Learn to Fly
7 day IFR Rating
Flying with a new pilot is always interesting. I immediately get
sense of pilot skill from informal conversation. What I don't
pick up in casual conversation is evident quickly because performance
speaks for itself. Most are accurately aware of their limitations
abilities and seek training to overcome those weaknesses. As the
Flight Instructor, it's very easy to
judgment of a pilot's skill when you're not the one doing the
the student's perspective, being subjected to flight training or flight checks causes anxiety and
All of our weaknesses
pilot are exposed and excuses are never effective. Since all
performance degrades under pressure, what remains for us is:
awareness and error management.
Errors are defined as "actions or inactions by the flight crew that
lead to deviations from intentions or expectations". Unmanaged or
mismanaged errors will lead to an undesired aircraft state.
Errors in flight operations tend to reduce the margins of safety and
increase the probability of an undesirable event. Errors can be
spontaneous (without apparent threat), the result of mismanaged
threats, or part of an error chain.
Consider these levels of error
- Errors are not recognized or mitigated.
- Errors are recognized but skill to mitigate is
- Errors are recognized and eventually mitigated.
- Errors are recognized, managed, and mitigated in a
- Errors are recognized, managed, and mitigated
Implications for Flight Instructors, Pilot Examiners: Scoring
anything below a 3 on a given maneuver is unsatisfactory for
proficiency checks, and check rides. Scoring 3 and higher
pilot to exhibit not only the logic and computational skills to detect
an error, but also the motor skills to effect a change in the operating
profile to resolve the error. Achieving higher scores only
time in aircraft type performing and learning maneuvers and
understand that error management is about quickly
- Resisting or preventing error (Threat Management).
- Resolving or mitigating error (Error Management).
- Determining where you are and what comes next.
The effect of these actions is the consequence which can be scored as
depicted above. This requires situational awareness by knowing
going on with and around the aircraft and how it is going to affect you
in the immediate future. It is the pilot not flying or the
flight instructor's responsibility to monitor pilot performance (Pilot
challenge errors. It's the pilot's
responsibility to express doubt or uncertainty so that the PNF or
flight instructor can effectively provide guidance for the proper
The errors that pilots make fall within five basic categories.
They are intentional non-compliance, procedural error, faulty
communication, lack of proficiency/skill, and decision making.
Examples of non-compliance is failure to follow checklists, failure to
follow guidance in the FAR/AIM, and failure to follow good safety
practices. An example of a procedural error is a mistake in the
execution of checklists/procedures. Examples of faulty
communication include readback error and miscommunication with
ATC. Proficiency and skill errors relate to basic airmanship
skills that are lacking. Decision making skills improve when
situational awareness is improved.
Types of activities
which enhance situational awareness
- Review clearance to
determine adherence to it.
time, airspace, heading, and altitude limits will give good error cues
when non normal
conditions exist. I once gave a clearance to a private pilot
rated student to descend to and maintain 1500 feet. During his
various vectors to keep him occupied about every 300 feet. As his
descent progressed, I had to give him vectors to an open field because
went through his assigned altitude of 1500 feet and at 400 AGL I
finally took control of the airplane and asked him to go visual and see
what was going on. When I asked him why we were so low to the
he had no answer as to how it happened.
- Thoroughly brief your
approach and conduct it as briefed.
and rehearsing procedures builds skill and helps a pilot resist error.
Another private pilot rated student briefed a localizer approach to a
non-towered airport to me. When he
arrived at his minimums of 600 feet AGL he leveled out and waited for
the missed approach point. I watched as the missed approach point
and went. He continued three miles past the missed approach point
unaware that the DME was now climbing again. When he was on
final for a 30 story hotel, I asked him to go visual and land the
aircraft. He went below the minimums without an airport in sight
a hotel three miles in front of him. When he was stabilized on
go-around, I asked him how it happened, he indicated he didn't know.
- Be vigilant to situations
which deteriorate rapidly and be
execute plan B. Arriving at a cross country destination, I
to my private pilot rated student that he obtain the local weather from
ATIS. What should have come naturally was obtaining and analyzing
weather for the airport he planned to land at. When he obtained
weather, direct crosswinds at 15 knots were present. He did not
correctly recognize that was near the maximum demonstrated crosswind
capability of the aircraft and was likely to be beyond his
Getting closer, I gave him a briefing on crosswind technique. I
similar briefing when he turned downwind, again when he turned base,
and again on 1 mile final. Over the runway at 50 feet AGL in a 30
degree bank, my student asks, "What do I do?" After I took
landed, and shut down, I reviewed the better choices with him (such as
- Trap Procedural Errors. Follow
checklists carefully, follow procedures and execute maneuvers properly,
and know the pilot's operating handbook limitations and
procedures. By sticking to these golden rules, you'll trap the
inevitable error that is part of human nature.
- Manage workload.
Use the resources within the cockpit
effectively manage workload and prepare for threats to situational
awareness. Using automation in the cockpit such as GPS, radio
altimeters, TCAS, as well as resources outside the cockpit such as FSS
and ATC can help you prevent and resist errors.
- Make stable
approaches. Executing a stabilized approach
keeps the pilot ahead of the aircraft to monitor non-normal conditions
and become aware of error cues.
- Ask questions: what
comes next? what
Do you have taxi diagrams when you land? Are your
radios preset when you are “in-range”? Do you
ensure you have weather before you land? Do
have the fuel to get there? What's the missed approach? How
do I do the next thing I gotta do?
- Review and practice,
obtain training, plan and prepare your
reaction to a non-normal event so that it is not the first time you've
ever done it.
where you are & where other traffic is operating
A student once asked me, "How do things fall apart so quickly?"
answer is as different as every pilot. This list of threats to
flight is from thousands of hours monitoring pilot errors and offering
guidance to get them back on track. Consider them red-flag events
which may prevent you from safely executing the planned flight.
- Failure to see the cues that an error is occurring.
drifting off heading, altitude, or airspeed leads to large
deviations. Why are you 100 feet below the assigned altitude and
still trending downward at 500FPM?
- Failure to investigate the unusual or ambiguous cues.
Why is the engine running rough?
- Failure to understand the risk of the
behaviour. Why are you 100 feet below minimums and
continuing beyond the missed approach point?
- Law of expectancy, failure to appreciate differences in
the current situation.
- Failure to react to changing conditions and prepare for the
out" or the execution of a plan B.
- Jumping to inaccurate
- Non-stable, rushed approaches & descents.
- Lack of effective briefing. (Departure, Take-off, or
- Getting Behind the Aircraft: Allowing
events or the situation to control your actions rather than the other
- Neglect of proper operating rules, flight
& fuel planning, knowing all available information about your
- Failure to follow checklists, while the
aircraft is stopped, and with your full focus.
- Failure to divide attention between two
tasks by avoiding fixation.
- IFR operations: descent below
continuing beyond the missed approach point.
- Environment of flight: unfamiliar
airport, unexpected weather, ATC, equipment malfunction.
- communication with ATC or passengers,
- busy work such as chart review, GPS programming, checklists
- traffic alerts, looking for traffic instead of monitoring the flight
In the next article, I'll discuss the Undesired Aircraft State, it's
implications, and a case study to help you integrate TEM into your
the Wright brothers were alive today Wilber would have to fire Orville
to reduce costs."
Herb Kelleher, 1931-, founder Southwest Airlines, USA Today, June 8,
Cost-Cutting & Saving Strategies
1. Southwest's most effective strategy at cutting costs is its
point-to-point short haul service.
2. First airline to sell directly to customers instead of through
travel agents -- saving anywhere from 5-10 percent on cost
3. Kelleher chose not to use the airline computer reservation system
that other airlines were using (and paying for)
4. Southwest designed as a "no-frills" airline offered no meal service
5. Southwest only uses Boeing 737s, meaning pilots and mechanics only
need to be trained on this type of aircraft.
6. Southwest didn't enter a new market unless it was assured of a
minimum of four daily flights there.
7. Use fuel contracts to hedge for the best price in a tough market
8. Allow employees to "be themselves"