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Pilot Proficiency Symposium OSH 2016

SAFE-SymposiumIn 2011, SAFE and other key industry leaders took the initiative to develop and conduct the Pilot Training Symposium in Atlanta that focused on the myriad challenges that face general aviation. These included decreased student starts, increased student attrition, the flatlined fatal accident rate, and stagnated growth. This Symposium devoted equal time to the “Big Six” topics, but since much of the work that has followed has focused on Doctrine and Standards the focus must now shift to Curricula and Aviation Educators with the goal of elevating these areas to the level that Doctrine and Standards are reaching as a result of the SAFE initiative in Atlanta.

To meet this challenge, members of SAFE, along with other concerned educators in the aviation community, have come together to begin developing a new Symposium to focus on the critical elements of Curricula and the Educators responsible for teaching others to fly and to maintain their skills. The stubborn fatal accident rate remains a particular concern, so the upcoming symposium will focus on strategies designed to at drive the fatal accident rate downward.

This event will encourage collaboration among stakeholders to accomplish goals that are focused on learning and teaching best practices for all phases of flight, enhanced communication among Aviation Educators and to develop the foundation for this Symposium to become an annual “must attend” event for all Aviation Educators.

The overarching philosophy guiding the focus of this and future events is to provide guidance and training methods for all facets of the aviation training community which will

• Complement the new ACS system with training methods and curricula that will ensure that applicants are able to conduct safe operations in the real world. Examples include using effective risk management techniques and improving stick and rudder skills during maneuvering flight.
• Ensure that flight school operators, flight instructors, and designated pilot examiners hold applicants to the performance standards contained in the new ACS. This includes ensuring that operators, instructors, examiners, and others in the training delivery system themselves are held to high standards of professionalism and competency.
• Devise new approaches to reach the current pilot community to ensure they meet the standards in the ACS as well. This could include a more robust process for conducting flight reviews and improved delivery of safety information, seminars, and on-line courses.
The specific focus for the 2016 event will be:

1. Loss of Control and the “Learn, Do Fly” approach to applying the core curriculum and the need to create a culture of recurrent training and proficiency as the foundation for improving the safety metrics of General Aviation.

2. The importance of the CFI/DPE relationship and the role it plays in improving the quality of pilot training.

3. Best practices for preparing pilots pursuing their initial CFI designation as well as on-going training after the receipt of the certificate.

The event will be held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin just prior to AirVenture 2016 on Saturday and Sunday July 23-24 at the Fox Valley Technical College, S.J. Spanbauer Aviation & Industrial Center located on the east side of Wittman Field. There will also be follow-up seminars, offered at the Plot Proficiency Center located on the AirVenture venue, for educators incorporating simulation and discussions lead by subject matter experts.

The planning and execution of this event is a core principle of SAFE and is a tangible example of what we as Aviation Educators are committed to each and ever day. Take a look at your schedule and if you can put these dates on your calendar and plan to join us for this important event. Also, as we move forward with our planning we will be asking for volunteers to help us with both the Symposium and in the Pilot Proficiency Center. If you have questions, comments or would like to volunteer please email Michael Phillips at mcfimlp[a]gmail.com.

We are excited about the potential of this event and trust that many of you will be able to join us and contribute your collective genius to the success of this initiative.

How to Apply in IACRA for a Student Pilot Certificate

Student_PilotSince the new FAA rule, as of April 1st, 2016 all new pilots now have to apply for their student pilot certificates through IACRA or on a paper 8710-1 (not encouraged). It helps to repeat after me “IACRA is my friend” because a positive attitude helps immensely when navigating this website for the first time. All DPEs (and many FAA Inspectors) initially struggled with this process but it works amazingly well once you understand the logic. You have probably worked this site recommending pilot applicants, this is a similar process. There is an actual necessity for the complexity when you consider how many diverse certificates and ratings it needs to produce. The site requires everyone to log in as a “recommending instructor” to be a validator. The pdf manual for IACRA is here. The help desk number is now (844)322-6948.

First, remember you (CFI, DPE, ACR) are the validator of this applicant’s identity and ability to read, speak, write and understand English. The FAA guidance is from the 61.65H “In accordance with §61.193(b), before processing an application for a student pilot certificate, the authorized individual must ensure the applicant meets the eligibility requirements of § 61.83 as well as verify the applicant’s identity. The authorized individual should use AC 60-28 and the ICAO Web site to prepare for the assessment. (speaks English)”  And yes, you of course need to meet face-to-face; a virtual arrangement (sharing login/password) is not acceptable!

Every “validator” or agent will login for this process with the role of “recommending instructor” (as DPE I have done many glider and sport pilots with that role but that is gone). Make sure to advise your applicant before the meeting they  will need a valid proof of identity: an unexpired government ID with a photo including a printed expiration date. For young people without a license or passport “legal gov’t ID” can also be a “Sheriff’s ID” so get that process started early. Make sure you have a fairly new web browser (without a pop-up blocker activated) and you have a pdf reader installed on your computer. You have to certify that your applicant can adequately speak, read, write, understand the English language also per AC 20-28.

This IACRA process begins with your applicant. They need to access the IARA website and establish a login and password and obtain their FTN (Federal Tracking Number). The new 61.65H is a little misleading here.

IACRAStudentRegisterAcquireFTNFTNsucess

Your student will now log out and then back into IACRA with this unique FTN and apply for their student pilot certificate. This is simple with 6 fields to complete.

StudentPIlotSelection

They are applying for a “pilot certificate” and the selection should be “student.” Like gliders and sport, no medical is needed here. The medical travels separately and could be acquired later (before solo obviously) according to the help desk. Here are some FAQs from the FAA guidance.

Once all six tabs in the application process are green, click “review”. This button should pop up a pdf of the application (depending on your internet connection this might require some waiting). Make sure you do not have a pop-up blocker set in your browser. This “review” step is required first before “submit” to make that button active. Once the applicant has reviewed the application (opened the pdf) close the document at the top of the pdf and they click “submit.” Once this is complete it should be available on-line for the CFI , DPE or ACR to retrieve and validate.  All validators for a student pilot certificate will enter IACRA in the role of “recommending instructor.”

So now finally it’s the CFI’s turn to login. You will need to meet with your student here since you validate their identity and command of English for this certification. This process cannot be performed remotely (do not share login/password). ON the IACRA site, put in your (CFI) username and password and accept the “terms of service” in the role of “recommending instructor.”

CFIlogsInRCFI

When the page loads you will enter the student’s FTN in the box and it should bring up their application for action. There should be a pull-down with several options here. This will open a page with a list of hyperlinked actions you need to complete in order. First is the verification of identification. You must enter the data from the approved government ID accurately…check it twice!

Next, there will be a link for the applicant to now login again to accept the PBR then “review” first, then “sign” their application (in each case open then “close” the pdf with the button on the top). The “signature” is a blue hyperlink that will center on the pdf and only requires a mouse click. If this does not appear, check for a pop-up blocker or suitable pdf reader installed on the computer. This can be slow depending on your internet connection. Once the application is “signed”, close this at the top of the document and the student’s part is complete.

As the final step, the CFI logs back in (with your CFI login/password) and again enters the student’s FTN as before. Now you should be able to complete the certification process with a “review” and “sign”. Both are pop-up pdfs and you might again need to wait for them to load depending on the speed of your connection.

There is lots of discussion about which browser to use for the IACRA process but most webkit versions work fine. My favorite, that seems to work on Mac or PC, is latest Firefox Browser. Remember in every step you will always have to “review” before you “sign” or the field will be gray and inoperative. Check your browser for a “pop-up blocker” or the pdfs will not load. Take your time and remember to always scroll to the bottom of the page for the action buttons…be patient and good luck!

Personally, I would copy the final result with the date so you can track the progress on the application. There are many guesses on how long the plastic student pilot certificate will take coming from the FAA. You can always look up the date the gov. is currently working on [here]

Let me know if you discover snags in this description and I will update this so we create a clean and usable document for all CFIs and move this process forward. I have now put many students through this process and it works if you are methodical (and patient)…good luck. If you have a problem, please write a comment and we can all learn something. Thanks…I hope this helps.

Our SAFECFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

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 facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).


SAFE Working For You! Visit Us at Sun ‘N Fun!

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.23.50 AMSAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) is a relatively new and dynamic not-for-profit. Our mission is to promote excellence in aviation education and thereby raise the level of safety and professionalism in our whole industry. We want nothing less than to change the aviation world for the better. Thank you for reading our blog. We have enjoyed a tremendous following here thanks to your interest. Please “follow” us for notification of new content. We also publish a quarterly magazine for members edited by the very talented Mark Phelps. Our SAFE Toolkit App SAFE Toolkit Video Introduction has received amazing activity and rave reviews. Utilizing this FREE software makes all CFIs better prepared in the field. It contains the FAA endorsements and pilot experience requirements (and so much more) right in your pocket to do your job more professionally. [See it at work].

One of our proudest and most effective safety programs is our SAFE mentoring system. This enables a new CFI to sign up and gain an experienced guide in the process of becoming a really effective and excellent instructor. A lot of learning as an educator is necessarily an apprenticeship. This program passes on the wisdom from experienced, sage-like wizards to fresh excited beginners. Become a mentor and pay it forward.

SAFE_SnFMapWe are currently working with a talented web and media designer, Chris Palmer, to entirely revamp our web presence and make it as exciting and inviting as all of aviation; a portal for member participation. And lastly, we are organizing, with other aviation partners the Pilot Proficiency Aviation Symposium to occur in Oshkosh on July 24-25, just before Air Venture. This gathering will actively engage all aviation professionals and help us discover a better way forward in flight training (just as our last gathering in Atlanta did.) Expect great things, join us and help support our mission of raising the bar on aviation education professionalism. Our amazing member benefits pay you back and make this commitment painless and fun. Visit us at Sun ‘N Fun in Building A Booth #59. Attend a seminar by a SAFE member, we would love to meet you!

CFI Fail…Be A Professional! (SAFE Toolkit)

Nothing is more disappointing as a pilot examiner than meeting with a potential applicant for a certificate or rating and discovering either the endorsements are incorrect or the applicant lacks some required experience. We are dead in the water. All that work and preparation, anxiety and studying is wasted because we cannot go anywhere….done! This is a failure on the part of the (non) professional aviation educator. We have a responsibility here to professionally execute our duties in preparing their applicant in the most critical phase of training; the evaluation (I still train and endorse applicants for tests). The new AC61.65F just out is, of course, the official guidance for the correct endorsements. They just have to be there or the process stops.

After 18 years of examining for the FAA and endless disappointments like this I wrote the SAFE Toolkit App (it’s FREE). This app puts all the required endorsements right on your phone or iPad *and* all the experience requirements for every certificate or rating. (there is great mobile weather, Skyvector and FlightAware too) No paper to find and sift though…it’s in your pocket! Give this a try and please don’t disappoint your eager applicant on test day!

(Yes I was a member of NAFI for my first 5 Master CFI renewals…the next five with Master Instructors LLC) Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

 

Water; Essential to Life (*And* Flight!)

by: Parvez Dara; Physician, ATP, MCFI, CFII, AGI, MEI. Gold Seal (and SAFE board treasurer)

Hydration

Why do you need to carry a bottle of water in flight, or on a commercial flight travel and ask for, “May I have more water please!”

Because…

70% of the body weight is water based. 87% of that is inside the cell (intracellular). The “functional water” is required for oxygen enrichment and for maintaining the pH balance.

Water is vital for digestive juices, blood, sweat and tears. Any discrepancy will lead to complications with delivery of these “humors,” including oxygen to the body cells creating relative (stagnation) hypoxia. Thus optimal health needs good hydrated balance. This coolness of Scientific judgment helps dampen the randomness of confusion and chaos within the brain. The brain, we all agree, needs an uninterrupted supply of nourishment.

Not having enough water leads to the following complaints: Nausea, thirst, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches, angina (chest) pain, migraine (headache), restlessness and most importantly Central Nervous System symptoms like confusion (imagine that communicating with the ATC), paranoia and anxiety (irrational fears).

Did you get that? DID YOU GET THAT? Oops, sorry for yelling.

Dehydration can occur as a result of high altitude, excessive exercise, sweating and fluid deprivation. This hidden prism of self deception is the main element of weakening the pilot’s learned arts; decision making skill and the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of control.

The balance to maintain optimal body water level is coordinated by the kidneys mostly by concentrating urine. If the water is restricted or lost through vomiting, sweating or diarrhea, the osmotic pressure increases in the blood vessels, which draws the water from the cells into the blood vessels. The dehydrated cells become less functional. Similarly at altitude where the air pressure is low as is the water vapor content, the compensatory hyperventilation (increased rate of breathing) is a norm thus there is excess water loss through breathing – the exchange of dry air (incoming) for moist breath (outgoing). The shriveled cells slow down their activity in the muscle (fatigue), heart (heart rhythm), brain (decisions), kidney (filtration) etc. The most damaging effect is in the brain! Adding alcohol at any quantity in that circumstance accentuates this effect, as does smoking (imagine that during Spring-break, but then, very little brain function is acquired or required during that volatile period). A pilot can ill afford such psychological trauma, especially with the need for advanced decision making needed in the cockpit. Beware of this enchantress that woos the confused mind and sends it hurtling down to the ground prematurely.

Did I mention that oil flows slower than water? Similarly a thicker blood (dehydrated/concentrated) flows slowly. This congested flow limits transport of life’s nourishing goods into cells and transfer of life saving oxygen within.

Good hydration encourages the following: Increased energy, Reverse cellular damage, Normalization of the pH, Balance blood sugar, Fortify immune system, Better sleep, Clearer mind and Better memory.

So drink plenty of water before, during and after flight and enough water daily to keep your urine light yellow and less concentrated for optimal health.

And here is the additional kicker: Drinking 2-3 glasses of water reduces sugar, salt, cholesterol intake as well.

Read here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160301174759.htm

As Spock (Star Trek) would say, “Live Long and Prosper!”

Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

The Myth of Multi-Tasking: Micro, Macro, Meta

OK, let’s be honest, a human really cannot multi-task (simultaneously perform two tasks demanding intense concentration). Sad but true, neuroscientists have clearly proven this. Here are some great exercises to make sure you truly believe this. It is especially important to embrace this truth in our world of technological distraction. We all still see people texting and driving who are not yet believers and natural selection will probably soon remove them from the gene pool.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 8.42.03 AMWhat we *can* do is rapidly share attention between essential tasks. The only time rapid task switching (or scan) is recommended is when these competing demands are equally important. Then prioritizing and triage are impossible. Think of an instrument scan, “you mean I have to maintain heading *and* altitude?” This article suggests a useful method to execute cognitive time-sharing I have found useful while piloting (and it is expecially effective for “multitasking” CFI).

If several tasks are demanding immediate attention we first must carefully sort out the “most important” from the “urgent” and avoid getting caught in mere “busy.” That is why we emphasize the essential priority of operations: “aviate, navigate, communicate (mitigate).” This is prioritizing and all items must be accomplished. We also must occasionally “triage” a word from medical emergency operations. This is also handling the most important and manageable emergency first but also picking your battles and ignoring some demands.  Sometimes we have to shove less important (or impossible) tasks off the table or develop a strategy and advocate for a delay or diversion.

One reason prioritizing and triage can be especially frustrating for pilots is our almost genetic striving for perfection. And though this is a wonderful goal and continuous improvement is very desirable attribute, we don’t often, if ever, achieve perfection in this world. The impulse for perfection, if not controlled, can paralyze effective action and lead to unsafe operations (future article) since we try to do everything and nothing works. The perfect is indeed the enemy of the good. Our goal during intense pilot workload demands is to achieve the “most good” or “best solution given the circumstances.” (More on aeronautical decision making)

For equally important items, the scan I recommend in piloting is called “micro, macro, meta.” This method requires continuous shifting of our level of detail. Let’s say we are setting up an approach. Assume our plane is in stable flight so we carefully attend to a detailed operation (micro) e.g. selecting the desired approach in your GPS while hand flying. Almost immediately we expand your focus to “macro” to monitor and tweak any aircraft control issues. Just like an instrument scan it is essential not to fixate on any level of detail but continuously shift our focus in and out (like a lens) and check the different pictures e.g. “are we on course and at altitude?” With practice, this cognitive scan of micro/macro can continue several times to achieve a detailed set-up without losing the bigger picture of control. Essential is an internal alert timer that prevents fixation. After several oscillations between “micro” and “macro” I encourage “meta” to check the larger overview. This is the more global scan or “situational awareness.” Does the whole picture make sense? e.g. we may be on course, at altitude (macro) and I have everything set-up (micro) *but* does it make sense to be continuing this flight into convective through a cold front? These levels are presented in no particular order and starting big is probably the obvious choice. Most important is a continuous cycle of changing attention without fixating at any focus level.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 9.31.06 AMThe “meta” here is short for “meta-cognitive” which is the essential functioning of our “higher order thinking skills” or HOTS found in Bloom’s taxonomy. This global awareness (SA) utilizes our executive brain functions that always need to be engaged while piloting. This insures we are not operating on a single defective habitual script (mouse in a maze) but instead actually directing our flight like the super pilot we all want to be! (Did you ever arrive home while driving and realize you were on “mental auto-pilot?”)

Our minds can also easily gets stuck at the “meta” level and miss essential details. I call this the “human power-saver” mode. During a longer flight we can easily enter this mode and fail to drill down and cross-check at the essential level of detail. Too much automation can lead to dangerous disengagement (fat, dumb and happy?). If you keep the “micro, macro, meta” scan going you will more easily detect important fluctuations and early signs of trouble. I have the privilege of flying with many pilots more talented than me. One in particular, a retired Air Force General driving a Mooney, has taught me a lot about the essential discipline of an enroute scan. This is similar to the FAA 3P ADM scan and is critical for maintaining constant vigilance over longer flights. Let me know if this works for you. I would also encourage you to join SAFE and support our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

Three SAFE Charter Members Earn Master CFI for Tenth Time!

Master Instructors LLC designated its next class of Ten-Time Masters.  The historic achievement marks twenty years of participation in the Master Instructor Continuing Education Program (MICEP).  Three instructors comprise this second group to reach the ten-time milestone: David Faile of Fairfield, Connecticut; Lonnie Hilkemeier of Boulder, Colorado; and Lou Wipotnik of Wheeling, Illinois.  All three are charter members of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE)

DavidFaileDavid Faile is an AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) representative, a FAASTeam representative in the Windsor Locks FSDO area, and the holder of the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.  The 1999 National CFI of the Year, David instructs at Bridgeport’s Sikorsky Airport (BDR).

LonnieHilkemeier

Lonnie Hilkemeier is the senior flight instructor and president of Specialty Flight Training (http://www.SpecialtyFlight.com/), a Cessna Pilot Center at Boulder Airport (BDU).  Colorado’s first Master Instructor in 1998, he also serves as a FAASTeam representative in the FAA’s Denver FSDO area.

LouWIpotnikLou Wipotnik is an independent Chicago-area flight and ground instructor at Chicago Executive Airport (PWK).  The holder of an FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot award and the 1996 National CFI of the Year, he is also a FAASTeam representative in the FAA’s DuPage FSDO area and serves in the Civil Air Patrol’s Illinois Wing. 

According to MICEP co-creator JoAnn Hill, “We are honored that these individuals have continued with the program for so long, and are excited to share their amazing accomplishment.”  Others will soon join the ranks of Ten-Time Masters over the upcoming months.

Dave McVInnie 10X MCFI and Lifetime SAFE Member
Dave McVInnie 10X MCFI and Lifetime SAFE Member

As a reward for long-term commitment to professional development as aviation educators, Ten-Time Masters receive embroidered MA-1 flight jackets sponsored by PilotMall.com of Lakeland, FL.  Additionally, Master Instructors LLC commissioned special wings pins reserved exclusively for Ten-Time and Emeritus Masters, sponsored by Aviation Instruction of Camarillo, CA and Specialty Flight Training of Boulder, CO.  The names of Ten-Time Masters are also listed on a dedicated page on the Master Instructors website under the menu tab “With Distinction.”

The Master Instructor Continuing Education Program was conceived and developed in 1995 by JoAnn and Sandy Hill of Longmont, Colorado, and launched in 1997 during AirVenture with the blessing of then-FAA Administrator Barry Valentine.  The Hills, highly experienced educators with a passion for aviation, developed the program as a means to encourage and recognize higher levels of professionalism in aviation education.  The program also sets professional standards to which all aviation educators can aspire.

The Hills initially administered the program through another organization; in 2009, however, they formed Master Instructors LLC.  According to MICEP co-creator Sandy Hill, “We, along with a vast majority of Master Instructors, believed the program stood for something much larger than any one organization.”  He added, “moving the program’s management to an independent entity has provided much greater autonomy and ensured impartiality in the accreditation process.”

The peer-reviewed designation process is rigorous.  In addition to other requirements, applicants must document at least 500 hours in qualifying activities within the previous 24 calendar months.  To foster well-rounded aviation educators, the hours must be distributed among five categories: Educator, Service to the Aviation Community, Creator of Media, Continuing Education, and Participant.

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The Hills are quick to point out that Master Instructors have “earned their black belts” in aviation education, thus setting them apart from instructors who merely use the job to further their air carrier careers.  The evidence bears out the Hills’ assertion: since 1997, a combined 37 individuals have been honored in the National CFI and FAASTeam Rep of the Year categories, 27 of whom are Master Instructors.  The marketplace has also responded to their commitment to the profession: a poll revealed that most Masters realize a 10 to 40 percent increase in income as a result of their participation in MICEP.

MCFIPin

MICEP’s success has been the model for other aviation accreditation programs.  The Soaring Society of America (SSA), for example, drew on the Hills work to develop its Master Instructor Cross-Country program.  The derivative programs, however, require membership in the sponsoring organizations to participate.  MICEP, on the other hand, is open to all qualified aviation educators regardless of their other affiliations; membership in a particular organization is not a prerequisite.  With more than 160 active Masters, MICEP remains the largest accreditation program of its type for aviation educators.

JoAnn Hill says the program will “continue to serve current Masters while improving outreach to other aviation educators.”  Continuing to influence training standards and doctrine, promote industry programs such as General Aviation Awards, and form new partnerships with training providers are goals as well.

For more information:
http://www.MasterInstructors.org/

The Dark Side of Adaptation; “Normalizing!”

Adaptability is an important defining trait of human existence and probably most responsible for our survival and growth as a species. Humans live happily in every corner of our planet from polar wastelands to equatorial rain forests and in every case seem to adapt and flourish. I am sure you have seen pictures, or experienced first hand, some amazing conditions people become comfortable with and contentedly call “home.” At first it might be awkward and weird but pretty soon it becomes “normal” as we adapt!

Adaptability is also an important trait for pilots. We must overcome diverse challenges transitioning to new equipment or flying in challenging environments. These new conditions at first require courage and ingenuity, but ultimately we conform and become comfortable. Air Inuit in northern Canada has an Op. Spec. to fly passengers “VFR” in Twin Otters with only 300′ ceiling and one mile viz (though this requires <90K, flaps 10 degrees and synthetic vision system for safety).

Challenger Space Shuttle LaunchChallengerExplosion

 

 

 

 

There is, however, a dark side to adaptability and that is the “normalization of deviance.” This term was coined by Diane Vaughan, a professor at Columbia University investigating NASA’s Challenger launch decision in 1986. The process of “normalization of deviance” is when a person or organization becomes so familiar with an odd or deviant behavior that it no longer seems strange and alarming but becomes accepted as the “new normal.” This chameleon psychic process seems to be an integral part of our human survival mechanism. Given time we seem to adapt and accept just about any deviant structure and made it a comfortable part of our world. This is also why a objective “standard operating procedure” (and the discipline to follow it) is such an essential tool in aviation safety.

In the 1980s, NASA’s Space Shuttles were being launched on increasingly short intervals. And despite the solid booster “O” rings leaking at launch temperatures much lower than specified, time pressures, historic success (the absence of immediate bad outcomes) and “group think” led to acceptance of these increasingly unsafe conditions. This “normalization of deviance” ultimately resulted in a dramatically public national tragedy. The fact that a similar NASA accident occurred only 8 years later with the “normal shedding of fuel tank insulation” on launch shows how pernicious this problem can be. (The only benefit gained from these tragedies is that recent work by NASA on accident theory is amazing.)

CognitionPicture“So that was NASA but how does this effect us in our everyday flying?” Please look around your airport carefully. I am sure you have been witness to a pilot who has strangely unsafe practices that they personally regard as “normal?” Over time these “rogue pilots” have unfortunately drifted far from objectively accepted safety practices and personally “normalized” techniques that are clearly unsafe. Maybe they have just become “less than proficient” but this too has become “acceptable” or “justified” due to high cost or time constraints. We pilots are a pretty respectful and tolerant bunch so often this “accident waiting to happen” continues unchallenged until the inevitable occurs. Let’s change this please and take action *before* the accident. “Friends don’t let friends fly unsafe!”

Please check out safety writer Dr. Bill Rhodes definition of “scary pilots” in an article by John King. Tony Kern also documents this phenomenon in the military with his book Rogue Pilot. And popular blogger Tom Rapp explains a scary 135 charter example in detail with his examination of normalization in the Bedford Gulfstream accident.

This dangerous “normalization of deviance” occurs even more easily in private aviation where the only normative filter is a (often perfunctory) 2 year flight review. Please don’t stand by if you are aware of cases of compliance drift and normalization. Embrace your normalizing friend and talk some sense into them, carefully and honestly. Let’s embrace the same culture change that cured a lot of unsafe drunk driving; “Friends don’t let friends fly unsafe!” It would be much better to have this friend mad at you than injured. Let’s modify our culture and help everyone embrace a higher standard of safety in their flying. And please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

Stress and Pilot Performance: Part 2

-by Sherry Knight Rossiter

Stress hormones are catabolic in nature; in other words, they break the body down. In the last issue of SAFE, the magazine, we discussed the problems of stress relating to pilot performance. Now, we’ll continue the conversation.

In 1976, Selye described stress as “wear and tear” on the body. Some degree of stress is actually necessary in order to perform day-to-day tasks, but stress which persists over a long period can severely affect human performance and health.

Interestingly, individuals with the strongest psychosocial support systems seem to be able to tolerate the most stress without adverse effects (Mitchell, 1997), so creating and maintaining healthy relationships is critical to good stress management.

Stress that persists over a long period of time is called cumulative stress. Some clear indications of cumulative stress are physical and emotional exhaustion, apathy, and deterioration in performance. Cumulative stress needs to be dissipated or discharged through physical exercise, meditation, body massage, or other forms of relaxation.

Extensive research conducted by NASA over the years confirms that a moderate level of stress has a positive effect on human performance while abnormal levels of stress decrease human performance. Additionally, research findings indicate that the performance of complex or unfamiliar tasks requires a higher level of attention than completion of simple or over-learned tasks, thereby increasing stress levels. During an inflight emergency, the pilot’s workload can quickly exceed his or her capabilities to perform certain tasks within a finite period of time.

This inability to respond in itself creates stress, which in the extreme becomes traumatic stress. Everly (1997) makes the point that traumatic stress overwhelms our normal coping mechanisms while cumulative stress erodes them. The analogy that comes to mind is that of an ocean wave. A single ocean wave can easily knock a person down just as a single traumatic episode can overwhelm a person. But it takes many ocean waves over a period of time to erode a beach, just as it takes on going stress to cause “wear and tear” on the body.

Coping with Stress

In theory, as one matures and adapts to life’s many stressors, one learns to cope more effectively with stress. It would seem that as a pilot grows in experience, he or she should be able to handle more stress. However, there is a limit to the amount of stress a human being can handle. This limit varies from individual to individual and also varies over the life span. Elderly individuals generally cannot cope as well with the same amount of stress as a younger person.

There are numerous techniques available to cope with the effects of stress, but some of the most helpful techniques are very simple — just make sure you get plenty of exercise, rest, and healthy food. Research studies show that individuals who get less than seven-to-eight hours of sleep per night are not as alert as those who do (Foster & Wulff, 205; Hublin et al., 2007). Additionally, the Operators Guide to Human Factors in Aviation, a compendium of information first published in 2009, cites research to indicate the adverse effects of too much caffeine on pilot judgment and the effects of sitting for too long at a time on pilot performance. Few pilots would think that drinking too much coffee or sitting too long in the cockpit could produce stress, but it does.

Stress can be significantly reduced through increased awareness of one’s personal signs of stress. In addition, stress can be successfully managed through meditation, the practice of constructive self-talk, socializing with friends, deep breathing exercises, muscle tension release exercises, visualization or guided imagery, therapeutic massage, reiki therapy, listening to soothing music, and by being appropriately assertive in meeting your own needs.

Other stress busters include taking a walk for at least 20 minutes a day, journaling aboutyour thoughts and feelings, planning some “alone time” each day, simplifying your life on all levels, and doing at least one thing each day just because it pleases you. Learn to take control of how you spend your time and you will also reduce your stress level in the process.

Stress that isn’t dissipated daily will continue to accumulate over time and either “spill out” at some inappropriate time, such as yelling at your spouse, or become internalized in the form of high blood pressure, migraine headaches, stiff neck, low back pain, chest pain, or an actual heart attack. For that reason, it is important that pilots of all certificate levels learn to recognize their own personal signs of stress and have a plan for dissipating or reducing stress as necessary.

Rossiter Stress graphic

In Conclusion

The best way to cope with stress as a pilot is to do a thorough job of assessing your own fitness for flight. The checklist in Table 1 was devised by the FAA Aeromedical Branch to aid a pilot in determining fitness for flight FAR 61.53 prohibits a person from serving as “a required pilot flight crewmember” if experiencing “a medical deficiency.” In other words, pilots are expected to ground themselves if they have a physical or mental impairment that affects the safety of flight. Flying when you are depressed, angry, physically ill, fatigued, or emotionally stressed out is never a good idea because such conditions can and do impair pilot judgment.

While piloting an aircraft will never be a stress free activity, there are things a pilot can do to minimize the amount of stress experienced. Educating oneself about the effects of stress on human performance generally and on your own performance as a pilot, flight instructor, or crew member in particular can go a long way toward increasing safety of flight and your mental and physical wellbeing.

This is an excerpt from our SAFE magazine. Members get full access to this magazine (and so much more!) Please Join SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.

Sherry Knight Rossiter holds an ATP and CFI-I for both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. She is also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, who has worked extensively with general aviation pilots who have survived aircraft accidents or other frightening flight experiences. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) and teaches online psychology courses for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

SAFE CFI Mentoring Reborn: Share Your Wisdom!

…please share your years of accumulated wisdom and help young CFIs.  Pay it forward!

From a recent FaceBook post by a VFR-only Cirrus pilot:

“First time in 800+ hrs I’ve had to scrub a VFR flight because of weather. The field quickly went marginal to IFR in minutes while I taxied out and did the run up. I waited for 10 min checking the weather and with ATC and it was a losing battle.”

As a responsible flight instructor, don’t the first 15 words of this post ring an alarm bell for you?  How likely do you think is it that a pilot could accumulate more than 800 hours of flight time without ever canceling a VFR flight because of weather conditions?

It’s possible, I’m sure, but there was something about the photo accompanying the post that sent chills up and down my spine. It was the juxtaposition of that beautiful, glowing always-VFR virtual reality screen with the obvious IMC conditions outside.

Cirrus Instruction

Save the nastygrams, I’m not singling out Cirrus pilots. Nearly all new airplanes these days come with glass panels, and all those easy-to-understand visual displays and additional information can help keep a pilot safer.

On the other hand, I believe that for some pilots all those whistles and bells give the false confidence to burrow ever-deeper into deteriorating weather. On Cirrus aircraft, the presence of the red ripcord handle for the parachute can add to overconfidence for judgment-impaired pilots.

In the early days of glass panels, grouchy old instructors would turn up their noses at non-pilots who bought fast, fancy new glass airplanes and expected to be taught to fly in them. The expression often used in those days was “he has more money than brains.”

Again, I’m not picking on Cirrus.  It’s just that this revolutionary aircraft with a parachute was one of the first and by far the most popular all-glass airplane type, and is still a natural choice for well-heeled newbie pilots. In the early years, the Cirrus aircraft accident rate, particularly in weather-involved accidents, was far greater than for other traveling-type airplanes. To its credit, Cirrus redoubled its training efforts and re-emphasized ADM and recurrency for pilots of this type. With that education, the Cirrus’ accident rate now compares favorably with similar GA aircraft.

Bravo, Cirrus!

For CFIs, much of this comes down to teaching pilot judgment. That was difficult enough in Cessna 152s with a single 360-channel navcom, but today some newbies are convinced that all the gadgets in their fancy new technologically-advanced airplane mean it can be used for “anywhere, anytime traveling.”  That makes teaching ADM even more important, also more difficult, and that’s where you, the experienced CFI, come in.

SAFE is re-energizing its Mentor program, which allows experienced SAFE CFI members to sign up via the SAFE web site to advise and counsel less experienced CFIs.  Such advice might be in marketing, transition training or a hundred other topics, not only on how to teach pilot judgment. There’s a convenient sign-up form on our website to share your hard-won expertise and judgment to the younger generation.

Please share your accumulated years of CFI wisdom and help younger instructors.  Login to the member side of the website and fill in the form, we will match you with the many new CFIs seeking an experienced mentor.


MentorLoginJPG

And if you are not a SAFE member yet, this is your cue to join our group of aviation education professionals. Support SAFE in our mission of pursuing aviation excellence. The amazing member benefits alone make this commitment painless and fun. See you at the airport.
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