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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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About Flight Reviews

From NAFI's Chair

About Flight Reviews

Periodically, the subject of flight reviews and whether or not a pilot "passes" one comes up in conversation or shows up in social media. This is one of those areas of flight instruction that necessitates a business discussion about time and pricing -- the bottom line for me is really about communication, and how good a job we do explaining the flight review process, the time it may take and what it might cost.
 
To damp down any possible confusion among older pilots, I'm talking about what the FAA previously referred to as a biennial flight review, abbreviated BFR. Information directly from the FAA about conducting an effective flight review can be found here. Meanwhile, a discussion of the separate but related subject of "stage checks," and how members feel about them appears in the next issue of Mentor's Feedback/Briefs section which you'll be seeing in September.
 
The most recent example I have comes from the Facebook group CFI Discussion Group, Certificated Flight Instructor. One of its members described a situation where a client didn't meet the minimum standards for a flight review, and how that client felt that they were being cheated by the instructor, particularly after that instructor told the client he'd be happy to provide additional training at the hourly rate.
 
Having been in this situation myself, I'm going to take the instructor at his word. I've withheld a flight review endorsement on the basis of performance. As the author of the post pointed out, if something happens to someone after I give them the endorsement, I'll likely have to spend a fair amount of time answering questions, at the very least. More importantly, I take the moral obligation of ensuring that a pilot is competent to fly and be safe in the National Airspace System pretty seriously. After all, these are people with family and friends who count on them, and we all share in the use of the sky.
 
Frankly, for the ground portion of the review, I have a lot of difficulty understanding how we can meet the requirements of 14CFR61.56 in only one hour. It usually takes me about two hours to go through the material recommended by the FAA publication
Conducting an Effective Flight Review, which I linked to above. As for the flight portion, by the time we get out to the practice area, do the maneuvers the pilot and I discussed, and come back and land, we're looking at about 1.3 to 1.5 hours. And this is assuming that all of the activity meets standards. If there's an area that needs work, the time needed goes up accordingly.
 
My strategy is to advise the pilot up front that this will take more than the minimum of one hour on the ground and in the air. I also let them know that there is no guarantee that I will sign them off. I also let them know that we will both assess their performance, but that I am the final arbiter. I've found that establishing ground rules in this manner saves a lot of heartache later. I can't think of a time when someone gave me grief about a flight review that needed extra time.
 
This all leads me to the question of the pilot who feels aggrieved that they didn't pass in the minimums or didn't pass at all. We've all heard stories of pilots that "go shopping" for someone that will just sign them off. Given the current regulations, that kind of behavior probably can't be stopped. So how do we encourage pilots to take the opportunity to improve their skills and instructors to uphold high standards during flight reviews? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Aviation and Mental Health

From NAFI's Chair

Aviation and Mental Health

I seem to have taken on the task in eMentor of asking you to watch for your own, your families' and your clients' wellbeing. This concern, as you've read, arose from things that happened to me and I thought we might all benefit from the lessons learned. I'm going to suggest again that we watch out for each other, this time, in reaction to the national and international news regarding "suicide by airplane."
 
By now, you must be aware of the theft Friday in Seattle of an empty Horizon Air Q400 turboprop by a ground service agent for that company, and what the NTSB has called its intentional crashing and the employee's death. Although many not familiar with aviation were somewhat astounded that he could start and fly the aircraft, several knowledgeable people, including NAFI President Rick Todd, helped inform the media. (See stories below).
 
A less noted incident is one that happened in Utah on Monday. Police said a commercial pilot stole his employer's Citation and crashed it into his own home in an apparent suicide, and apparently an attempt to kill his wife and step-son. He had been arrested for domestic violence and released on bail earlier the same day.
 
These incidents, along with the 2015 Germanwings murder/suicide involving an Airbus A320 that killed 150 and led the EU to implement psychological screening of airline pilots, and a student's suicide that nearly took the life of a flight instructor in Connecticut in 2016, are tragedies for the dead, survivors and their families. Many are also already discussing what effect the latest events might have on aviation security on a national and international level.
 
However, right now I'm thinking about individual human beings, which prompts me to ask you to look out not only for the physical wellbeing of the people close to you and in your instructing endeavors, but also for their emotional state. Stress and depression can take on many forms and there is no shame in either offering or accepting help or comfort. I'll touch on this topic in the upcoming Mentor magazine, but consider the many resources available to you or your family, friends, colleagues, or students in times of need.

One resource is www.BeThe1to.com. Your state, county or employer will also have resources. To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Watch Out for Each Other

From NAFI's Chair

Watch Out for Each Other

A few weeks ago, I wrote about summer heat and being careful to monitor your condition as well as that of your students. Something happened to me since then that made me want to reach out to all of you to ask that you redouble your efforts paying attention to your own health and your family's, friends', and students'. Before I go further, I want to note that I'm not telling this story for sympathy. Rather, it's a cautionary tale to my fellow instructors to be careful of our tendency to dismiss aches and pains, being the type-A achievers most of us tend to be.

This started on the Sunday a week before AirVenture. I woke up with the worst back pain I'd ever had in my life. I was convinced that I pulled a muscle when I tossed a backpack over my shoulder the day before. I elected to take the day off and watch a couple of movies and just relax. During the day, no matter how I sat or lay down, I just could not find a comfortable position.

The next day, after a pretty restless night, my back hurt even more. I decided to go to the clinic at my office to find out just what I'd done to myself. About halfway through a three-block walk from my apartment to my office, I called a co-worker, Kevin, and asked him to meet me on the way and help by carrying my backpack. Just before the company promoted him, Kevin had been an EMT with a volunteer department near St. Louis. When he met me, he took one look at me and said, "Why don't I get my car and take you to the emergency room? That's what they'll do anyway." I thought about it for about a minute, realized that, in my company's culture, if I'd said the same thing to another employee, I'd expect them to go, so I agreed.

Long story short, at the ER, after a series of tests, X-rays and CAT scans, I was informed I had blood clots (pulmonary embolisms) in both lungs. I was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis after being put on blood thinner. Fortunately, there's no damage to my heart or lungs, and I was released the next afternoon after an uncomfortable night. The really good news is that, because this isn't congenital or disease-caused, there's very little likelihood of recurrence, as the doctors think it was the result of a bad bruise on my calf about six weeks ago. The only downside is that I'm just not allowed to fly anything (not even the back of an airliner) for the next three to six months, depending on the results of a follow up in October. More good news is that I've been reassured by both AOPA and the FAA medical folks that getting my medical back should be straightforward. I'll keep you apprised of that process.

There's a saying attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that has been adopted into aviation that goes, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." Here's what I want you to learn from mine. I thought I had a pulled muscle in my upper back, compounded by sleeping awkwardly. I've been told by the doctors that if I'd continued to self-diagnose and hadn't listened to my friend, this story might have had a very different outcome and that I'm very, very lucky. Regardless of age or overall health, if you or someone you know has an unexplained pain or irritation or even a small wound or bruise that won't go away, get it checked out by a professional - the worst that will happen is maybe some embarrassment and a bill. Think of it as doing a precautionary landing, if that helps. In my case, that "precautionary landing" proved to be a lifesaver.


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

Stay Cool, Fly Safe

From NAFI's Chair

Stay Cool, Fly Safe


Every one of us has at some point deviated from strict adherence to the AIM Pilot/Controller Glossary. Sometimes it's for a request that might not have been anticipated by the Glossary's writers, such as asking a controller to call for a go around as a training exercise for a student or asking them to "forget" a turn on to a localizer or final approach to see how an instrument student handles the situation, and so on.

Sometimes the conversation falls well outside the glossary. We all have humorous stories about what we've heard or said over the years. I have a collection of my own verbal transgressions, some of which I intended to make, others, well, let's just say no one's perfect. One of my favorite examples was when I was returning to St. Louis after one particularly hot AirVenture five years ago. In fact, it stands out in my mind as being one of the hottest weeks I'd ever spent in Wisconsin, let alone at the show.


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Celebrate Your Freedoms

From NAFI's Chair

Celebrate Your Freedoms


A co-worker of mine has always been interested to see what it was like to fly an airplane.  A few days ago, I took him up for about an hour so he could have that experience.  As with any introductory flight, I ensured that the ride would be on a nice day with little or no turbulence.  We, of course, had a briefing beforehand covering the basics, including sterile cockpit, seat belt usage, what to do in an emergency, and so on.
What my friend hadn't expected was the part about exchanging controls.  When he expressed his surprise, I told him that it'd be a lot more fun for him if he got to actually fly the airplane - besides, I already know how to fly.

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Do the Right Thing

From NAFI's Chair

Do the Right Thing


There's a long-out-of-print book called The Conversion of Chaplain Cohen, by Herbert Tarr. It's about a young rabbi who is afraid to fly and finds himself in the U.S. Air Force, SAC specifically. It's a touching book that I think you'll enjoy if you can get your hands on it.

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Summertime Flying

From NAFI's Chair

Summertime Flying

The summer solstice is net week, which means that, as the great Nat King Cole sang, "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" are upon us. Baseball, hot dogs, the beach, camping, all of the fun stuff we like to do in our spare time. For us as pilots and instructors, that means airshows, fly-ins, EAA AirVenture, $100 hamburgers, or just going up for a ride to look at the countryside. It also means we're likely to be busier now with clients, whether they're new pilots, pilots participating in the Wings program, flight reviews, new ratings, what-have-you.

I was reminded of this as I flew on an airliner from St. Louis to Omaha this week. Normally, this is pretty straightforward - take off from runway 12L at St. Louis Lambert, fly to Omaha, and land on 14R at Omaha Eppley. I've done it often enough that I know how the route is filed and how long it takes (48 minutes from takeoff to touchdown). Not this time, though. On this occasion, there was a vee-shaped line of thunderstorms with an apex near Des Moines that was also filling in. Our flight crew elected, wisely I think, to go all the way past Wichita and then make a turn to the right to come in on the back side of the weather that had already passed to the east of Omaha. Great ride, and everyone on the right side of our aircraft witnessed a light show, at the small price of an extra hour in the air.

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Are You a Leader?

From NAFI's Chair

Are You A Leader?

I recently had a great conversation with a good friend regarding leadership. What impressed me was that it wasn't the usual platitudes attempting to define what a good leader is, but instead contained a few of my friend's more down-to-earth observations. One, for example is: "Do you love your people enough to want to help them and help them grow?" The other was: "A good leader gives his followers small tasks at first, making those tasks incrementally more challenging and larger. This will cause your followers to grow and get better at their jobs, making them leaders as well." Finally, "A great leader is someone who will crawl through the mud to give someone a clean dish towel if they need it."

Flight instructors are leaders. By the very nature of the learning and instructor pilot relationship, it has to be that way. Even if it's two peers flying together, the moment one takes on the instructing role, the relationship shifts to one where the instructor is leading the way. That does not mean that there's anything necessarily overt happening or, perhaps worse and very artificially, the instructor saying, "I am your leader - follow." In fact being overt or obtuse like that will likely get a very negative response.

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Learning From Non-Aviation Professionalism

From NAFI's Chair

Learning From Non-Aviation Professionalism

I had to go to the dentist last week. Nothing special, just a routine checkup and cleaning. No problems were found. The reason I'm telling you about this isn't to complain about dentists or even routine medical appointments in general, because, on the face of it, this really doesn't have anything to do with NAFI or even aviation.

The reason I bring it up is because of the trust involved. I was allowing a dental hygienist, someone with sharp implements in her hands, to reach deep into my mouth. She also had a small hose in her hand with which she could easily soak or even drown me, if she so chose. At the same time, she trusted me not to reflexively bite her hands while she was flossing my teeth and doing all the other things necessary for good dental hygiene. Finally, when I did  mention a slight sensitivity in one of my molars, I allowed the doctor to reach in to my mouth with a small hammer to tap it (good news - there's nothing on the X-ray and the tap test only rang in my ear).

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Feeling Proud, You Should Be Too

From NAFI's Chair

Feeling Proud, You Should Be Too

I'm taking a pretty amazing trip. Starting about 10 days ago, I traveled from Omaha to San Francisco to Honk Kong, then back to Omaha via San Francisco. As I write this, I'm in transit to Baltimore for the FAA sUAS symposium and plan to be back in Omaha by tomorrow evening.   The trip will total about 19,280 air miles over 14 days and 19 pilots will fly the jetliners.

 
OK, so what's the big deal, you might ask? Well, considering that roughly 100 years ago this trip would not even have been possible, and that it would have been an incredible undertaking back when I was born, I sit in amazement. Not so much anymore at the engineering or the technology. Those have become routine. We as a civilization have pretty much figured out air travel.
 
What amazes me is the training and the discipline that have gone into mastering the process. None of this happens without the professionals in all aspects of aviation, including the pilots, cabin crews, dispatchers, rampers, meteorologists, staff support, various regulatory bodies around the world, and on and on that go into enabling all of the technology to safely transport people and cargo rapidly and efficiently around the world.
 
Obviously, my bias is towards the flight instruction piece of the equation. As I look back on all of this, 19 individuals on the flight decks in 777ERs and 737s worked diligently to move me, my fellow passengers, and cabin crews all of those miles - without fanfare, without fuss. That takes training, both initial and recurrent.
 
These thoughts were triggered as I gazed upon an Airbus at a gate neighboring my flight's 777ER in Hong Kong. A young man I helped train in St. Louis is now based in Hong Kong and flies those very same Airbuses on intercontinental trips for one of the majors.
 
So it is with no small measure of pride that I say that I have and continue to contribute to this amazing infrastructure in my small way. Consider these musings when you next fly with a student, regardless of whether the lesson is an intro flight or the final prep for an advanced rating. And share the pride I feel.
Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
 

What Is A Pilot?

From NAFI's Chair

What Is A Pilot?
I n a recent conversation with a good friend who's a flight instructor, NAFI member, and Part 135 pilot, the subject of "drones") came up. He told me that he hated the fact that Part 107 certificate holders were considered pilots.    
 
I pointed out to him that I have a Remote Pilot certificate myself. His response was something to the effect that, "Yes, but you got that on the basis of your commercial certificate and flight review." What my friend was referring to was the ease in which a Part 61 pilot with a current flight review can obtain a Remote Pilot certificate under Part 107. 
 
That conversation and the cover article by Joe Clark and John Robbins in the latestMentor magazine prompted these thoughts. As I've stated in the past, with the ease of use and the popularity of sUASs, entire new industries are springing up around them. In terms of certification alone, the FAA forecasts that there will be 301,200 remote pilots by the year 2022. By that date, the FAA predicts that there will be between 415,000 and 717,000 non-model aircraft in the registry. This is explosive growth by any definition.
 
That begs the question which is at the root of my friend's conversation and the article - are the people who are entering the system "pilots?" That is, regardless of the rating they've received, are they well trained enough to be in National Airspace System, interacting with manned aircraft as well as other unmanned aerial systems? Given the number of aircraft and some of the more ambitious plans of companies like Amazon, as well as local law enforcement and fire/rescue officials, this is a conversation that is being voiced in both the manned and unmanned aviation worlds.
 
Regardless of how you may feel about remote pilots and drones, this is the future - unmanned systems will not go away and we best embrace that fact. At this early stage, this is the opportunity for the flight instruction community to work with the regulators, manned aircraft pilots, and the unmanned flight industry to successfully and safely integrate both the new technology and its operators into the system. There are a lot of very smart people working on these issues, and more. And, universally, I've found that the newcomers to aviation, both the remote pilots and the manufacturers, are eager for our input and guidance. This is true at both an industry and an individual level.
 
So to answer my friend's question: Yes, by FAA regulation, drone operators are pilots. To answer his concern: Let's help them be pilots through our outreach.
Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair