Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: AOPA (Page 2 of 4)

Aviation Stories for April 1, 2011

Hmmm, April Fool’s Day. That leaves the door open for all sorts of stories – but I’ll be nice and only link to articles that are factual – to the best of my knowledge. B-17 bomber dropping a watermelon.

It was a pretty light reading week – I guess everybody went to Sun-n-Fun.

High school students tackle an unusual restoration project
A group of Kentucky high school students are going to restore a Cessna 195 that has been donated to their school. The aircraft spent the majority of its flying life in Pakistan and, according to the aircraft records, may have been used as a ‘spy’ plane, keeping track of activity in India.

After-school high school group teaches kids about aviation.
An after-school group promoting aviation has been formed at the Woodstock High School in northern Illinois. The group, supported by the EAA Young Eagles takes the program a few steps farther in teaching the basics of aviation. This looks like a great effort.

In case you have been in an aviation vacuum for the past 36 hours
A violent storm moved through the Sun-n-Fun area yesterday. Here is the AOPA coverage of the damage. No serious injuries, but several aircraft and vendor displays destroyed. The show is back up and running today (Friday)

Aviation legend decides now is the time to retire.
I wonder how may other designers have five aircraft hanging in the Smithsonian. This is an LA Times article covering the career of Burt Rutan upon his decision to retire from his work at Scaled Composites.

One more check mark in the iPad column
Apparently announced at Sun-n-Fun, a company has found a way to provide XM weather to the iPad. The plan is to have it available by mid-summer this year. (Another AOPA article).

Another chance to fly in a restored WWII warbird.
This is from a Bakersfield, CA paper. It covers the touring the a P-40 and B-17 owned/flown by the Liberty Foundation from Georgia.

A CFI Workshop

I attended a couple of meetings this week – one put on by the FAASTeam and one a local EAA Chapter pancake breakfast. Both included things I thought you might be interested in hearing.

FAASTeam, in case you haven’t seen the term before, is the FAA Safety Team. they have a website at where they list scheduled seminars, host the AMT and Wings programs, host online courses and provide information for pilots, instructors and mechanics. It’s well worth the time to check it out.

CFI Workshop1926 tram workshop.

The FAASTeam hosted a CFI workshop, one of their quarterly series of workshop meetings that have been scheduled the two years. The local FSDO has two more modules scheduled and then the program will be terminated – a victim of budget cuts I imagine. This particular module topic was GPS and teaching in TAA. The briefings were informative, but the value of the meeting to me came with presentations by the three DPEs in attendance.

Each of the DPEs had a few minutes to talk about some of the things that they have seen administering evaluations in the local area. The question that kept coming into my mind was: Who is teaching these students?

On a PPL evaluation in a TAA the applicant did a good job until they were climbing out after take-off. At that point the applicant put his head inside the cockpit and started working on the electronics without looking back outside. The climb rate reduced and the plane accelerated – directly at a mountain. The DPE waited as long as he felt he safely could, then directed the applicant to look out the window, turn away from the high terrain – and fly back to the airport for a full-stop landing. I just read a couple of the AOPA CFI-to-CFI newsletters and one presentation slide came to mind: Cockpit Distractions can be deadly – fly the airplane, not the panel.

Another applicant failed the instrument check ride for failing to insure that the course/glideslope indicator was displaying the selected ILS navigation source  rather than displaying GPS information. And then failed the recheck for doing exactly the same thing. Why is this not something that you check on your approach briefing?

More than one instrument applicant failed for descending on the approach before passing the published descent point on a segment of the approach. In training the applicant had flown approaches over and over at the same airport and had been vectored to the final final approach course intercept inside the descent point every time. This would result in the need to descend as soon as the course was intercepted in order to arrive at the minimum altitude for the approach before reaching the missed approach point. This time traffic at the airport was light and the radar vectors resulted in an intercept about 8 miles from the airport. The applicant, void of situational awareness,  pulled the power off and started down as soon as he intercepted the final approach course – and aimed right at a small mountain between his position and the airport. This is rote learning at it’s most dangerous.

Another applicant flew the instrument approach in his high performance single at about 140 knots – with the landing gear up. When asked about the approach he stated that he had never landed out of an instrument approach – they had always done missed approaches to set up for the next approach.

Another never set up his instrument panel for the published missed approach – he had always received radar vectors after terminating the approach at the missed approach point.

While we’re on the subject of missed approaches, one of the DPEs said he could virtually assure a confused, inconsistent result when he would direct a missed approach at a point anywhere in the instrument approach procedure  other than at the missed approach point.

I’ve only included the check ride failure modes that really struck me. I really hope these were in the minority and that most applicants received comprehensive, professional instruction.

Maybe we should change the certificate name to Instructor of Flight rather than Flight Instructor. It seems we need some way to place more emphasis on the Instruction part of the certificate rather than the Flight part. CFI’s have to first be teachers – it just happens that the course that they are teaching is Flight. As instructors, CFIs  have to teach the students the basics of the particular course and then progress to the advanced segments – which is real-world flying at that certificate level. Of course, that means that the instructor has to have real-world experience.

Teaching maneuvers at the rote level so that on a good day the applicant can meet the minimum requirements for the rating is not doing students any favors and is certainly not preparing the student to fly in our current airspace system.

What do you think?

Another Problem With Flight Instruction

There has been something of an uproar lately about the FAA changing questions in the knowledge test bank for a couple of their tests without telling anybody. Taking a written test.

It seems that this has resulted in an increase in the failure rate for those tests.  AOPA and NAFI, among others, are complaining to the FAA that the changes are unfair. Hmm.

The tests with the changes in the question bank are for the Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI), Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and Flight Engineer (FE) ratings.  The AOPA website has an article about the changes with the following quote:

AOPA is not opposed to changes in the knowledge test bank; however, those changes must be coordinated with those providing training for applicants, said AOPA and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) in a March 3 letter to the FAA. “Unannounced changes in evaluation standards accomplish nothing for learning; it only results in increased student failures, lost time, travel expense and an extra $140 – $150 paid by the students to retake the exam,” said the letter from Kristine Hartzell, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs and Jason Blair, NAFI’s executive director.

OK, I can see that it is AOPA’s job to try and protect pilots from unnecessary costs, etc. But they have also been complaining about the fatal accident rate and the poor condition of the flight instruction industry.

Question: Why would changing the questions in the test bank cause more test failures if the students were being taught the material to the proper level of understanding?

If we are taught to the Correlation Level (refer to the FOI manual if that is an unfamiliar term), a change in the wording of the questions or the questions themselves should have no effect – we know the material well enough to answer correctly. Do you think that maybe we’re just learning what we have to learn in order to pass the test? I admit to studying the material and then getting the test bank and studying only the correct answer. We’ve probably all been there. But is that what we really should be doing?

The FOI information is pretty dull for a pilot – not much ‘real’ aviation in there. But that’s not the purpose of the test – that test is required in order to become a Flight Instructor. It is probably the only information/instruction that we will ever get on how to be a teacher. It sounds like we’re not learning the material very well – and the quality of flight instruction complaints in the recent surveys seem to bear this out.

Isn’t the ATP rating supposed to be the PhD of aviation ratings? Aren’t the pilots who hold that rating supposed to be the most knowledgeable and experienced of all of us? Shouldn’t someone testing for that rating be able to correlate the information well enough to correctly answer at least 70% of the questions on the test?

The FAA publishes the subject matter that they feel is required for the various ratings (14 CFR Part 61). They are limited to testing only those subjects. They publish a Learning Statement Reference Guide that contains the question codes that we receive on our test results report if we miss a question. Each code has its knowledge item for the question – a specific piece of information that we are supposed to know.

We know the subject areas that are going to be tested. If we learn the material well enough, then we shouldn’t need to know the question that is going to be asked.

In any other course that you have taken, did the school or instructor give you the test questions before you took the test so that you could study them? Not in my experience. Yeah, somebody always seemed to have a file of old tests that the instructor had used – but historical results do not guarantee future success.

Bottom line: Learn the material like your life depends upon it – it does.


Added 3/16/2011:
Today Scott Spangler over at Jetwine published a post about this subject – the FAA changing the test questions. He did considerably more research into the details of the FAA actions than I did. I understand his position, but I still don’t see how it changes the need to know the subject matter not just the test questions.

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