Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: FAASTeam

More CFI Workshop Notes

I attended another CFI workshop session but on by the FAASTeam in the Reno area. This workshop covered two modules, the Sport Pilot rules and the process of submitting certificate online known as IACRA.Preflight Inspections are one of the problem areas seen on Private Pilot checkrides.

Both modules were good overviews of their subjects and we had some nice discussions among the attendees. There was a sparse turnout this night – probably because the weather here in Reno has finally turned good enough to fly. We’ve had a terrible Spring so far – lots of clouds, cold temperatures and wind. I believe  one of the ski hills is still in operation – now mid-June.

As usual, the really interesting part of the evening came at the conclusion of the formal presentation when the three DPE’s (Designated Pilot Examiner) in attendance told us about the ‘problem areas’ that they have seen on check rides since the last workshop. Eye-opening once again.

One area – not teaching students to handle anything other than a total engine failure. Huh? Yes, it’s nice to put some emphasis on what to do if the engine quits – establish that maximum glide, look for a landing site and then, if you have time, troubleshoot the problem. But what if that’s not the problem?

What if the examiner says “You have black smoke and orange flames coming out of the cowling.” Some, but not all, students remembered to turn off the fuel. But then the vast majority followed up with – establish that maximum glide, look for a landing site and then, if you have time, troubleshoot the problem. Sound familiar? Dude! Why are you not pointing the airplane directly at the ground and putting it anywhere on terra firma before the fire burns through the firewall – or an engine mount? Not even a hint from the examiner like “Gee, the floor seems to be getting hot” made a difference.

There are probably a dozen or so emergency procedures in the manufacturer-supplied operating manual. Your student should be intimately familiar with every one of them. Face it – it may be the only time they are and they need to know that those procedures exist and how they work.

While we’re on the topic of finding that landing spot – What happened to the concept of energy management? One of the DPE’s gave a student the engine failure virtually abeam a runway – at altitude – and the student missed the 6000′ runway completely.  After lots and lots of maneuvering he arrived over the numbers at 1000′. Another at a different airport did a little better – he missed a 4000′ runway.

Sounds like these students were being taught to the ROTE level – unable to analyze the situation, adapt procedures to existing conditions and make corrections to ensure a successful outcome.

The DPEs also had a few failures before they even got into the airplane – just on the preflight alone. They attributed it to the instructor telling the student to go out and get the preflight done, he, she would meet them at the plane in a few minutes.  The examiner asked the student random questions during the preflight about what they were looking at and why – simple enough, right?  Many could not identify what a particular antenna did. One thought the aileron counterweights were metal stiffeners. And another identified the nosewheel shimmy dampener as part of the hydraulic system that controlled the nosewheel brakes.

I really don’t understand all this. Did the instructors for these students just not care what they were teaching their students – or did they not even know the material themselves? Yes, students will usually be pretty nervous for their check ride but the examiner will  take that into account. These examples weren’t due to nerves – they were a lack of knowledge and ability.

There’s always an argument about the cost of learning to fly – these students were not getting what they paid for – and that’s the problem with the cost of learning to fly. Quality is not expensive – crap for the same price is.

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 faasafety.gov 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?

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