Fixing “Slow Motion” Accidents!

We have amazing technology in most of our airplanes these days. We navigate with satellites and have omniscient weather mapping on board. But despite all these tools, pilots continue to fly into terrible weather and kill themselves. These “slow-motion” accidents involve a series of bad decisions over time – starting with the launch – that increasingly restrict options like a funnel to a  (seemingly inevitable) wreck. “VFR into IMC” and IFR into convective or icing accidents are 90% fatal.  “What was the pilot thinking?” Let’s have a look.

The question “How can humans learn efficiently to make decisions in a complex, dynamic, and uncertain environment” is still a very open question.

It is first essential to understand – and confess – our human weakness in the “thinking” part. We crash planes because our human brain is not rational by design. We are “optimizers”  and proceed by “satisficing,” a term coined by AI pioneer Herbert Simon. We achieve “good enough” and push optimistically forward, with resilience and flexibility. This attribute has led to our incredible success in populating every diverse environment on the planet and launching rockets to the moon. As decision-makers, we have adapted to be optimistic and aggressive (92% of drivers think they are “better than average!”) For years economists predicated human behavior based on the Renaissance “Rational Man Model.”  But both Herbert Simon and later Daniel Kahneman won Nobel prizes in “Behavioral Economics” by demonstrating how “predictably irrational” humans are when making decisions.

The smartest people in America were fooled (twice) by “normalizing deviance” and people died as a result.

We do not perceive reality precisely. Every individual senses and assembles a different world through a personal lens of need and intention; “predictive perception.” Then we stereotype that input data into pre-existing categories relying on past experiences (which we recreate like impressionistic painters) to create a personal understanding; “magical thinking.” Decisions are then often colored with our many cognitive biases and emotional needs developing procedures based on “successes” rather than objective standards; “normalizing deviance.” If we thought accurately and decided rationally no person would ever buy another lottery ticket and we would all aggressively leverage compound interest like Warren Buffet. But in a totally rational world, there would be no incredible optimism and energy creating innovation and growth (and probably no art, fashion or culture). Our “magical thinking” motivates human success in many fields but sucks for facts, science and statistics (and sometimes flying).

We have to apply the discipline of P-A-V-E and 3P to be safe in flying. We have to stick to know standards and consult experts when we are unsure of our own judgment. There is no room for rosy optimism or complacency in flying (I personally go hard on people who count on “luck” too) Decision making has to be systematic and conform to reality (gravity never sleeps). To be safe we have to visualize and account for the worst outcomes and surprises; “what if?” And this “evil agent viewpoint” is something every good flight instructor must encourage and *always* be helping their pilot-in-training to understand. (Though not for the first five hours please – that is all “sunshine and light” – building “confidence and comfort”). During X-C planning, I also encourage the 3D rule for X-C planning; “Delay, Divert, Drive” as a simple impediment to “launching with doubt.” Moving the timeline is one of the most successful strategies for flight safety; later or tomorrow? And few people in the GPS (“Going Perfectly Straight”) world realize the huge benefit of “rubber-banding” a planned course even a little to gain better alternate options below (and the time penalty is surprisingly minimal). If there is doubt about the take-off or plan it probably needs “3D” modification and maybe a scrub. “A pilot in motion tends to stay in motion…”

Once en route, the “3R rule of alternates” is a huge benefit to encourage wise options and defeat the “mission mentality” we see so often in the “accident chain.” A good alternate must be psychologically desirable. It should have a good Restaurant, Radar (ATC resources), and Rental Cars. If an alternate is somewhere you *want* to go, there will be less “get there itis”  pushing the flight down that fatal accident funnel. There will be no sense of personal failure in this diversion; you already want to end up there (and the passengers will enjoy it too)! Share the 3Ds and 3Rs with your flight students and people you mentor and see if it doesn’t help keep planes out of the trees? Defeat human “magical thinking” and apply disciplined decision making to your flying. Be safe out there!

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App  has all 61.65 endorsements, experience requirements and the new ACS codes right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag, GA News.

Our new “Checkride Ready!™”on the toolkit app prevents “Pink Slips” during flight tests by fully preparing every applicant for their checkride. Both Private and Instrument are now complete.

Join “Online Safety Stand Down” Today!

LIVE online this morning (Saturday, Sept. 12th) I will be presenting at the Online Safety Stand-Down and I invite you to watch this presentation (maybe better than just a blog?) Go to this link and register:

Here is a summary of the Kahneman book mentioned Thinking Fast and Slow

Look for the SAFEblog to be published tomorrow (Sunday)!

Essential Subjects: Weather Salad!

Veronica Cote, SAFE Board, CFII, ATP, College Aviation

The Aviation Weather Center breaks down the weather product into three categories: observations, forecasts, and advisories, or, as I like to say, look, look out, and watch out!  We must always keep in mind that these products are either history or a good guess-and realize the limitations. Current observations are old by the time they get to the web, often as much as 90 minutes in the case of the surface analysis chart and an hour in the case of a METAR. A clear understanding of the broader weather pattern will inform you of what is happening, why the winds and clouds are behaving that way, and when conditions might change and in what manner.

My goal of this series is to bridge the gap between weather theory and the weather products. I see many students who have their private pilot license and do a great job of reading a METAR, but they can’t tell me what the weather is and how it might be changing in a few hours.(Can you spot a frontal passage just by reading the previous 12 hours of METARS?)  Why would a TAF have a line that predicts low ceilings and rain for a two-hour period and then quickly become VFR? (Hint: look at the radar picture in the area.)  Can you reasonably detect a front just by looking at the station models? How about just looking at surface winds? Radar? Satellite images? Winds aloft? The clues are all there and each weather product reveals the story in its own language. The forecasts that we rely upon are built from many of the NOAA sites, not just the Aviation Weather Center. There is so much more valuable information that can be gleaned from the Weather Prediction Center, Storm Prediction Center, and other NOAA sources.

I will share with you some of the insights I gained from my 25-year career teaching at a university and 35 years as a CFII. I will include some homework (of course) and ways of combining weather sources that I find interesting. These lessons will be based on some basic assumptions: the student has had some previous lessons on weather theory and can read a simple METAR, TAF, and winds and temperatures aloft products. I will expand on each of these and show how combinations of these products and other, less used (and understood) features can create a comprehensive weather picture.  I welcome you to join me and urge you to provide feedback so that we may all learn and share tricks and tips that have served us. We are all students of the art of flying. And weather is endlessly interesting and fun!

Weather Patterns

Weather theory statesFAA-AviationWeatherServices that all weather is due to the uneven heating of the earth’s surface. It can be boiled down to simply temperature-in both the vertical and horizontal. Warm air masses have the ability to hold more moisture than cold air masses. Where the air mass originates, cold and dry, cold and moist, hot and dry, or hot and moist, is the first part of the weather story. Temperature also dictates air density and the type of clouds that might appear. The constant movement of air in its endless search for equilibrium on a spinning plant creates circulation patterns on both large and small scales. Temperature changes across air masses (fronts) and vertically (inversions, lapse rates) keep things interesting.

High pressure areas are areas of denser air and have a clockwise (anti-cyclonic) and outward rotation in the northern hemisphere while low pressure areas have counter-clockwise (cyclonic) and inward rotation. This is a standard FAA test question.  The image of the surface analysis chart shows the current pressure centers and fronts. This static picture does not convey the air circulation patterns: we have to recall how the air moves around these pressure centers and it is difficult to see how the air moves along the frontal boundaries.

However, a moving image will quickly move yours student’s learning from rote level to correlation. This is beautifully demonstrated on a fantastic website, If you have never visited this site, be prepared for a vivid demonstration of this effect.  The wind patterns instantly comes to life and you can see how the surface winds move. You can watch the wind rotate dramatically around the low pressure off the east coast. The winds are moving outward from the high pressure in the upper Midwest and sweep down toward the central plains and circulate around the low in Iowa. You can understand how the Rocky mountains play a significant part in local wind patterns east of the mountain range- a very pronounced effect in the winter when strong high pressure slides down and that cold, continental dry air mass plants itself in the center of the country.

The circulation cells on the globe in the weather theory books jumps out from the screen.  The strengths of the winds are color coded. From here you can zoom out and see circulation patterns across North America and the oceans. The north Atlantic is particularly interesting. Depending on the time of year, the intensity of low pressure systems and wind patterns reveal global circulation patterns such as the Bermuda High in the summer and nor’easters in the winter.

The neat trick is to have both of these websites open in different tabs and click between them or have both windows open at once.  Circulation patterns become crystal clear.

Surface Analysis and Surface Prognostic Charts.

Let’s consider the surface prognostic (prog) chart as our salad bowl.  It is updated 8 times each day starting at 0000Z. By the time it is analyzed and available on the AWC, it is usually about 90 minutes old. This is a “historical” document.  It shows the frontal positions that were observed at the time listed on the chart in the top right-hand corner. As you click through the actual forecast charts, the first 4 images are 6-hour forecasts (the next 30 hours) followed by two 12-hour prog charts then three 24-hour prog charts. These surface prog charts are all updated every three hours.  These charts all show the expected movement of surface fronts and the possibility of precipitation.  The surface wind patterns on also has a forecast feature.  By using both the AWC prog charts and, the broad weather picture becomes clear. also has the excellent added feature of displaying airports and the most recent METAR pops up when you scroll over it.

Once your student understands weather patterns and sees how the air masses and frontal positions and winds flow, then teaching the different forecast products and how you can begin to predict the future weather based on those movements becomes easier. Fly safely out there (and often)!

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App  has all 61.65 endorsements, experience requirements and the new ACS codes right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag, GA News.

Our new “Checkride Ready!™”on the toolkit app prevents “Pink Slips” during flight tests by fully preparing every applicant for their checkride. Both Private and Instrument are now complete.

Commercial Flight Maneuvers for Everyone!

Flying commercial-level pilot maneuvers is a wonderful challenge and a useful skill-builder for every pilot. These are not only fun and challenging but teach correct rudder usage when flown properly. Many pilots at the private level do not understand or apply correct rudder inputs – a primary reason for LOC-I. Search out a qualified instructor and take your flying to a higher level of proficiency with some commercial maneuvers. Learning new skills and extending your flight envelope creates greater flight safety and is also great fun! These maneuvers are a gateway to an upset recovery course or aerobatics – but these should be mastered first to get full value from this kind of advanced training.

Mastering commercial maneuvers requires eyes-out aggressive flying at the edge of the flight envelope and begins with a thorough aerodynamic knowledge of the forces at work. The heart of all the commercial maneuvers is a concept called “cross-coordinated.” When you are climbing in a chandelle or navigating your way through a lazy eight you are often applying “crossed controls” to create coordinated flight. The control inputs and forces at work are not initially intuitive. Mastery requires study and practice to internalize a solid “feel” for the airplane during this more aggressive commercial-level maneuvering. And though all these maneuvers are “non-operational,” but you will be rewarded with much more precise (and  safer) flying skills as well as a greater sense of confidence and control.

Step one in discovering commercial maneuvers is getting the eyes outside and rediscovering aggressive VFR flying; “yank and bank.” Most pilots in a normal flight training progression just completed an instrument rating (smooth standard rate turns with reference to their trusted instruments). Commercial training can come as a shock, requiring outside visual references and a “tuned up butt” to properly sense and correct yaw. Try some private pilot steep turns at 45 degrees and work up to 60 degrees. Then reverse at 180 degrees of turn and work up to “60/90s” (reversing a 60-degree banked steep turn after 90 degrees of turn). This is “old school” flying – find a good instructor to help you. This will get a little sweat going as well as demonstrate the need for an outside sight reference and positive control usage.

Step two is serpentine climbing 30 degree turns right and left with full power and a Vx attitude. This will quickly demonstrate the need for right rudder while climbing in a left turn and left aileron while climbing in a right turn. Initially, this feels “unnatural” for many private pilots, but this is the beginning of understanding “cross-coordination” and will progress into chandelles. Your pattern crosswind turns will be immediately safer with your newly-mastered “cross-coordination.”

A series of  climbing and descending (coordinated) wingovers – working toward a lazy eight – will demonstrate the need for quick and accurate rudder usage as the wing loads and unloads. Suddenly pilots are “flying again” after 40 hours of instrument somnambulance (or years of rope-a-doping around the pattern); fun! These climbs and descents also illustrate the changing yoke forces necessary to maintain specific flight attitudes as the speed of the aircraft changes the effectiveness of the flight controls.

The last step in this introduction to commercial flight maneuvers is some slow flight and stalls first straight ahead, then turning. Flight training is an opportunity to fly at minimum control speed with the horn blaring (just don’t do it on a flight test – the FAA is sensitive about this). Bank 30 degrees right and left aggressively at the edge of a stall. Coordination is essential and LOTS of rudder is required to pivot left and right on the edge of a stall. Then demonstrate an old-style power off stall recovery letting the nose fall through the horizon with the yoke all the way back (stay stalled till the nose is down). As an instructor, when your pilot-in-training sees this dramatic nose-down attitude (while still feeling the stall) some understanding of angle of attack will be immediately built. (The angle of attack indicator in every plane is how much chrome is showing on the control yoke shaft).

Turning stalls recovered without power (just releasing AOA) are the last maneuver in this sortie as you descend turning right and left while stalling and recovering. This again shows the need for coordination and the power of AOA for recovery. Turning stalls are part of the Private Pilot ACS and often missed during initial training. Engage a qualified instructor and master some commercial maneuvers. Soon you will add finesse, safety (and FUN) to your regular flying. Fly safe out there (and often)!

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App  has all 61.65 endorsements, experience requirements and the new ACS codes right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag, GA News.

Our new “Checkride Ready!™”on the toolkit app prevents “Pink Slips” during flight tests by fully preparing every applicant for their checkride. Both Private and Instrument are now complete.

Managing Student Fear For Effective Learning

As pilots, we all will eventually have to face the incapacitating effects of fear. This will either come during new flight experiences while training or when facing a shocking and unexpected emergency (e.g.  US Airways Flight 1549 or Neil Williams’ amazing inflight recovery). The startle response has received lots of recent notoriety, (and several previous blogs) but the fear new students experience during initial training, is seldom acknowledged and the “elephant in the room” we need to examine – and fix! Ultimately, our goal as educators should be to develop resilience in our learners: “a set of processes that enables good outcomes in spite of serious threats.” In aviation, like all high-performance operations, “stuff happens,” and pilots need to react with flexibility utilizing their resources not with “fear and freeze.”

Resilience is the ability to persist in the face of challenges and to bounceback from adversity. There are a number of evidence-based protective factors that contribute to resilience: optimism, effective problem solving, faith, sense of meaning, self-efficacy, flexibility, impulse control, empathy, close relationships, and spirituality, among others (Masten & Reed,2002).

Fear is most often regarded as a “weakness” or just a passing problem in flight training rather than a natural and common reaction. Consequently, though fear may be mentioned in passing during initial training, it is seldom addressed directly. The new pilot-in-training is sweating and thinking to themselves, “this is scary, I might die here…” while the CFI is busy describing the nuances of control usage. The student is often learning nothing as a result – their whole reality is fear.

Additionally, a scared student pilot feels unique and isolated in their suffering since every accomplished pilot in the room seems fine – “is it only me?” Adjustments to fear take time and incremental exposure; fear is a common and natural response to suddenly being a mile up in the air in a tiny aluminum tube. Unacknowledged fear may be a big part of our 80% drop-out rate during initial training. Every military spends months adjusting and tuning their recruits to accommodate fear; they know it disables any useful human performance.

People in the grip of true terror can feel utterly hijacked. Soldiers throw down their guns and run away. Pilots lose control and crash their planes. In such cases the grip of fear feels like possession by some implacable alien force. Indeed, the word “panic” comes from the Greek god Pan, whom the classical Greeks believed could overtake travelers in lonely spots and send them suddenly running in blind terror. To the ancient mind, possession by a malign deity seemed the only plausible explanation for such behavior.

Incapacitating fear is a natural biochemical “fact of life” built into our biology for survival over thousands of years of evolution. Fully formed, this natural reaction is called the startle response. In aviation, either during training or in emergency experiences, the results are incapacitating; fight, flight or freeze. Fear and “lock-up” (failure to process and perform correctly) are an integral part of most Loss of Control accidents and most people understand startle. But panic is an on/off reaction not analog.  We have to avoid triggering this biochemical hijack of your higher brain functions because once that sets in, the higher cortical functions shut down and we descend  into “survival mode.”

Panic and fear can trigger very rapidly during initial training from even a little bump or inappropriate demonstration; it can be a whole new (scary) world for a beginner. In the training environment, panic means no learning, no useful higher-level problem solving for complex situations – your student is processing with only their “reptilian brain” (help!) How do we stay calm in the face of scary or startling encounters and develop resilience? The human eventually adjusts to any risk with exposure over time. This can be a great thing for high-level performance and resilience but this is the same process that can generate complacency and “normalization of deviance.

The military spends lots of time and money conditioning its soldiers to adapt to scary and challenging environments (e.g. combat) attempting to “train out” the natural human reaction to chaos and danger. Despite this extensive training, >50% of soldiers in combat are incapacitated by fear and not even firing their weapons (much less achieving any accurate effect). The latest efforts involve full force “emotional mastery training” for all army recruits (and even Marines are learning to meditate). Fear research is big and DARPA is (of course) even experimenting with implanting computer chips to help with this problem (in case you thought Jason Bourne was a stretch).

the troops who went through a month long training regimen that included daily practice in mindful breathing and focus techniques were better able to discern key information under chaotic circumstances and experienced increases in working memory function. The soldiers also reported making fewer cognitive errors than service members who did not use mindfulness.

Initial mastery during flight training involves understanding and accepting the real (rather than perceived) risks, and incrementally mastering the fear (emotional/biochemical) as the environment becomes more comfortable and acceptable. This requires overwriting the initial (natural) caution with cognitive understanding and physical mastery. The CFI has to be an understanding coach and carefully monitor every student for fear to create the appropriate pace of exposure and adaptation. This comes from creating an open, honest learning environment with good communication. Soon enough, the personal satisfaction of progress (mastery) ameliorates the aversion and provides a neurological reward for the learner. This is called incremental masteryThis progress can be quickly ruined by an inappropriate fear-inducing demonstration – “watch this” or some startling random occurrence. The savvy CFI has to control the “fear level” carefully to make progress. And “time off” requires a step back and a slower pace.

During every step up the ladder your student takes, some elements “caution” and fear are conditioned out as they understand and achieve control of an initially scary situation. If you jump too quickly into a scary situation they do not understand, fear is the perfectly natural reaction. Every savvy educator must carefully scan and request continuous feedback (especially in the early lessons) to make sure the pilot in training is happy (and encourage them to “self-interrogate” to assess their own status). Once you carefully achieve 3-4 hours of solid, enjoyable learning, the initial fear will diminish and be replaced with smiles and high fives. But introducing stalls too abruptly on the third sortie, when everything is still chaotic and confusing is a sure recipe to lose a learner. Cue off your learner’s comfort level here, not a predetermined schedule.

Even if you overcome fear during early training, you might encounter it later when the engine goes quiet some dark night over the mountains. I teach “self-calming” techniques to all my pilots because if you fly long enough, you will eventually encounter the scary dark corner of a real emergency. Even Sullenberger, with 20K+ hours and 50 years flying, clearly said his first and biggest challenge in US Airways Flight 1549 was pushing back the overwhelming fear and adrenaline to calm down and “get to work.” People who can master fear can perform amazing feats. More remarkable than Sully was aerobatic pilot Neil Williams, close to exhaustion, who folded up a wing on his Zlin in competition, but managed to fly it upside down to the airfield and land unharmed.

Something extraordinary must have been going on in his brain. Some mechanism in his psychological tool kit must have somehow protected him from panic and perhaps even given him an extra dose of mental power to get him through the crisis. Whatever he possessed, it was a rare talent. Rare, but not unique. The annals of human achievement are peppered with stories of people who managed to survive lethal danger by thinking on their feet. How do they do it? What makes them different? And, most importantly, what can the rest of us learn from them?

Read more about self-calming and controlling fear in an emergency in these previous blogs – fly safe out there (and often!)

Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App  has all 61.65 endorsements, experience requirements and the new ACS codes right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag, GA News.

Our new “Checkride Ready!™”on the toolkit app prevents “Pink Slips” during flight tests by fully preparing every applicant for their checkride. Both Private and Instrument are now complete.


Life is Short, Fly SLOWLY (and Enjoy)!

As pilots, we are truly blessed to see the world from above and control this process artfully. Less than 1% of the US population will ever know this joy (pilots are rare). Unfortunately, we often get numb to this privilege, and  seldom appreciate our flying with full awareness. As a tonic, I recommend (again) this wonderful book by Michael Maya CharlesArtful Flying” (SAFE members get a discount and Michael will sign a copy for you!) I also encourage you to read this article just published in GA News: (again, SAFE members get a free issue of this publication).

Flying is fun because you see it, feel it, and hear it while you are doing it — it’s all very sensual. The eyes see, the ears hear, and you feel the movement in the seat of your pants. Your hands feel the stick or yoke, the throttle, and other controls.

Whenever possible, I fly low and slow. I relish looking at the farmers’ fields with their neatly squared off patches of color.

Lastly, I encourage gratitude for those who taught each of us to fly. Artful flying is a lifelong apprenticeship and we learn lessons every day if we keep our eyes and ears open; there are teachers everywhere. I personally have been blessed (again) with some of the most amazing educators and mentors. As I scan the rolls of our 3K SAFE members – our group is amazing. (I will be posting some of the websites on our home page soon.) We are currently reformating our Mentor Program to be more interactive and I encourage you to get involved (at any level) since sharing knowledge is the essence of SAFE. If you are part of this program already, stand-by for new ideas…

And SAFE members please sign-up for an invite to our Annual SAFE Meeting on Tuesday at 8PM EDT on Zoom. Fly safely (and often) and appreciate it fully – we are all blessed.


Teaching Effectively With Zoom!

Life is a series of “learning opportunities.” Usually, we don’t choose these challenges but – especially as pilots – we must step up and “make magic happen” despite the circumstances. And so it is with COVID and our sudden global pandemic. Social distancing, it seems, requires every educator to become capable with Zoom and virtual presentations.

This modern platform is super easy and very capable in terms of usability and dependability. And fortunately, just about everyone now has some exposure already. With a little effort on the part of the presenter (and the audience),  Zoom can move from a clumsy chat room for bridge ladies (and online comedy memes) to a pretty capable educational tool. Zoom is especially good with latency – the killer of online interaction – and usability. A little effort goes a long way toward optimizing this experience. The books shown here are available free or at minor cost (Kindle) and highly recommended for more details and optimization.

The obvious and immediate deficit of all online education is the emotionally distant nature of the medium. Instead of teaching people directly, we are connected by wires, with little chance of casually discovering the cues we often navigate by in front of a class. Online teaching is initially frustrating, interacting with tiny virtual images, But pretty soon your mind adjusts and everyone gets the rhythm. Ultimately, Zoom is just another technological tool and the time spent to make it less “obvious” as a medium makes the educational experience much more enjoyable and effective. Your control of the medium will also give you better control of the educational experience.

These three elements, latency, tiny-people dynamic, and conversing in an unfamiliar space, add up to create those awkward stutters in conversation students mention as the critical challenge to trying to learn in this environment.

Consequently, we have to teach differently in this space. It’s like the difference between teaching in a small classroom and teaching in a large auditorium. In the auditorium, we have to project our voice, perhaps exaggerate our expressions, and move about the stage to address different segments of the audience. Different spaces demand different approaches. The primary solution for this clumsiness that comes with the videoconference classroom is to become more assertive in how we lead our students.

Starting with the basics; you need a strong, stable internet connection, so test your internet connection with and assure a minimum 10Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Consider a wired connection if you are in a busy environment (or your kids are gamers blasting your modem). Test your actual connection with a Zoom Test Session and take time to optimize your audio and video settings. Use a headset and a good camera set at eye level. There is nothing more frustrating for students than struggling to hear the presenter or spending the whole session looking up your nose holes. Assure good lighting and an environment free from distractions. A virtual background is easily enabled if you have a cluttered office and no one will ever know. Take a read through the Zoom Best Practices pdf is here. Digital Trends also has a good primer on best practices and common problems and best practices.

I recommend setting up two computers if you can swing this (laptop and desktop). Log one in to initiate the meeting and use the second one to log in as an “attendee.” This allows you to play with all the controls while you see what is “going out on the air” on the desktop unit. This is especially important for “sharing your screen” and getting your powerpoint or video to play (look for the boxes on the bottom or the share screen for your video sound – check”on” and also “optimize your video” also “on”). Next to the video controller is a little up arrow that enables “virtual backgrounds” which is very helpful if you are in a cluttered environment.

Definitely start your session with everyone muted (enabled in settings) and selectively open up the conversations to eliminate the annoying background noise issues. This technique also allows you to discover where the problems are. The “waiting room” and ‘chat’ features are great tools to filter entries and also set the expectations for your session. You can transfer documents directly to attendees using chat if you enable this feature.

Once you have spent some time to set-up your session correctly and tested it,  play with all the controls, practice and record your session. The vital part of Zoom is enabling any feature you want in the settings BEFORE the show. Screen sharing is easy but it has to be switched on in settings (and practiced). The optimal set-up uses a second monitor to cue up your presentation panels if you have a lot of documents. If you are using powerpoint, that runs great full screen (or “play in a window”) and is just screen shared. But please don’t overdo the powerpoint – we all have suffered “death by powerpoint,” and Zoom has the capability to be lively and interactive. If things are not working right, try the extensive Zoom Help Center. The cheat sheet on keyboard shortcuts is here.

This is just a taster, and I hope that helps – log in and start pressing the buttons and experimenting. The “record” feature is great for practice (and built-in). This allows you to see “the audience view” – which you never get this opportunity see with a live talk! Become a “Zoom Professional.” We all hope to get back to in-person events at some point soon when it is again safe to interact in bigger groups. Fly safely out there (and often)!

Get the SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

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Self-Promote (Without Being a Jerk)

With COVID we have a record number of CFIs looking for work. But many CFIs have not learned to “market themselves” since times have been so good for the last 3-5 years. Additionally, many honest educators find self-promotion awkward and distasteful (good for you). Our industry has an epidemic of egos and YouTube experts (only exceeded by the fitness/diet supplement “egosphere“).

But we need to get aviation back flying (and we all need to eat) so every CFI “business” has to learn to promote (tastefully). This blog title is from Bruce Kasanoff’s book (and it is available free online). Here are some ideas on self-promoting (honestly) and getting paid to fly again.

To be successful in any business you have to be noticed – and in some sense, all business is show business. There are, after all, 7.5 billion other humans roaming our planet now. But getting the self-promotion message correct is critical. Totally self-absorbed promotion is not only personally embarrassing and annoying to others, the educational content is also poisoned with ego. The key to promoting successfully and non-offensively is to focus on other people with a solid product that meets their needs. If your business mission is honestly aimed at finding and helping other aviators, you will succeed (and also sleep better at night).

Adam Grant shook the business world in 2013 with his best selling book Give and Take. Grant pointed out (and repeatedly proved in peer-reviewed studies) that those who”give” (wisely) rather than “take,” consistently end up better off in life both financially and in terms of satisfaction and happiness. This may seem non-intuitive but is well supported by research.  There are important qualifications and nuances to avoid burn-out with this strategy – but it opens the door to some interesting points about doing business.

To sell anything, there has to be a “need” – some disparity in capability or resources. Next, that need or disparity must be made known to others with some kind of marketing or publicity (we are assuming an honest business here and not a “manufactured need” that plagues commerce in our culture).  This proposition can be particularly difficult and uncomfortable to frame when the product is you or your services. How do we promote without appearing self-serving and egotistical? If you are performing an honest service, “sales” can occur – with a little help – through testimonials and industry reputation. If you are honest and effective the word spreads pretty fast – but yes, it does take some “encouragement” or promotion.

As an honest CFI, you can feel better about “sales” by understanding that every relationship is at some level a “sales proposition” – but only if by “sales” you mean an honest and potentially mutually beneficial relationship (as in “To Sell is Human“).  As aviation educators, if there is a need – and we indeed sell our time and expertise to fill a gap in skill. knowledge and judgment –  there also must be a stated endpoint where your client reaches the desired proficiency and independence. Ultimately, our goal as an instructor must be to become superfluous or we are fostering dependence and endless need.  We have not succeeded in creating a confident, independent pilots-in-command if we are “always necessary.” We do, unfortunately, see this a lot in aviation; the sage in the right seat, all-knowing and always present. Our job is to get out of the plane!

So there is an incredible paradox built into the educational “sales” paradigm; filling a specific need but the client must grow and transcend the relationship. To solve this enigma, it is essential to have an initial honest agreement between every CFI and every client – lawyers call this a “letter of intent.” This should state clearly in objective terms;  the scope, duration, financial and physical terms of the relationship and the objective standards for success or completion. Otherwise, a CFI can become a lifetime “right-seat-fuzzy forever” to assist on every flight and the learner only achieves “half-baked helper.” The focus should be on your client’s success and independent achievement; make it about them. This is the honest heart of educational self-promotion;  “serve don’t sell.

Many aviation relationships fail precisely because there was no initial honest agreement or intention. Just consider how many students drop out because their training was harder, longer, or more costly than they were initially told  (or not told). Another big fail is when an aviation educator overstates their experience or capabilities instead of honestly referring a client to a better match. If your specialty is not “glass panel” or “tailwheel” (fill in the blank)” another instructor might be a better match if we are honest. The almighty dollar always interferes with accurate self-knowledge (and referrals) here.

There are also in aviation, like in every business, the CFI “snake oil salesperson” promoting their unique techniques or magic safety propositions (misinformation is human). Educators “selling” creative techniques with no support from SOPSs or official industry best practices are a clear warning sign of trouble. Their “magic method” is no different than the “secret supplement” sold by online health promoters. At best they are expensive distractions but at worst they can be clearly dangerous conveying bad habits that are hard to shake later. Our lives as pilots depend on sound knowledge and technique. In aviation (as in life) success requires the same things; time, hard work, and money. And if it is “too good to be true,” in our business, it can get you dead quick.

So watch out for shortcuts, magic methods, and “mandatory strange procedures” – this is self-promotion at it’s worst.  If you encounter an instructor with some highly promoted level of gravitas (lots of experience or hours) “selling” a unique method – and its “my way,  the only right way” – keep walking (or run). Airplanes fly on physics, not hope. Everybody wants your eyeballs ($$) and has a Patreon promotion site. Fly safely out there (and often!)

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM

New “Checkride Ready!™” On The SAFE App.

Every good DPE wants the applicant for a flight test to be successful. Examiners are all long-time flight instructors and are totally invested in the success of the aviation system. Their worst day is when they have to disappoint an eager applicant with bad news (but sometimes “more training” is required). From the other side of the table, it often seems applicants go out of their way to create their own problems or never “got the script.” (See “20 Ways to Fail Your Flight Test“) That is why the SAFE CFI Toolkit App was originally created; to make the testing process easier – providing CFIs and applicants all the necessary endorsements, hour requirements and testing codes. Now “Checkride Ready!™” takes this process a step further aiming directly at the applicant and revealing specific stumbling blocks DPEs mention continuously. Once you learn the “rules of engagement”  your evaluation experience can be much easier (I hesitate to say “even enjoyable?)

True, every applicant hopefully glanced through the ACS a few times, and if they were lucky they had a talented educator ask solid scenario-based questions that got the applicant really thinking (and preparing) like a pilot-in-command. But very simple and avoidable problems can make the whole process difficult (like the common problem of not having your IACRA Login/PW so you can sign the FAA application online?) How about never having ever done (much less practiced) a turning stall (it is in the private pilot ACS). This leads to the unhappy admonition “I guess this will be your first one.” “Checkride Ready!™” prevents these surprises.

Every applicant starts an FAA evaluation with 100% (you are *already* a pilot when you submit the IACRA application and start an evaluation!). All errors (and there will be errors: allowed and expected) are a “mark down” from 100%. Though a 70% is ugly and undesirable, it is still a “pass.” Your DPE is required to emphasize: perfection is not the standard So don’t psych yourself out with self-critical “over-thinking.” Be a confident PIC; you got this!

“Checkride Ready!™” is a new resource from SAFE and it is embedded in the (free) SAFE Toolkit App. This new resource reveals key problem areas seen by DPEs that result in nervousness, aggravation and maybe even an unsuccessful outcome. The new material is broken down by certificate and rating (private and instrument rating are currently complete), and the include the popular VFR and IFR “pink slip” suggestions for improvement. The checklist in the ACS is very thorough (and every applicant should read it). But also available on the ACS website is a pdf for the examiner (and available to applicants) of sample scenario questions for evaluators (DPE) and the structure of the evaluation. Use these resources and make flight testing easier.

Fly safely out there (and often).

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.


Please Be An “Aviation Ambassador!”

Screen Shot 2020-07-18 at 8.37.44 AMAs aviation educators, we are not only the front-line troops that mold all future pilots. We are also the most visible ambassadors for any growth in the aviation community. Some new person is going to show up at your local airport and they will be directed to the flight instructor. And that meeting and experience is our key opportunity to either grow (or squash) someone’s dreams and the future in aviation. Your enthusiasm and opinion matter greatly to how the public views aviation. Pilots are an incredibly small part of our population -less than 1%! The CFI is often the critical influencer and  “point of contact” that opens the door to a world of adventure. Aviation needs more participants to remain a viable industry.

With COVID, the huge regional aviation events like Sun ‘N Fun and Airventure/Oshkosh have been canceled and being delivered virtually. Please spread the word (and this link) to all your friends and contacts and make this next week a widely distributed, exciting event. Please use every social media channel at your disposal to get this event to as big an audience as possible; aviation needs your help! Please do it now – share these links to your FB/Instagram and Twitter accounts.

The training and safety initiative will have a special channel that will be of spcial interest pilots and educators. The Pilot Proficiency Center will be virtualized and delivering training via remote tech talks and training. You can participate online and earn FAA WINGS. You can also fly with a “virtual instructor” on your local simulator with a remote hookup! Please spread this link to your local pilot community:

Another exciting future opportunity for aviation is the impending release of the newest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Thousands of pilots owe their first exposure to aviation through the first release of the first primitive program. The newest, highly acclaimed, version promises intense terrain and force modeling and should bring a whole new generation of eager learners to aviation ready to experience the real thing. Get ready for growth!


Fly safely out there (and often).

Get the FREE SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This also has all the new ACS codes plus required pilot endorsements and required experience right on your smartphone. Join SAFE and receive other get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) Flying Mag.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM