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The “Frozen” ACS/PTS Progress!

The legal mess that has held up the publication of the FAA testing standards is finally starting to move forward. If you are an aviation educator (or a learner in training) you can now see these forth-coming standards HERE (published yesterday in the Federal Register). A previous SAFEblog described the reason for this long legal delay. All the new proposed testing standards are HERE.

One of the most important ACS documents that has been on the shelf is the Flight Instructor ACS. This is HERE for your review (the ACS committee is in session as this is published discussing any necessary changes to the standards). Please log in and SUPPORT the publication of these essential flight training documents.

BTW, I hope savvy CFIs notice the return of “Minimum Controllable Airspeed” in the CFI ACS in Section 10B – stall warner on…Yeah, we fought for that…

PSI is Quietly Killing Your Local Test Center…

A recent letter to all PSI testing centers announced a drastic reduction in the amount paid to FAA Testing Centers from $65 per test to only $22 per test (and potentially less if the candidate does not use the full allotted time). PSI is an FAA-enabled monopoly and this contract change will essentially kill many of the 800 local testing centers. These essential businesses already supply a quiet room, with four computers (one required for monitoring) with security systems (required) and live proctors to qualify to be a test center (combined with all the business expenses like rent, insurance, heat, etc). Flight test applicants now sometimes have to wait a month for a flight test, but soon a pilot may have to drive hours to access an FAA Knowledge Test; this is an avoidable “train wreck scenario.”

More important than the inconvenience, the current FAA testing revenue often partially supports your local aviation business at small airports across America. These facilities provide a place for pilots to gather and fly. These are often a local flight school, flying club or a small FBO. This change could be catastrophic to the fabric of general aviation. I encourage every reader of this blog to write immediately to the ACTS email “AirmanKnowledgeTesting[a]faa.gov” and object to this change. Fly safely out there (and often).

[Added 12/14/2022] FAA response to my letter pointing out all of the above, said basically “we assigned a monopoly to PSI and we did not specify how they should carry out their mission so long as they do not raise the price to the testing candidate:”

How the testing vendor decides to compensate testing centers, proctors, call center personnel, software engineers, administrative personnel, test content staff, or any other key position associated with carrying out the requirements in the SOW is at the complete discretion of the testing vendor and outside the scope of the FAA’s authority. FAA Reply

Really? Maybe the FAA should have included vendor protections in the contract? We pilots are the end-users and we pay for this testing service.


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Master “Full-Control” Landings!

54% of fatal aviation accidents occur where we spend only 4% of our time; “Johnny can’t land!” Landing well requires proficiency in every separate skill practiced and learned during the pre-solo phase of flight training. These famous “15 items” listed in CFR 61.87 (slow flight, ground reference, etc) are seldom practiced to proficiency during the original mad rush to solo. And unfortunately, these skills are seldom ever practiced in isolation after pilot certification either. But basic skill practice is exactly what every pilot needs to land better.

the term “full-control” means “fully under control” (with no reliance on luck). Good landings require “aggressive PIC” but also patience. Landing is definitely a time to “grab it a growl.” One of the main CFI challenges during initial flight training is building up a learner’s confidence to achieve this level of full confident control; “you got this!”

Members can view this course on the safepilots website

What pilots do when they are having problems with their landing is just go out and practice more landings. Though this makes intuitive sense, it is an ineffective method of achieving lasting improvement. Landing problems are always more fundamental; “the roof is crooked because there is a problem with the foundation.” In landing, the real problem is a weak underlying skill. Improving your landings requires deconstructing the complex landing process into individual components and practicing those core skills. Physical therapy for a weak or painful joint or muscle utilizes this exact process; isolating the problem area and working that area in isolation. When you reconsider the accident statistics, this is time well spent; deconstruct!

Weak Slow Flight Skills

Excellent slow flight skills are the secret to “full-control landings.” Pilots seldom ever fly slow except when landing (several seconds of exposure) and usually have lost their feel for rudder control. The interrelated pitch and power requirements in slow flight are also vital to achieving solid control. So step one is to leave the pattern and work through slow flight in detail with a savvy CFI. Mastery here immediately pays dividends with better landings. The newer FAA focus on entering slow flight and also powering out is really “working your core muscles!” Take a look at the SAFE Extended Envelope Syllabus and add some full deflection steep turns (while slow). This adds some real confidence to a pilot’s landings. It is essential to be fully in control – “aggressive PIC” – when landing.

Centerline Slow Flight

Step two is bringing that slow flight practice right down onto a longer runway centerline. We are climbing the ladder of complexity by adding the level off judgment and the ground effect buoyancy, making this maneuver quite different. Additionally, maintaining centerline accuracy also requires good aileron and rudder control for wind drift correction. For advanced learners, a significant crosswind can be a valuable demonstration later on. Power application must be balanced with the drag of slipping to hold the centerline. Switching from crab to slip a few times demonstrates the drag nicely.

Basic centerline slow flight has the additional benefit of overcoming every pilot’s very natural fear of being low and slow. This becomes comfortable pretty quickly. As soon as this maneuver is proficient it is time to add a gentle “squeak and go.” Reduce power slightly while flying slow down the centerline and the tires touch briefly. A touchdown on this maneuver is just a natural extension of flying slowly down the centerline. Usually, three circuits down the centerline and every pilot is feeling a better sense of control and landings become easy. Again, control builds confidence and this technique also makes every pilot familiar with the go-around.

Reassembly

Finally, putting all the skills back together again yields a more comprehensive understanding of landing and illuminates items many pilots missed during initial flight training. Landing is not just “glide, flare land.” It really requires a more nuanced approach requiring a subtle “level-off and hold-off” in the middle. There are five (or more) steps to a good landing. Most pilots ignore or minimize this center section and try to “force a plane to land.” In actuality, the only good landing is achieved by stabilizing all the proper conditions and “waiting for the plane to land.” Patience is not something most pilots are good at; especially in the level-off/hold-off phase of landing. I encourage all my initial landing learners to count “one potato, two potato, three potato” while in the level-off to build patience until the aircraft settles into the flare phase of landing. Every airplane will talk to you here…be vigilant and patient when landing! AOPA also has a bunch of resources on landing better HERE. Have fun; fly safely (and often)!


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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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best protection in the business).

Managing Energy & Flight Path!

The FAA recently updated their advisory circular for professional pilots: “Flightpath Management.” Though directed at professional flight crews, this document provides essential ideas for every pilot. This guide recommends examining every flight through the lens of total energy and flight path management in both manual and automated flight modes: “planning, execution, and assurance of the guidance and control of aircraft trajectory and energy.

Automation dependency and energy management have been emphasized as a concern for larger aircraft for years. But increasingly this is also a GA concern with even the most basic LSAs coming equipped with sophisticated (and sometimes “creative”) avionics systems. The commonly heard “what’s it doing now?” is the first indication of danger. Fight path awareness and metacognitive skills are essential to ensure positive control and undistracted awareness of every phase of flight; even in smaller airframes.

This Advisory Circular grew out of the larger/earlier Operational Flight Path Study. Sophisticated automation/navigation systems are in almost every aircraft now, stealing attention and driving the future flightpath. And ironically, the demands on the pilot and/or flight crew have actually increased with automation!

the role and requirements for pilot knowledge and skills has not diminished as a result of automated systems or modern flight deck design, but has actually increased to include being a manager of systems as well as maintaining all their basic knowledge and skills.

Failures for which there are no crew procedures or checklists may be becoming more prevalent. This may be partly because avionics systems are now increasingly integrated and complex as opposed to the federated systems used in the past.

The critical element in managing flight path and energy is understanding the timeline; projecting the aircraft’s flight path and energy state into the future. None of this planning makes sense unless the pilot understands and adjusts the aircraft trend vectors into “future flight path and energy state.” Many new avionics systems assist here by supplying “trend vectors.” This tool is depicting the basic pilot aptitude that must be built and internalized early in flight training.

Every savvy CFI knows before entering the downwind for landing whether their clueless new VFR learner will be “high/low or fast/slow.” This aptitude must be internalized by every new pilot. Understanding and manipulating the future flight path and energy state is vital to the success (and safety) of each flight. This “energy profile” is also distinctly different for different airframes (compare a DA-40 in glide to a Cherokee Six).

This AC and the underlying study also address the training provider, emphasizing the importance of qualified educators providing creative challenges for pilots. Falling back onto the same stale and predictable flight maneuvers for training and review is unacceptable. How many flight reviews have you had that just reviewed the same hackneyed “3S” (steep, slow, stall)  you did in private-level training? Does your CFI know your avionics thoroughly?  Does your CFI provide useful and creative challenges both for manual skills and automation? In the manual flying arena, the SAFE Extended Envelope Training provides an excellent syllabus for beneficial future dual instruction with a savvy CFI.

Flight instructor training, experience, and line-operation familiarity may not be sufficient to effectively train flight crews for successful flight path management. This will be especially important for future operations…Operators should consider that many exercises required to be hand flown are well-known and repetitive and may not measure the true underlying skill level outside of those specific exercises (e.g., single-engine, hand-flown approaches).

Another vital skill mentioned in the AC that is the “reasonableness check.” When any maneuver is undertaken either manually or especially with automation, a pilot should pause a moment and ask “does this really make sense?” With an autopilot, assuring the correct mode for both lateral and vertical path is critical (“score board” on pfd). Always ask: “What am I asking the aircraft to do here?” Metacognitive skills  have been repeatedly emphasized in the SAFE blog, and need to be examined for both manual and automated operations. Don’t let the “magic” operate unmonitored! This awareness requires achieving an “outside perspective” of your actions and the total flight path and energy state.Safety requires verifying that each selected action or input makes sense from this larger perspective. This skill has been described throughout aviation history as an “angel on my  shoulder,” “gut feeling” or “view from the balcony.” Metacognition is the heart of maintaining situational awareness. A loss of situational awareness almost always immediately precedes every accident. Fly safely out there (and often)!


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

 

SAFE = Sharing Knowledge!

The mission of SAFE is to build pilot and CFI professionalism by sharing skills and knowledge (education) thereby enhancing aviation safety. This picture embodies the essence of that mission for me; two aviation professionals eagerly learning and growing. Michael Hare (blue hat) is a SAFE board member, who in addition to flying fighters in the Air Force, spent years as a captain with a legacy airline. In retirement, he is mentoring new CFIs and generously sharing his many hours of experience with pilots and schools (and working for SAFE). But he somehow got a bug about competing in the national aerobatics competition (with the stated goal of “just not finishing last”). So I introduced him to Jim Wells at Sun N Fun a few years back. Jim is a longtime CFI in everything with wings and has flown (and won) competitions at the national level. He now is an aerobatic judge for the national event and has lots to share with others. Sharing ideas and techniques, and spreading aeronautical goodness, is the heart of SAFE. Both of these talented individuals are aviation mentors to many new pilots and CFIs.

If you have the time and inclination to share your knowledge and experience, please sign up to mentor young CFIs on our new website; this is an area of critical need (and we have some eager learners here). This is the heart of our mission of raising CFI professionalism. Another opportunity is creating a course share on our new member resource center. The new website has quite a collection of fresh courses available for members, but we always need more, and I am always amazed at the diversity of our group. Creating a course is also a great way to enhance your resume for a Master Instructor accreditation. This kind of personal challenge keeps your learning and your motivation growing. Fly safely (and often) and please share our mission with other CFIs and pilots 🙏.


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

 

 

FAA Legal Interpretations “Starter Kit”

Aviation educators are regarded as the local authorities in the aviation community. Superior knowledge and familiarity with the regulations are essential for conducting the job of flight educator in a professional manner.

For example, 61.57(c)(1)(i) specifies that an instrument-rated pilot must conduct (and log) a minimum of six IAPs every 6 months in order to maintain his or her IFR currency. But what counts as an “instrument approach?” What if you break out at 600 feet, is that “an approach?” Check FAA InFo 15012 for the answer. (and watch those FAA urls, they move around faster than the stairways at Hogwarts). What is legal definition of “known icing?” A careful reading of CFR 61.1 (“Applicability and definitions”) resolves most of those noisy hangar flying arguments.

Rizner (1991)

  • What are the minimum qualifications required to act as a safety pilot?
  • FAA rules changed allowing Basic Med 2 days ago.

Hicks (1993)

  • Academy version of PIC time: sole manipulator and safety pilot

Harrington (1997)

  • “Building up of flight time may be compensatory in nature if the pilot does not have to pay the costs of operating the aircraft”

Kortokrax (2006)

  • Are students or instructors considered passengers for recency of experience requirement purposes?

Glaser (2008)

  • Do PAR and ASR approaches “count” for instrument training and currency?

Sisk (2008)

  • Does the long cross-country required for the instrument rating require any leg to be at least 50 nm?
  • Does a flight with multiple points of landing require any single leg to be over 50 nm to be considered cross-country?

Bell (2009)

Gebhart (2009)

  • Safety pilot logging PIC and cross-country time?

Glenn (2009)

  • Logging cross-country time as safety pilot
  • Logging SIC time as a safety pilot

Herman (2009)

  • Logging time while sole manipulator and appropriately rated, how about endorsements?

Hilliard (2009)

  • Cross-country time split with another pilot where both pilots take turns as PIC?

Mangiamele (2009)

  • Requirements for flying as a charitable fundraiser
  • Reimbursement for operating costs for business travel via private aircraft

Speranza (2009)

  • Logging PIC while sole manipulator on IFR flight plan, but not instrument rated

Van Zanen (2009)

  • Defining flight time to optimize cross-country time?

Coleal (2010)

  • “Preventative Maintenance” and the 31 items on the list in Appendix A to Part 43?

Hartzell (2010)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? See also this AOPA article and “Oord Letter” below.

Lamb-2 (2010)

  • What is “incidental?” Getting paid for your flying?

Theriault (2010)

  • Can you fly an aircraft not rated for IFR on an IFR flight plan in VMC?
  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training?
  • Can the night cross-country from private pilot training be used to satisfy the requirement for night cross-country flight for a Commercial Pilot Certificate?

Haberkorn (2011)

  • Finding passengers via social media
  • Clarifying “common purpose”

MURPHY (2011) and LETTS 2017

The FAA’s view of the “anti-collision light system” (when is it “inoperative?” ALSO in Murphy: can a student pilot X-C be used for Comm. certificate experience? (“mining” logbook time)

Walker (2011)

  • Logging PIC and actual IMC while sole-manipulator in IMC, but not instrument rated
  • Logging time as an instrument-rated PIC while not sole-manipulator
  • Safety piloting in actual IMC

Roberts (2012)

  • Is a safety pilot required to pay pro-rata share while logging PIC?

Pratte (2012)

  • Is the list of acceptable instrument approach types for instrument training in Glaser (2008) exhaustive?

Trussell (2012)

  • What can a safety pilot log if the pilot flying elects to remain acting PIC?
  • What obligation does a safety pilot have to share expenses?

Hancock (2013)

  • Does loaning an airplane to a pilot count as “compensation?”
  • Does the owner of an airplane have the responsibility if a person borrowing the airplane violates FARs?

Kuhn (2014)

  • “Performing the duties of pilot in command” with a CFI on board?
  • How can a CFI log time while riding along with a commercial student “performing the duties of pilot in command”?

Rohlfing (2016)

  • Do the three hours of instrument training from private pilot training apply to instrument rating training?

Fitzpatrick – Spartan College (2018)

  • Parachute for spin training for CFI initial? No, “regardless of what certificate or rating the applicant is seeking”.

Oord – AOPA (2018)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? (Proper endoresements…)
  • Depends on Theriault (2010), Theriault (2011), and Hartzell (2010)

And these interpretations *do* change, so stay current!

The resulting February 28 [2022] memorandum overruled two prior FAA legal interpretations of FAR 61.65, specifically reversing interpretations in 2008 and 2012 that required the use of “three different kinds of navigation systems” to meet the requirements of 61.65 (d)(2)(ii)(C). In the first case, the FAA had determined that three different navigation systems had to be used, and the 2012 interpretation affirmed that conclusion—and went a step further by determining that precision approach radars and airport surveillance radars do not count as “navigation systems” for the purposes of satisfying the applicant’s required experience. AOPA

An AOPA membership is a great way to stay current on these legal issues (their benefits and advocacy are essential to every pilot).


Other helpful info:

InFO 15012: Logging Instrument Approach Procedures

  • This InFO clarifies the conditions under which a pilot may log an IAP in his or her logbook

AOPA Legal on Basic Med. for checkrides.

CFII teaching “simulated instrument flight” with Basic Med.

This just changed 2 days ago and will be legal 30 days after publication in the Federal Register (told you those stairways move frequently). If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the most common above, try searching the FAA’s Legal Interpretations website. Fly safe out there (and often).

Mark Kolber has written many excellent legal articles for IFR Magazine. I find his following example of “legal vs safe” a vindication of all the risk management/judgment standards SAFE has helped embed into the testing standards:

a technically legal operation can be “careless and reckless” under 91.13, depending on the circumstances. The warning is not hollow. In a 1993 case, George Murphy was tired of waiting for his IFR release from a nontowered airport, so he took off uncontrolled IFR into low ceilings with passengers, figuring he would reach VMC before entering controlled airspace at 700 AGL. The violation for operating without a clearance was dismissed, but that did not stop the NTSB from giving him a 90-day flight vacation for careless and reckless operation.


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

10 Great Tools for New CFIs!

Here are 10 essential ideas CFIs need to embrace to acquire the important skills and grow  *after* they pass their initial CFI FAA evaluation. These tips represent the real-life “on the job” reality we teach in SAFE CFI-PRO™ live seminars. In a recent blog I emphasized that the FAA CFI temporary is – like all certificates – a “license to learn.” I also offered some examples of how the preparation for the FAA CFI Initial evaluation actually reinforces skills that are quite contrary to effective education (e.g. encouraging the CFIs to micromanage the controls and radio). These are some of the major points we convey in our popular CFI-PRO presentations.

  1. The Initial CFI, like every other certificate, is a “license to learn!” In every other country (e.g. Canada) New CFIs are only allowed to teach under the direct supervision of a senior CFI until they progress from Class 4 (initial) to Class 3. (Class 1&2 are approved to mentor new CFIs).
  2. The “pilot skills” that served you so well in earning all your pilot ratings are *very different* from the “CFI skills” you need to be an effective educator. You have two pieces of FAA plastic: Pilot and CFI (very different skills).
  3. The pilot personality is geared toward almost aggressive precision, error correction, and immediate action. By contrast, the CFI personality takes time to develop and requires amazing patience and compassion to endure some pretty bad flying and awkward radio calls. It takes time for your “learner” to get good at flight control and comm.
  4. Flight instruction can initially be quite frustrating for the new CFI (what did I sign up for?). You are not flying (and should not be handling the controls a lot, if at all) you are teaching and guiding your learner with careful (mostly verbal) instruction!
  5. The “CFI skills” we teach every applicant to pass the initial CFI evaluation, though necessary (handling the controls and radio while talking non-stop), are *not* how we really teach flying. Many of these habits need to be unlearned to be an effective educator (hands off). Learners do not learn by watching the CFI fly – they must do it themselves (and make mistakes).
  6. Pursuant to all the above considerations, the #1 error of new CFIs is monopolizing the controls and radio, (like they were taught) and not allowing their “learner” experience flight. New CFIs are often incessant micromanagers. It takes a while to gain confidence and get off the controls (and radio).
  7. The pace of exposure and progress is *very* different for each unique learner (unlike what a standardized syllabus might suggest). Most people are not ready to experience slow flight and stalls on their third flight! “Lesson 3” might actually be the 5th or 6th time in flight depending on your learner’s skill and confidence.
  8. There is a real danger of scaring a student. No person learns while panicked and there is also a danger of “student lock-up.” This is a common (and dangerous) flight training problem .”Lock-up” is when your learner panics and refuses to release the controls. 65% of SAFE CFIs surveyed had experienced this phenomenon.
  9. To avoid student lock-up, build trust with your learner and practice the transfer of controls. They must immediately relinquish control to the CFI when requested (you need to build this habit) and never scare your student.
  10. The best methodology for instructional success is “incremental mastery.” This involves the CFI turning over aircraft control and flight management in a very explicit fashion once competence is achieved: “this is your responsibility now…I will not help with this – you are the pilot!” This method creates both a sense of confidence and mastery in your learner (and reduces dropout). It also creates the pathway to a “powerful PIC” (confident, independent and fully in charge). Most flight test applicants are clearly “not fully in charge” but pretending (usually poorly) to be PIC.

Please get in touch w/SAFE for a CFI-PRO™ presentation at your location! New CFIs should also see this popular blog: “10 Rules for New CFIs


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

How to Become a CFI-PRO™

Truly excellent CFIs are unfortunately quite rare. On the one hand our aviation training world has an abundance of totally green “hour builders” still learning their craft with their eyes set on an airline career (2/3s of all active CFIs have taught less than one year). These people are amazingly enthusiastic and usually have excellent recent knowlege. They are fun to fly with and usually full of energy. Unfortunately, they are usually pretty scared in the cockpit and tend to micro-manage errors, monopolize the radio and controls, and chatter non-stop (that is exactly what we taught them to do for their FAA test…). It takes a while to learn how to *really* be a CFI.

On the other hand you have the jaded, self-important CFI, frequently burned out and often unmotivated. This  part-time lifer is often quite rusty on maneuvers and scary on their lack of recent  knowledge. Where is the “sweet spot” for CFI excellence and how does a working professional avoid the trap of becoming a “legend in their own mind?”

The only secret I have found to stay fresh as a CFI (and DPE) is to keep learning and challenging yourself, as a pilot and as an instructor. I write this as I am (once again) acquiring another type rating (and silently cursing myself for this decision). If you continuously put yourself in the role of a learner, you have to stay humble and (hopefully) sharp. It requires again putting everything on the line; submitting to training and testing (just like your students). Michael Maya Charles in his amazing audio production “Artful Flying” calls this “beginner mind;” actively maintaining a curious and open attitude toward the world. Students in training and flying in general present many daily challenges if we keep our eyes wide open.

The SAFE Master Instructor Program is also an excellent pathway to keep learning. The required Contining Education Units required to be accredited every two years keep you searching for “learning opportunities” and actively challenging yourself.

For more thoughts on this subject, join our FAA webinar on Wednesday, November 9th at 11am EST (clocks changed this morning). The Orlando FSDO “Enhanced CFI Program” will be live (and available later on YouTube). BTW, the picture above was created by Master CFI Jeremy Walters for *his* YouTube channel “Breaking the Chain” which he created as a SAFE Master Instructor. Keep learning, fly safe (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

“Fear/Stress Inoculation” For Pilots

Overcoming stress and fear is one of the first and most important steps in becoming a successful pilot. If the first couple lessons are not handled very carefully, a CFI can easily frighten an already scared learner. This leads directly to a loss of motivation -“I thought this was fun!”- and quitting (80% drop out rate). Extreme fear puts the human brain into “fight or flight” mode and prevents any learning. And for the already trained pilot, extreme fear, beyond the level of training and comfort, prevents effective survival action as happens during “startle.” One of the most critical components of basic training in all branches of the military is fear inoculation (the “warrior’s edge”). 80% of soldiers in combat are not effectively firing their weapons.

“I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.” – Chuck Yeager

As we build skills during aviation education, greater understanding and confidence overcome initial (very normal) fear and create a “comfort zone” for normal, effective flight operations. Skill and confidence are both essential to safe, successful flying. This comfort allows perception of “true risk; “the wings actually seldom fall off and there is inherent stability in normal flight.” Proficiency and confidence with all the basic flight maneuvers are then followed in training by a careful exposure to emergencies (often the “scary stuff” for learners). Pilots need to be comfortable in this wider flight envelope to be safe over time.  All pilots also need to maintain their proficiency and fear inoculation over time (proficiency training). Extending the flight envelope even further than the FAA minimums (with dual instructor assistance) is highly recommended for all part 91 pilots (a greater margin of safety). This can also be additional ratings or flying more demanding maneuvers within the capacity of your aircraft.  The FAA has mandated this training for airline pilots so it is greatly encouraged for non-professionals as well.

As defined by Dave Grossman in another of his books, On Combat, stress inoculation is a process by which prior success under stressful conditions acclimatizes you to similar situations and promotes future success.

Normalization of deviance” is the further (and unsafe) development of inappropriate comfort in the face of even greater risk and/or non-standard procedures. Just watch some YouTubes of extreme sports to see “normalizing” in action; the most bizarre and risky behaviors can become familiar and comfortable despite the statistical risk factors.

Aviation has a very well established catalog of what is normal, what is emergency and what is considered dangerous. To some degree this depends on the interactions of the experience and skill variables in the P – A- V – E checklist (Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures). A very experienced pilot new to an airframe in a challenging environment should only accept very minimal challenges (skill in one area does not automatically transfer to another – unfortunately!) The key to all safety is knowing where to to draw that bright red limitation line, and only carefully extend your minimums further. Good dual instruction is the “water wings” that supply safety while a pilot explores new challenges.

The classic FAA depiction of skills vs the demands of the task should always be kept in mind by every safety-conscious pilot. A good question to continuously ask: “is the activity I am attempting within my pilot skill level or is this operation depending on luck?” I personally think most pilots “get away” with many more operations than their abilities would permit (luck). Murphy’s law actually offers great forgiveness (and I confess I have benefitted from this).

Practicing the “hard stuff” is a good tonic for every pilot. It’s why professional pilots head back to the schoolhouse every 6 months. Challenge restores our skills and confidence. But there are also many fun opportunities available that provide challenge and improve skills; learning gliders of seaplanes? Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Managing “Extreme Fear” (Startle/Lock-Up)

We have seen some recent accidents where “student lock-up” is a strongly suggested causal factor. This fear reaction is common in flight training; 65% of SAFE CFIs surveyed reported forcibly taking the controls from their panicked learner . “Lock-up” is a result of “extreme fear” which puts the brain directly into the “fight or flight” mode. This neurological state is identical to the “startle response” that any pilot may encounter with a surprise upset incident. “Startle” is a major cause of Loss of Control Inflight (the #1 pilot killer).

Obviously we all need to understand (and avoid) this built-in reaction to extreme fear (both dual and solo) for greater safety. Here are several SAFEblogs dealing with this topic (all hyperlinked). As a CFI it is essential to avoid frightening our learner. Not only is their a distinct danger of lock-up, but no learning is happening if your client is severely fearful. For experienced pilots, self-calming techniques are an essential safety resource. Here is a typical NTSB (non-conclusive) dual lock-up accident.

 

For deeper understanding of this subject, I recommend this book by Jeff Wise. BTW, many important resources for pilots are not specifically in the aviation ecosystem. Learning more about human psychology and basic educational techniques are a huge benefit for every pilot and educator. Review the books and courses (free) in our SAFE public resource center and on the SAFE Toolkit App; #flySAFE!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Struggle for Control; CFI (Or YOU!)

Your mind on FEAR!

Most senior CFIs have at least one story of forcibly taking over control of an aircraft from a locked-up, panicked learner. A SAFE survey of CFIs revealed that 65% had at some point forcibly taken back aircraft control from an irrational student! One CFI/DPE revealed a crash where he struggled and lost this battle resulting in a dramatic crash. A person overcome by fear becomes a powerful and irrational animal in your cockpit. Step one is to avoid ever scaring your student. Step two is staying ever vigilant and be prepared in case this does happen.

The grieving father of a young female CFI who died in a dual accident shared his story and inspired several SAFEblogs on this topic. Unfortunately, new “millennial flight schools” tend to be all excitement and hope with the new growth in aviation. They never cover or train this dark side of the CFI profession. Please watch this recent Air Safety Institute”early analysis” dissecting a recent instructional accident and share it with other CFIs.The possibility of student lock-up is real, and probably more common than currently recognized. (Recent KSMO accident?)

If you are a senior CFI, please mentor your proteges on the possibility of student lock-up and discuss recovery techniques. This is not an excuse for micromanaging the controls but a reminder to never get complacent; the CFI job has many rewards but also provides some “exciting moments.”

If you are a solo pilot, the other side of this same fear equation is surviving startle. Panic is possible for anyone when exposed to a new and shocking flight experience outside their comfort zone. Self-calming is an important first step to regaining control. Every pilot should practice specific techniques like deep breathing and positive self talk to empower a systematic recovery in frightening situations. Even in a crash scenario, survival requires flying the plane all the way to a stop and never giving up. This is the burden of pilot in command during the “not fun” experiences that are always possible when we defy gravity.

Practicing flight out of the comport zone is one purpose of flight reviews and recurrent training. Extended Envelope Training allows a pilot to be comfortable and prepared when encountering these surprising flight attitudes (read “upsets”) Build your bravery; get a good CFI and practice. Fly SAFE out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  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 by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

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