences the consequences of their folly (and perhaps log some actual or get some good crosswinds) within a safe environment (watchful eye of the educator). Share your favorite scnarios in the comments below.

The essential element in all scenarios is allowing your client to make mistakes (while carefully maintaining a margin for safety) and supplying only minimal guidance.  Allowing this famous “learning opportunity” to unfold is critical and easily ruined by too much “helping” from the CFI. As errors add up, their struggle will clearly demonstrate the consequences of bad decisions and the “accident chain”  without the safety risk.

Motivating for students and educators!

Scenarios are exciting for both the pilot and the educator adding fun and variety to the training experience; this is how Master Instructors are built. Good scenarios beat “going to the practice area for some steep turns” hands down for learning efficiency and motivation. And there is a real difference between “one hour 2000 times” and “2000 unique hours of real teaching experience”. Attend our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop and  acquire expert instructor skills more rapidly (are we still learning as educators?). Fly safely (and often!)


Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the CFI as evaluator. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to address the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Buffering “FAA Minimums” Aim For Excellence!

The FAA only specifies the absolute minimums (limitations) in their regulations and these are not recommended operating specifications.  This might sound silly to many pilots, but some people have not gotten this memo.  As one example, “one mile visibility and clear of clouds” in Class G airspace is an absolute legal minimum. All of aviation safety involves building (and maintaining) a personal margin above these FAA bare minimums. Minimum weather, fuel requirements, and even hours for pilot certification should have a margin applied to be safe and build better pilots.

I have been giving a lot of private checkrides lately and obviously a private pilot applicant must know Class G airspace and the basic legal weather minimums. But if they tell me they would go flying in this scary weather, they are not adequately managing risk. Similarly, FAA minimum flight instrumentation (day and night) requires only an airpseed indicator, altimeter (not even adjustable) and a compass. Again, every pilot should know this legal minimum, but should also be aware such primitive guidance is not adequate for most flights (especially at night). Building a margin by requiring more complete instrumentation, equipment, preparation and suitable weather is the basis for managing risk and building safety.

This paradigm of “FAA minimums vs safety margin” is an excellent method to understand (and teach) a risk management system (required in the FAA testing standards). Although a pilot applicant at any level must know the FAA minimums, they must also clearly define their personal “safety margin” for their  level of experience in a particular plane, environment and with unique external pressures of the situation. What examiners want to hear is “my thinking and safety margin in this situation is…”

The ACS defines specific areas to be considered when managing risk. This was developed straight out of the military’s “man, machine and mission” formula and is expanded and elucidated in the FAA Risk Management Handbook. P-A-V-E identifies the Pilot, Aircraft, EnVironment, and External Pressures that interact dynamically to cause (or mitigate) risk factors. Unfortunately, this subject is still given prefuctory coverage by many CFIs as they initially educate pilots or prepare them to take flight tests. In my opinion, this paradigm should be the primary vehicle used right from “day one” to expose new pilots to aviation. (Instead of a rarely mentioned “nice to know” addition “don’t forget risk management”)  Much of our aviation education system is still mired in the 1940s military curriculum of lesson planning. We need a cultural change that puts risk management as more central in our aviation education. P-A-V-E is an amazing safety tool for your personal flying and instructional focus.

And speaking of minimums, the current “rush to ratings” clearly is eliminating any “extras” and fun in the flight training experience. The required 5 hours of solo X-C for the private pilots now seems to often only involve one long flight on a very nice day. When I see a pilot applications with absolute minimum hours all I can think is “don’t you like flying?” Can’t we add a little more than the absolute minimum experience and build a margin of safety here too? Exposing students to more than one X-C flight or working with  more crosswind allows them to experience and internalize different weather, expand personal capacities and enhance their skills for a greater safety margin. They are going to need these hours and experience in the future anyway.

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The “minimums trap” seems to be increasingly common in pilot testing too, where applicants just just aim to pass with a minimum grade rather than striving for excellence. A 70% seems to make people happy and “mediocre” is too common in the current rush for ratings. But as proud safe pilots, our whole system of superior safety and professionalism is built on trying harder and striving for the best we can be. There is real safety value and satisfaction in exceeding the minimums and pursuing more comprehensive knowledge and skill when we aim for excellence. Fly safely out there (and often)!

Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Extend Your Skills! 60/90 Turns, Triple A Stalls

This blog presents some challenging flight maneuvers that build greater pilot proficiency, confidence and flight safety. It is essential to break out of our daily “comfort zone” or we will react incorrectly  – with the well documented “startle response” – when forced into an unusual attitude by surprise circumstances. Accident statistics reveal that unprepared pilots are vulnerable to the persistent Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I) accident. If you are a CFI this is the CFI-PRO™ toolkit from the savvy veteran instructors that result in superior pilot performance and safety.

Professional aviators are now required to practice “envelope extension maneuvers” by regulation. GA will benefit greatly from a similar commitment to advanced proficiency. This training is not  aerobatic and can be flown in any GA plane at your home field. Similar to “day one” in upset courses,  these maneuvers are extensions of familar flight training (“push the envelope” a little).  If these are presented correctly by a professional educator in a challenging but non-threatening method, pilots enjoy these new maneuvers and thrive on the increased proficiency. These maneuvers are the historical tools of savvy educators and made available again through SAFE CFI-PRO™ This is territory where straight-up “scenario-based training” never ventures.

An earlier blog described effective maneuvers for initial flight training; specifically to build yaw-canceling skills with the rudder. These are a good warm-up to “tune up” and get the feet moving if your skills have atrophied. For the more proficient pilot, this blog will present some more stimulating “envelope extension” maneuvers to build (or restore) advanced skills and expand a pilot’s “comfort zone.”

When I ran a flight school, I often used “steep turn reversals” for pilots who had just completed instrument training and were beginning commercial maneuvers. After 40+ hours of instrument reference and “standard rate/smooth” it was necessary to get the eyes outside and “yank and bank” to restore lost pilot skills. The “Triple A Stalls” prove basic physics to pilots and are useful for building up confidence and control skills. These maneuvers not only build LOC-I protection through “envelope extension,” they are also “aerodynamically educational.” They should only be flown dual with an experienced, PRO-fessional CFI.

“Steep turn reversals” begin with the simple well known private pilot steep turn at 45 degrees of bank maintaining altitude and airspeed with a crisp rollout on a defined outside reference. I encourage pilots to fly this maneuver without trimming so they can feel the load “lifting” their plane through the turn. Once this is proficient,  roll in 60 degrees of bank for 360 degrees of turn and reverse on the starting point into a 720 degree commercial maneuver. Then progressively shorten the turn duration to only 180 degrees and eventually 90 degrees of turn. To make these work, full deflection of the ailerons (and lots of rudder) make a very crisp maneuver. And thought his is entirely non-aerobatic by definition, it is a maneuver many Upset Training Programs utilize on “Day One” with the stated purpose of waking up the feet and restoring aggressive pilot in command control.

Another very useful (and aerodynamically educational) maneuver is alternating, turning power off stalls with “angle of attack recoveries” (“Triple A stalls”). Pilots flying this maneuver will benefit greatly from a “chalk talk” to understand (and trust) that lift in a coordinated turn is equal on the wings. Flying the maneuver demonstrates the applied physics from the chalk talk.

To perform “Triple A stalls”, climb to a safe altitude, bank 30 degrees, and increase AOA into a power off stall . Recover with only AOA reduction (unload pitch – no added power). Continue this through alternating right and left turns, building the muscle memory (and confidence) to unload the wing recovering the turning stalls with just pitch. Once alternating AOA is proficient, try a more aggressive secondary stall on a couple recoveries (it will stall with the nose much lower) and recover just with pitch reduction (very low attitude). All of these should make a true believer out of your client that a plane can stall at any speed or attitude; priceless!

Pilots who embrace these “extended envelope” maneuvers are less likely to be surprised (and become LOC-I statistics) if they are ever forced out of the “7% comfort zone” by weather or turnbulence (no startle/freeze-up). More to come on this next week as we roll out more of the CFI-PRO™ workshop extended maneuver catalog. Fly safely (and often)! Please comment and contribute your favorite maneuvers?

Our SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop covers the whole extended envelope catalog and application to both initial and recurrent training. We also cover “client-focused” flight training to combat the 80% drop out rate in initial flight training.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

WANTED: Angle of Attack Managers

This is one in a series of posts by special guest authors about SAFE’s new CFI-PROficiency Initiative™ (aka SAFE CFI-PRO™). The goal of the initiative is to make good aviation educators great!

Aviators, airmen, aviatrices—a few of the other words used to describe pilots. Yet none of these words reflect what we really do. Ultimately, pilots are angle of attack managers. Let’s have another look at AOA.

As David St. George notes in “Invisible Angle of Attack,” AOA is the difference between where the airplane is pointing and where it is going. Wolfgang Langewiesche describes the importance of AOA thus:

“If you had only 2 hours in which to explain the airplane to a student pilot, [AOA] is what you would have to explain. It is almost literally all there is to flight. It explains all about the climb, the glide, and level flight; much about the turn; practically all about the ordinary stall, the power stall, the spin. It takes the puzzlement out of such maneuvers as the nose-high power approach; it is the story of the landing.”

AOA implies two things: wind and an object around which the wind is flowing. Most everyone has played with AOA before. Remember sticking your hand out of the car window when you were a kid? What happened when you tilted your hand into the oncoming wind? “It went up!” is the common response. Reflect more deeply on the experience, however, and you’ll notice that your hand actually moved upward and backward. If we want to get technical about it, we could call the “up” part Lift and the “back” part Drag.

We’ve all seen examples of unusual things being forced to fly, too. For example, tornado-strength winds can cause even the most reluctant Holstein to go airborne.

A high velocity jet of air precisely aimed at a Snap-on screwdriver can cause it to hover (courtesy of SAFE member Shane Vande Voort—please don’t try this at home!).

And though we might describe a wing as having a “top” and a “bottom,” Lift- and Drag-producing AOAs are possible on either side.

AOA is discussed primarily in the context of the airplane’s main wing. But at the correlation level of learning, we see the entire airplane as an assembly of wings all of which are subject to the principles of AOA. The propeller, for instance, is a rotating wing. Main and jury struts are often symmetrical wings streamlined to minimize drag. “Aileron” is French for “little wing.” And our primary flight controls are AOA controls. The elevator controls the AOA of the main wing (aka pitch control).

Ailerons control local AOAs (typically the outboard part of the wings, aka roll control).
Rudder controls the AOA of the fuselage (aka yaw control).

Our job as instructors is to teach our trainees how to manage these AOAs to achieve desired performance outcomes. Although AOA itself may be invisible, changes in AOA can be sensed and its trend interpreted. In the visual flight environment, this means coupling aeronautical knowledge with sight, sound, and feel to manage our controllable AOAs.

Before we climb into the airplane, for example, we know that the combination of a high power setting and a slow airspeed during the takeoff phase will yaw the airplane. But we want coordinated flight during this particular takeoff. That will require a certain amount of rudder to manage the AOA of the fuselage to cancel the yaw. What does yawed flight look like during takeoff? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What does it look and feel like if we try to use aileron to correct for the yaw instead of rudder? All of these questions can be explored in the practice area without staring at the slip/skid ball. The lessons learned can be applied during subsequent takeoffs.

Whether it’s pitch, roll, or yaw, changes in AOA manifest as changes in one or more of the following: attitude, G-load, control pressure, control displacement, and often sound. In the case of elevator inputs, add airspeed to the list of cues.

For fun, test your understanding of AOA with the following thought experiments. Imagine you are at an airshow watching a competent aerobatic pilot fly a capable aerobatic airplane.

1. The airplane makes a knife-edge pass from your right to your left at precisely 90 degrees angle of bank.
a. Where is the nose of the airplane pointing relative to its flightpath, and how is the pilot making that happen?
b. What is the pilot doing with the elevator to make the airplane fly down the runway?
c. What is the AOA of the main wing?
d. What is the pilot feeling?

2. The airplane climbs along a perfect vertical line.
a. In order to remain on the upline before pivoting in a Hammerhead, what is the pilot doing with the elevator?
b. Ultimately, what is the AOA of the main wing during the upline?

Want to learn more ways to push learning to the correlation level? Attend SAFE’s inaugural CFI-PRO™ workshop in Frederick, MD on October 2–3, 2019!

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

Reflect and Redirect; “Double Loop” Learning!

Pilots are a “different breed of cat” as you well know. As a personality type we are confident, higher than average in intelligence, tend toward dominance and are almost never wrong about anything! (ask my wife…) “Never wrong” is “sort of” a joke but you know our tribe; pretty self-assured and assertive, with perfectionist tendencies. And though it takes confidence to pilot effectively, pilots also hate to admit to errors (as do most professionals in all fields). This very feature makes pilots and other high-performance professionals remarkably bad at learning. And as experience and hours pile up this problem gets worse not better; success becomes an impediment to further learning. This is a well-known problem in the “C-suite” of business too. Read Teaching Smart People How to Learn by Chris Argyris (a Harvard Business Review Classic) for a great analysis of this problem. Experts and professionals are remarkably good at problem solving but amazingly bad at learning.

Double loop learning is part of action science — the study of how we act in difficult situations. Individuals and organizations need to learn if they want to succeed (or even survive). But few of us pay much attention to exactly how we learn and how we can optimize the process.

Even smart, well-educated people can struggle to learn from experience. We all know someone who’s been at the office for 20 years and claims to have 20 years of experience, but they really have one year repeated 20 times.

Finding and trapping errors is only the first basic feedback loop where we analyze, correct and revise our plans or techniques. This “problem-solving” level is characteristically directed outward, largely analytical, and psychologically painless. Creating and following SOPs or regulations is part of this process. Compensating for changing conditions and  “re-trimming” our activies back to the desired flow is all part of a normal day.

Real progress and improvement (learning and not just problem-solving) occurs at a higher level and involves tweaking the mental models and preventing the error in the first place. This requires time to reflect critically on our own behavior and failings, solving deeper thinking/scripting problems. Level two or “double loop” learning freely admits to errors and fixes our inner OS that is usually the root cause. Every error should be viewed as a “double loop opportunity” to dig deeper and reflect on our assumptions and test the validity of our hypotheses. Only though “reflective learning” can we access and correct our normally invisible implicit level of learning.

For professionals, inward directed reflection can be initially psychologically painful. Professionals and expert performers are used to being “competent and correct” but “double loop learning” requires we admit, accept and correct personal failings. In addition, this is often only the first step. Accepting instruction, taking wise counsel humbly (and happily) is the key to real and rapid improvement. So we need to soften that pilot wall of confidence a bit and admit to personal failure to achieve growth. Learning happens at the “double loop” reflective level. A sure sign of this is when a good pilot say “thank-you” when an error is pointed out, and in the debrief not only makes a “note to self” to correct the obvious goof going forward but also resolves the deeper assumption/hypothesis that was the root cause.

     Highly skilled professionals are frequently very good at single loop learning. After all, they have spent much of their lives acquiring academic credentials, mastering one or a number of intellectual disciplines, and applying those disciplines to solve real-world problems. But ironically, this very fact helps explain why professionals are often so bad at double-loop learning.
     Put simply, because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure. So whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the “blame” on anyone and everyone but themselves. In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most.

As humans, evolving over millions of years, we are internally hardwired with all kinds of implicit reactions and biases that serve us amazingly well in survival against primordial threats and historical environmental challenges. Unfortunately, this deep imprinted learning is subconscious and only becomes visible in action. We need to reflect, accept, adapt and rewire these internal systems with double loop learning if we want to function accurately under pressure in each specific aviation environment.

As aviation educators, it is also essential to develop these”double loop” corrective abilities in our clients. Once they are competent and approaching independent flight, it’s necessary (and initially excrutiating) to allow our these pilots the time and opportunity to discover (struggle) and correct their own errors! The #1 beginner CFI mistake is to immediately intervene and correct every mistake and not allow a “learning opportunity” (genius in the right seat). Your pilot will never develp the metacognitive capacity to self-correct and improve ; they will need a CFI forever. Our educational goal should be to create confident, independent, lifetime learners in every pilot.

And as educational professionals, we all need to continually learn and improve. Join us for the CFI-PRO™ workshop on October 2-3, 2019 at AOPA (KFDK) Pursue personal improvement and excellence in your flying (and teaching), we have your back! See you at AOPA-Fly-In TN (get a free Sporty’s FIRC with sign-up) and enjoy 1/3 off Foreflight (member benefit) which more than pays your annual dues. Fly safely (and often!)

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! 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!

“Flight Service” (Back and Better!)

Leidos operates what used to be the FAA Flight Service and the web browser interface for weather is quite good. When you log in with your customized preferences ( your own format in exactly the predictible order you specify.

  The new mobile format is also quite good and though not yet an app, you can save the url to your desktop and have it immediately available as a mobile browser session. But one of the best new innovations to roll out from Leidos is the text weather. This is quick and needs no software and very little bandwidth  to load (one bar works usually)

Just text message your request to 358-782 (FLT-SVC) and the result pops right back in. No digging through menus or interfaces. Leidos also allows you to open and close VFR flight plans with text (and will send a reminder at your proposed/predicted times if you forget). This is an innovative way to inspire pilots to be safer.

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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).


“CFI Seasoning” Beyond the Academy!

A truly professional aviation educator should be progressively getting out of the training aircraft one step at a time from flight lesson #1. To be successful as educators, every CFI must willingly become superfluous in every area of operation by flight test time – totally empowering their pilot to be fully “in command.” Obviously, there will always be more to teach and learn, but ultimately our goal should be set every new pilot totally free – NOT create dependence! This “letting go” (think of successful parenting) is not easy for the human ego because every human wants to be needed and valued. Many CFIs secretly foster dependence in their pilots during training (helicopter parenting). Though this creates a strong business bond that works great for the wallet and building hours, it creates really bad – dependent and unconfident – pilots.

And the strange and unfortunate truth is we actually teach this harmful micromanaging behavior to every aviation educator during their initial  CFI training; we build a fatal defect into every new CFI. The most common method for educating a new CFI is to create a “CFI lesson plan binder” full of rote lesson plans tracking the usual pilot pathway. And as we do this, the future CFI applicant is encourated to talk, talk, talk and fly, fly, fly – patterning each maneuver from the right seat and “simultaneously instructing and flying.” And though this is a necessary step in learning to teach aviation, we never finish the job and progress all the way to real educational excellence through supervision and seasoning (STOP talking and let your student fly). We get them “barely competent” and turn them lose in the aviation system.

The FAA system allows for perfunctory CFI preparation – 10-day courses are pretty standard with an 85% pass rates. And there is no “student teaching” or “seasoning” included to build excellence in the field after certification. Consequently, many new CFIs never learn to personalize their instruction to creatively tailor their presentation to suit each unique pilot in training (burn that binder!). It can take years for new CFIs to become creative and effective without mentoring. It takes time to learn the necessary balance of freedom and control to provide students the space to grow and learn. Unfortunately, most just continue the rote, assembly-line instruction from their CFI binder rather than embracing “client-centered education.” They never relinquish the radio, the flight controls or PIC authority and instead smother their eager learners with overbearing micromanagment and excessive erudition; we have created a monster. To become a successful educator, only mentoring and seasoning will grow the CFI create excellence. It takes more time and guidance to create a truly competent aviation educator.

The Canadian aviation system requires every new aviation educator to teach under supervision and and grow further as a CFI before teaching independently. Only after supervised “student teaching” in the field under a master instructor are Canadian CFIs upgraded to teach independently. But this is not the FAA system. After only a perfunctory 10 day “CFI academy” a new FAA CFI could be in the field with very limited preparation. And this is exactly why SAFE created the mentoring program from day one and is now creating the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops. These tools bridge the “CFI gap” between good and great. They also encourage the mentoring and networking that creates the necessary “growth mindset” every educator must embrace. Excellent educators must continue to grow if we want to be successful and effective. Fly safely (and often) and please check out the SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshops. We need your support to fight mediocrity and make this new initiative the new standard of excellence in our industry. As every aviation educator improves, we reach and improve every pilot.

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Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).

Teaching Accurate Rudder Usage!

Misuse of the rudder while flying – usually too little or none at all – is a sure sign that some aviation educator failed their student during initial training. This sloppy “flat foot flying” or “driving an aircraft” is sometimes a symptom of a burned out CFI who has just “given up” and does not care any more. This CFI is tolerating sloppy flying out of frustration (“whatever!”). But it is also true that some CFIs were themselves taught badly and cannot sense or teach accurate rudder usage. There are easy exercises to teach rudder (standby for that…) but first, every pilot has to appreciate that lack of correct rudder usage is the heart of unsafe flying. Improper yaw control leads directly to loss of control accidents in the pattern (57% of fatals) – we touched on this elsewhere. This article however is “Rudder 101;” providing CFI resources to build appreciation and proper usage of this misunderstood and underutilized control. A pilot without yaw control does not understand the most basic principles of flying; they are still “driving the plane” and it isn’t pretty or safe. As professional aviation educators, we can fix this. (And if you are a pilot reading, there is great benefit here for you also)

To clearly define terms for this discussion, by “driving an airplane” I mean just cranking the yoke or deflecting the stick like an automobile without correcting for adverse yaw with the rudder. And it is obviously much harder to successfully rehabilitate a “numb butt” than to initially teach accurate, correct rudder usage. Step one is creating and illustrating the aerodynamic principles and developing an appreciation for the *need* for correct rudder; some pilots do not detect their slip/skid flying and cannot understand the need (“My plane does not require any rudder…”). Entrenched habits and lack of caring about rudder usage require serious unlearning first to make any progress at all; “no need no sale.” Then, every pilot initially learning, rusty relearning, or continuing proficiency has to overcome their “driving habit” (we all drive much more than we fly). In a normal syllabus, accurate and appropriate rudder usage has to begin during flight lesson #1; “demonstrate that flying is clearly and demonstrably NOT driving!”

So when your new student (or your recovering “flat foot flier”) is up at altitude in the airplane, please demonstrate an extreme “driving turn” with no rudder and make the problem obvious! If you crank the yoke (deflect the ailerons) aggresively in one direction (fast and furious) the nose predictably yaws off in the opposite direction (a prebrief. on adverse yaw obviously helps to create this “step one” understanding). A couple of these gyrations aggressively applied might also induce a bit of nausea (and that might be a “good thing” – uncoordination makes me sick in a plane!) Next, illustrate a well coordinated roll referencing a distant point on the horizon (eyes outside, not on the ball please). Help your pilot in training try a coordinated turn and demonstrate how much smoother and easier on the stomach it is with appropriate rudder applied. Here is a great Rod Machado video to show a student illustrating this technique:

Now pick a point on the distant horizon and roll with correct coordination on a single point and sustain a level turn for a while. Have your pilot in training practice this with eyes entirely outside; roll into a 30 degree banked turn (make sure they release the rudder pressure) and continue  for 90 degrees of stable turning (This is a good time to mention and practice the appropriate amount of back pressure if it is a new learner). Reverse after 90 degrees of turn in the other direction. Turn reversal is initially more of a challenge but perfectly illustrates accurate yaw cancelling. After a few cycles of turning, try rolling into a bank and reversing on a single point without letting the airplane enter the turn (many pilots call this a “Dutch Roll”). This exercise should be part of every initial flight lesson. This exercise tunes up the feet and overcomes our more common “driving impulse.” Every aircraft requires a different amont of rudder pressure so this is something I do on downwind in every airplane (solo, not with the boss in the back). This exercise is very efficient and only takes about as long as this description required; easy and effective!

This introduction can be followed by more advanced illustrations of yaw correction if your pilot immediately “gets it.” When flying level at approach speed, apply and reduce power aggressively (with NO yaw correction) to demonstrate the left-yaw effects and the necessary application of rudder to hold a distant point on the horizon. As power is applied, right rudder is necessary. (I make this a “muscle memory exercise” – as the right hand goes in with more power, the right rudder is applied).

Finally, illustrate that as the nose pitch is aggressively increased, left turning tendencies are created requiring right rudder to cancel yaw to the left. And when you combine these two forces (as in a take-off or simulated go-around) the right rudder force is more obvious. Again, this is lesson #1 and 2; vital understanding of the physics at work.

These are understandings and skills every pilot in training needs to successfully take off and turn; lesson #1 and 2. And as soon as your pilot in training has mastered these skills, turn over the control and responsibility completely to your new pilot (with no educator intervention or correction). This is the incredibly valuable incremental mastery we mentioned in an earlier blog. This empowers and motivates your new pilot and starts them on the road to assuming full control PIC (essential but rare in student training).

Notice that yaw is so much easier to illustrate in its pure form if you remove and practice these exercises in isolation from “the scenario.”  Once you practice this “yaw cancelling” as a distinct and pure exercise with a little drill and repetition it is quickly mastered and available for all future flying. Unfortunately, in most pilot training, appreciation of yaw forces gets lost in the continuing scenario and the CFI just ends up just bleating out “more right rudder” in a meaningless fashion. Most pilots never learn to properly use the rudder.

Once basic rudder understanding and proficiency are completed in isolation, we reassemble this package resuming a “normal flying scenario” and apply it in every maneuver. This is analogous to practicing scales on piano during initial training *before* we attempt Chopin. A few times through these exercises and your new pilot will only require an occasional “right rudder” reminder or tune up. Pilots trained correctly instinctively sense yaw (“something feels wrong here”) and apply appropriate/accurate rudder. We’ll discuss more advanced rudder exercises next week; fly safe (and often)!

Apple or Android versions.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (like 1/3 off your annual ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed specifically for CFI professionals (and is the best value in the business).