An Instructor's Joy

From NAFI's Chair

An Instructor's Joy


I've heard more than once from different sources that it's hard to teach millennials to fly, because they don't get the fundamentals. And I've seen a lot of conversation in social media from the current generation of pilots that they don't understand why they need to learn how to use things like E6Bs to learn how to fly an airplane.

Here's an example of the that comes to mind: carburetors. Virtually every modern gasoline powered automobile uses computer-controlled fuel injection to adjust the engine's fuel-air mixture. These lead to a lament that the younger generation doesn't know what a carburetor does, let alone what it is. How can they possibly understand an airplane engine? Yet, I was part of the baby-boomer generation, allegedly the ones (at least we males) that were supposed to love all things automotive, and I can assure you that I had no clue as to how one worked, let alone why fuel/air ratios were so important. And I know that many of my friends were in the same boat. In fact, because I helped restore steam locomotives in my college years, I knew more about how they worked than I did modern internal combustion engines.

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Contributing to Safety

From NAFI's Chair


Contributing to Safety

During the General Aviation Awards webinar this week, Greg Feith, former Senior Air Safety Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, observed, sadly, that this has been a tough month for aviation. Unfortunately, this is true. Losses ranged from a California accident on Super Bowl Sunday that left a pilot and four people on the ground dead, to the Texas crash of an Atlas 767 flying cargo for Amazon a few days ago that left its crew of three dead.   All of these have been tragic and our hearts go out to the families of the lost.

The temptation is always strong to try to figure out what went wrong. That seems to be particularly true with pilots. Perhaps it is because we tend to be analytical or perhaps, to borrow a page from Ernest K. Gann, we try to understand why something about which we are so passionate has caused such grief. Or, most likely, it's a combination of both. I don't know for certain. What is certain, though, is that it is far too early in the investigative process to speculate. The NTSB and FAA will likely find answers and, hopefully, make recommendations that will help prevent future tragedies.


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Teaching the World How to Fly

From NAFI's Chair

Teaching the World How to Fly

In both eMentor and Mentor magazine, I have gone out of my way to avoid telling you what my favorite products might be. I consider this both good manners and good business. Good manners because my opinion is just that - my opinion. I'm sure that in a group as large as NAFI's membership, someone will differ with me and I just don't see a reason to needlessly offend anyone. It's good business because we have many sponsors, some of whom compete for your dollars, and I don't want to be perceived as endorsing, or give the impression that NAFI is endorsing, one fine product over another. These are choices you make as individuals.

Because the exception often proves the rule, and because a headline caught my eye, I'm going to deviate from my policy. EAA recently issued a press release saying it would be honoring the Boeing 747's 50th anniversary at AirVenture 2019. I will say, without apology to anyone, and with all due respect to the fans of the Constellation, DC-3, L1011, Airbus, etc., that the Boeing 747, in all its variants, is the most beautiful transport category aircraft ever built, bar none. The only concession I'll make in this regard is the Dreamlifter - its beauty is on the order of that of the Super Guppy, mainly because their form fills a very special function.

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Procedure vs. Technique

From NAFI's Chair

Procedure vs. Technique

Like many of you, I perform stage checks for other instructors, helping them evaluate and validate their students' progress. I also ask other instructors to do the same for me. Doing this helps ensure that there is objectivity in the process, allows the student to experience flying with another instructor in the airplane, which will be beneficial during the practical test, and provides both the instructor and the student fresh perspective.

I was recently reminded of this when I conducted a simulator session with another instructor's student. Although an advanced aviation training device is not the perfect substitute for the real thing, it did allow me to observe and evaluate the student's procedures, situational awareness, and their ability to handle situations under pressure. This particular student did very well, with a minimum of suggested corrective actions, mostly about more efficient emergency procedures.

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More Than Math

From NAFI's Chair

More Than Math

I recently read a great conversation in the Facebook group "CFI Discussion Group, Certificated Flight Instructor" regarding the use of the venerable E6B. The original poster stated that they had come back to aviation after an over 20-year hiatus and used an electronic E6B during his currency training. His CFI accepted it but admonished him to re-learn the manual "whiz wheel."

A lot of the resulting conversation revolved around the reliability of the manual E6B ("doesn't need batteries!") vs. the accuracy and ease of entering numbers into an electronic device. Being of an age where I can use both a slide rule and a high-end calculator, or, if you prefer, remember how to use a rotary phone while being comfortable with a smart phone, I find these discussions intriguing because I can see both sides. And, to be honest, I use Foreflight for my own charts and flight planning, because it is convenient, easy, and accurate.

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Federal Bureaucracy Returning to Normal

From NAFI's Chair

Federal Bureaucracy Returning to Normal

It will be interesting to see how quickly things return to normal after the longest partial shutdown of the federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Throughout the shutdown there were many concerns expressed and solutions found for such issues as the expiration of temporary pilot and flight instructor certificates. Hopefully, most of that will be behind us soon, if not already.

Normal business with the FAA and other agencies was disrupted, of course. One example of such disruption was the postponement of the FAA UAS Symposium in late February, a major event. Those of us involved in that industry are still waiting the rescheduled date. Other, less dramatic examples are the inability to contact FSDOs, regional and national headquarters, etc. Fortunately, ATC was able to function for the most part, although there was a snarl on the East Coast most notably at New York's LaGuardia, when staffing levels at facilities fell below normal levels due to controllers calling in sick. Additionally, TSA facilities were strained, with some checkpoints closed at some airports, due to higher than normal sick calls. Fortunately, there were no incidents or air accidents related to the shutdown, as nearly as I can determine.

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Do What's Right

From NAFI's Chair

Do What's Right

I've just seen an accident report for something that happened near Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge airport a couple of years ago. According to the NTSB report, a non-IFR pilot descended through an undercast and, at 5,400 feet MSL, according to the radar track, hit a mountain with a 6,500-foot elevation. The pilot apparently had a history of flouting the rules and had been counseled about his behavior by an experienced instructor several times in the past. Sadly, there were two innocent passengers who also perished in the crash. You can read the report here.

This event caught my attention because I've been to that airport, spending a weekend at a time-share with my wife. We flew in when the weather was VMC and, although the Smoky Mountains don't have the high jagged peaks that characterize the mountains of the west, they are very impressive. The minimum safe altitudes for both airway and off-airway navigation highlight the need for being circumspect in navigating the area. A descent into an undercast is always fraught with risks that need to be mitigated, but doing so blindly without knowing why and how the IFR system works strikes me as foolhardy at best and suicidal at worst.

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More About Waypoints

From NAFI's Chair

More About Waypoints

Last week's discussion about Santa using his reindeers' names as navigation fixes prompted a conversation with NAFI's Director of Publications and Editor David Hipschman. He asked if I knew of any good names, and I came up with a few. This prompted him to do a little digging and he found a couple of fun articles, one by Mark Vanhoenacker in Conde Naste Traveler and another by Ken Hoke at AeroSavvy.
 
Both point out that waypoints have to be five characters, unique, and pronounceable by human beings. I'll agree with that to a degree. I remember when the RNAV (GPS) 15 approach into Washington, Missouri, was first published. I was up with a student and told the controller we wanted the procedure turn, carefully omitting the fix name, hoping I'd learn from him how to pronounce it. His response was "Cessna 123, cleared direct to E-QUACKS, er, E-KACKS, uhhhh.... Echo, Quebec, Alpha, X-Ray, Oscar!" Well, that certainly cleared that up! For the record, about 15 years later, I still have no idea how to say it.
 
Of course, there are those that are pronounceable, even if the spelling is odd. For example, there's KUBBS on V84, near my hometown of Chicago, WARBD on the 139 radial of the OSH VOR, or BEEFF, the final approach fix on the ILS 32R into Omaha. The chart makers are obviously inspired by landmarks or other noteworthy things in relation to the waypoint. Sometimes, a bit of humor is involved. I have a low level IFR chart for the St. Louis area that shows what is now called AUGST intersection was once called COORS. I'm sure you've all heard of the RNAV (GPS) 16 at Portsmouth International (KPSM). The waypoints, including the fix for the missed approach and holding point are, in order, ITAWT-ITAWA-PUDYE-TTATT-IDEED. Another procedure with both a bit of humor and local flavor is the PIGLT FIVE (RNAV) arrival into Orlando (KMCO). I'll leave it to you to look that one up, but be warned - you need to be up to speed on your Disney characters.
 
Not all are humorous. I fly the airlines into DC on business fairly often, and like many of us, I follow along on my iPad to stay sharp. Often, we're cleared into Ronald Reagan-Washington National via the FRDMM FOUR (RNAV) arrival. The waypoints are poignant: HONNR-BRVRY-COURG-PLDGE-WEWIL-NEVRR-FORGT-SEPII. That one strikes a chord with me every time.

My favorite waypoint, however, is one involving a late friend. Jim Byrnes was a well-loved instructor and designated examiner in the St. Louis area, with a distinguished career dating to before World War II. Because of his many achievements, the FAA honored him by naming the final approach fix on the VOR 18 approach "BYRNS" in his honor in 1999. Before he passed in 2002, we would often hear Jim announcing on the radio "me - inbound." And whenever I saw Jim, I would tell him I owed him a quarter for each time I'd used "his" intersection while training a student or practicing.
 
If you want to have some fun with your students, see if you can find some of these aviation gems. A good tool to use is AirNav's "sounds like" feature. The exercise might add some spice to your lesson plans.


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Even Santa Practices

From NAFI's Chair

Even Santa Practices

We flight instructors encourage our students, regardless of their level of achievement, to stay proficient. Whether we want a new student to practice landings, encourage a more advanced pilot to learn more about the aircraft they fly, or ensure that the fundamentals aren't forgotten, we want those we touch to be better pilots. This usually results in a pilot spending a lifetime working to get better at their craft, not unlike a musician practicing pieces they have already played hundreds of times before.

Think of it. How many times have you flown the same instrument approaches? They're familiar, like a good book revisited, but, like rereading that book, we seek nuances and new enjoyment. Hold the course more precisely; maintain airspeed while staying on the glideslope, freezing the needles in the center while striving to land on the exact mark on the runway once we've completed the approach. What a great feeling of satisfaction.

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You Might Save A Life

From NAFI's Chair

You Might Save A Life

I had a biennial last week. No, not a flight review. Rather, I needed to complete my recertification in CPR and first aid, something that is required by my employer. This is a wonderful course that teaches us how to perform CPR, the proper use of automatic external defibrillators (also known as AEDs), and how to perform first aid. Like flight training, it's not necessarily easy to learn and remember these skills, but, once you know them, they stay with you.

Our instructor did bring up some sobering statistics, which you can find here, and where you can also find a course to take. There are more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States each year, 70 percent of which are in the home. There is a 90 percent mortality rate for victims prior to reaching the hospital. Effective CPR in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can increase the chance of survival by 2 or 3 times. If CPR is not performed right away, the chances of survival go down 7 percent for every minute of delay. Fewer than 20 percent of Americans are equipped to perform CPR in an emergency.

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Why Not Give a Gift Membership?

From NAFI's Chair

Why Not Give a Gift Membership?

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's a wonderful time when family and friends gather in gratitude for all of the good things that have happened during the year. With the holiday season now upon us it's also when we start small conspiracies with one another to determine the best way to surprise family and friends with meaningful gifts to show our love and appreciation for them. You all know what I mean - "What should we get mom and dad?" or "Do you have any idea what my wife would like?" And, as always, it's not the gift, but the thought and caring behind it that really counts.
 
One of the bigger struggles I've seen over the years is what to give your favorite flight instructor. Often the present ends up being a gift card to a local restaurant or a cash tip. Those are certainly nice, but that's something that anyone can give to anyone else, and  not unique to someone who's in aviation.
 
To help, NAFI has come up with a great stocking-stuffer for our members to use this year. Why not give a NAFI membership to one or more of your favorite CFIs? This truly is the gift that will keep on giving, with all of NAFI's great membership benefits, including the Professional Development Program, eMentor, Mentor magazine, and MentorLive, not to mention discounts and other benefits from NAFI sponsors. What a great way to show someone that you want to help them grow and be successful in their aviation career.
 
We've made the process easy. Simply click this link and you'll be taken to an application form to complete. Be sure to have your recipient's email and address information available when you make the request. You can choose one, two, or three-year memberships as your gift.
 
NAFI membership isn't limited to flight instructors, so if you know someone else who might benefit from NAFI's wealth of knowledge and experience, you may want to consider this gift for them as well. It might just be the nudge that an aspiring flight instructor needs to get going!
 
No matter who receives your gift, they'll know you care about them, their success, and aviation in general. That's a pretty good investment, I'd say.



Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Giving Thanks: How You Can Help

From NAFI's Chair

Giving Thanks: How You Can Help

Thanksgiving is upon us.   Most of us will gather with family and friends tomorrow to celebrate each other and share our good fortune. Some will be deployed at military bases around the world, while others will work in our communities to protect us, minister to our health, transport us, and the myriad other things that keep this complex society running smoothly; we should remember to thank them for their service.
 
As I look back on NAFI's accomplishments this year, I'm thankful for all the hard work of our staff and volunteers.   Through the efforts of Rick Todd, Lauretta Godbey, John Niehaus, David Hipschman, Brandon Brown, NAFI members Harvey "Gus" Putsche and John Teipen, speakers at the Professional Development Center, our Master Instructor Program reviewers, the Professional Development Program (PDP) steering committee, and our volunteers at AirVenture, NAFI has had incredible success this year. I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge NAFI's volunteer Board of Directors as well.
 
Programs such as MentorLive, the PDP, NAFI's increased presence at AirVenture and the AOPA fly-ins, along with the long established NAFI Master Program, Mentor magazine, and eMentor have helped raise the bar in the education and professionalism of the flight instructor community. A special thanks is also due to the NAFI members who have donated their time and expertise to write for Mentor magazine. And the membership is also extremely grateful to NAFI's sponsors and advertisers for their continued support.
 
This Thanksgiving comes at an important juncture in aviation history. There is a huge demand for and subsequent shortage of professional pilots. As a consequence, because flight instruction is a pathway to airline and corporate careers, there is a shortage of flight instructors. Many schools and FBOs have had difficulty in meeting their CFI staffing needs during this time of growth of the industry.
 
This leads to two different categories of flight instructor. For the experienced instructor, including those with well-established careers, there is the desire to grow and become better at the job. These individuals also have a strong desire to give back to the community. New instructors in their first professional aviation experience, often wonder if they're doing the right things. A lot of what I see from these individuals falls into the category of "not knowing what I don't know." This is why your role as a member in helping NAFI provide its programs is so important.
 
To help continue to provide and improve these programs that benefit you, your fellow instructors, and the entire aviation community please consider donating to NAFI. Your financial contribution will help support the NAFI Professional Development Program, MentorLIVE, NAFI's Publications and the NAFI Master Instructor Program.

Simply click this link to donate.
 
Thank you in advance for your generosity and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.




Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

The Common Good

From NAFI's Chair

The Common Good

One of the truisms of becoming flight instructors is that we learn more about flying and about ourselves than we ever thought possible. This is something I say to CFI candidates and inexperienced CFIs all the time, but it's easy to forget.

I was perusing a thread in the Facebook "CFI Discussion Group" launched back in September by a new instructor. He was musing about it being hard to let a new student touch the controls. And I think that was true for a lot of us.

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LSA Changes, Source Says - Discuss

From NAFI's Chair

LSA Changes, Source Says - Discuss

It doesn't take much to get a bunch of pilots, let alone instructors, engaged in a good healthy round of hangar talk. Recently, AvWeb published an article quoting a source saying the FAA is entertaining changing the Light Sport Rules. One of the ideas on the table is possibly increasing the weight limit of a Light Sport Aircraft to 3600 pounds.

The possibility of increasing the maximum gross weight of an LSA is what really caught the attention of the members of one of the CFI Facebook groups I follow. Opinions ranged from this being a good idea to stimulate new construction and/or pilot starts to this being way too much airplane for a beginner. As for "being too much airplane," the counter argument was that, if this is where a pilot starts, they wouldn't know any differently anyway. Another concern that was raised was that this might mean an influx of students that expect to fly Saratogas or Cessna 206s with only 20 hours of training. The response, as you might expect, was that flight training is performance-based and that no good flight instructor would allow a pilot to go on a checkride before they were ready.

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Helping New CFIs

From NAFI's Chair

Helping New CFIs

I happened upon a column this week in the Nebraska Department of Transportation's PIREPS electronic October/November 2018 newsletter. The article was written by Lee Svobada, a well-respected designated examiner in the Omaha area and can be found here.  It was entitled "Delinquent Items" and was a brief listing of the things he has found missing in logbooks and records, be they the applicant's or the aircraft's. In full disclosure, I once sent him a candidate for a single-engine commercial add-on and forgot the endorsement that certified the candidate had received and logged training time from me in the previous two calendar months. That was an embarrassing lesson learned.

Some of items Svoboda passes on in his article are things like an aircraft missing placards, student pilot certificates not having been signed, the applicant checking the wrong class of aircraft (although I'm not sure how that can happen in IACRA) and the CFI has not signed off on the application and so on. Larry Bothe, writing in NAFI's Mentor magazine has made many similar, if not the same points.

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What Should We Do?

From NAFI's Chair

What Should We Do?

The recent event in Melbourne, Florida, where a student pilot attempted to steal an American Airlines Airbus prompted discussion in the flight instructor forums I frequent. In this case, before things got too far, the maintenance crews intercepted the perpetrator and prevented another possible tragedy.

So, as I asked a few weeks ago after the suicide-by-airplane event in Seattle, what is our responsibility as flight instructors? We are the people who have the closest contact with our students, so I suspect that we would notice behavior that is indicative of stress or other issues in their lives. But most of us are not mental health or behavioral experts. Besides, one person's out-of-norm behavior is someone else's eccentricity. In my own case, I think people would be worried about me if I showed up at an aviation event
without one of my cowboy hats.

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Good Instruction and Kudos to Maggie

From NAFI's Chair

Good Instruction and Kudos to Maggie

By now most of you have heard the story of Maggie Taraska, the 17-year old student pilot who, at the start of a solo cross-country flight, experienced an emergency that most of us have never faced. Shortly after takeoff from Beverly Regional Airport in Massachusetts, the pilot of a Waco that was to depart behind her reported to the tower that the right main gear of the Piper Warrior Taraska was flying had fallen off.

When you listen to the audio of the tower communications here, you'll recognize that Taraska was very anxious to find herself in this situation. And, to be perfectly frank, I think most, if not all, of us would be too. I know I would. At this point, things could easily have gone badly, but they didn't.

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Advice for the Grounded

From NAFI's Chair

Advice for the Grounded

One of the bigger challenges I face as chair of NAFI's Board of Directors is filling this space. I am always conscious of the fact that what I write has to be of some interest to NAFI's membership as well as relevant to being flight instructors. Often, these missives are observations that I've made while talking to other pilots, flying with students, flying myself or on commercial airlines for work. I enjoy the challenge and most of your feedback has been positive, for which I'm grateful.

As some of you may know, I'm stuck on the ground for another few months because of a health issue that surfaced back in July. I've been assured that there will be no problems with my flying once I get re-assessed in October, but in the meantime I'm not even allowed to fly on a commercial aircraft, let alone exercise my privileges as a pilot or flight instructor. I find myself spending a lot of my outdoor time looking up when I hear something fly by.

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How to Be Wrong

From NAFI's Chair

How to Be Wrong

Randall Munroe publishes an Internet cartoon strip called "xkcd." A few years ago, he published one that struck me as particularly insightful and funny because the punch line was: "Someone is wrong on the Internet." You can see it here.

The reason that particular cartoon resonated with me is because I've been that guy. Moreover, I think we've all been that guy. And not necessarily when we participate in flame wars on social media.

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A Ways to Go

From NAFI's Chair

A Ways to Go

In a recent conversation with a friend, we started comparing notes about aviation accidents and incidents in the news. I think it started as part of the conversation about last week's successful emergency landing of rapper Post Malone's Gulfstream G-IV after it lost two tires on takeoff from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport. The crew landed the jet safely at Stewart International Airport near Newburgh, New York after circling for several hours to burn off the fuel load it carried for its planned trip to London, England. This was nationwide news, due to the celebrity of the passenger and his entourage of about 16 souls, along with the fact that it was a "slow motion" emergency. That is, one that played out slowly enough to where the news services could get into position to cover it live.

From there, our conversation continued into the fact that there are a lot of incidents and accidents that don't rise to that level of public awareness, for whatever reason. I've become somewhat more aware of them due to social media. In the various groups to which I belong, there are many stories from around the world where we share what has happened recently, all too often sharing condolences.

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