(November 2011) Remember when the examiner handed you your temporary pilot’s certificate and said something on the order of “this is just a license to learn”?
Most of us begin, after pocketing our hard-won certificate and no longer under the aegis of our instructor, a period of self-taught learning as we experience the nuts and bolts of flying. Unfortunately, for too many, the school of hard knocks renders a sometimes-painful education from usually negative experiences.
The following online pilot training resources educational programs (in no particular order) will keep you up to date on changes to the regulations and best practices and put you in contact with experts from whom you can learn — without having to expose yourself to the painful hard knocks.
The Flying magazine website, flyingmag.com, has a host of continuing education offerings including: Flight School, which each month invites experienced instructors to weigh in on questions about training techniques; Tip of the Week (a recent tip discussed the value in pilots talking out loud to themselves); frequent instructional and technique articles; and two regular columns (I Learned About Flying From That and Aftermath) that provide valuable lessons of what not to do.
Pilot Workshops e-mails an online “tip” each week to people who subscribe free to its “Pilot’s Tips of the Week.” The tips, presented by a cadre of very experienced instructors, include an audio version of the texts.
The website provides a link to access the bios of the impressive experts who participate in the program. To subscribe to the free weekly pilot tips, go to pilotworkshop.com.
Flight Advisor Corner
Hobie Tomlinson, director of safety for Heritage Aviation, a designated pilot examiner and a member of SAFE, publishes a monthly e-newsletter called the Flight Advisor Corner.
As an example, in his July 2011 entry, which was the eighth in a series on human factors, he discusses “automation and risk management as additional critical components in accident prevention strategy.” In the offering, he compares six-pack steam gauge panels with the latest PFD (primary flight display) panels. Using a number of illustrations, Hobie points out the differences between the two systems. In summary, he writes: “It is important for pilots to maintain their flight skills.
Pilots need to retain their ability to maneuver the aircraft manually within the industry-accepted standards set forth in the appropriate FAA PTS. Maintaining your flight skills requires that the automation be occasionally disengaged to enable you to manually fly the aircraft. This regular practice of your stick-and-rudder skills will go a long way toward your ability to maintain an acceptable level of pilot proficiency.”
To subscribe to the free monthly service, simply send Hobie Tomlinson an e-mail request at [email protected]
Reporting System (ASRS)
The “get out of ‘jail’ free” card offered by NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (asrs.arc.nasa.gov) isn’t the system’s only benefit for pilots. The ASRS also publishes Callback, a monthly online interactive discourse that provides real-life scenarios from pilots who have “been there, done that!” According to the website: The selected ASRS reports may not give all the information you want and you may not be experienced in the type of aircraft involved, but each incident should give you a chance to exercise your aviation decision-making skills.
A recent issue presented “the first half of the story.” All of the reports involved incidents that occurred before, during or immediately after takeoff. The report excerpts described the situation up to the decision point. In each case, unlike in recent issues, there were no “options” presented, so it was up to the reader to determine all the possible courses of action and make a decision (preferably within the time frame suggested by the report). Then actions taken by reporters to resolve each situation were presented.
According to ASRS, publication of a report does not constitute ASRS endorsement of the reporter’s action and the decisions presented may not necessarily represent the best course of action. The intent is to stimulate thought, discussion and training related to the types of incidents that were reported.
The AOPA Air Safety Institute
The Air Safety Institute website features a wide variety of programs for continued education. Among others are a cornucopia of interactive courses, accident analyses, safety quizzes, real pilot stories and webinars.
ASI describes the Real Pilot Stories as pilots narrating an accident or incident they survived. They hope that by sharing what they learned from their experiences, they might help you avoid — or better handle — similar situations.
The opening screen of a recent Real Pilot Stories, “Fire in the Cockpit,” featured an account by Jade Schiewe, a CFI-I who has logged more than 2,500 flight hours. The teaser for the program says, “One minute it was a routine flight — the next a desperate struggle for survival. Would the instructor be able to land the airplane before the cockpit was engulfed in flames?”
To experience the educational options available from ASI, log on to aopa.org/asf.
Mastery Flight Training
Tom Turner’s Flying Lessons, a weekly e-newsletter from Mastery Flight Training, uses reports of the past week’s mishaps to consider what might have contributed to the accidents.
According to the website, since, in many cases, design characteristics of a specific make and model airplane have little direct bearing on the possible causes of the accidents, the lessons can apply to any airplane.
Each week a different topic is presented with a chance to “debrief” with comments and suggestions from members about the previous week’s topic, with observations by Turner.
To subscribe to the free weekly e-newsletter, go to mastery-flight-training.com.
The FAA’s FAASTeam website provides a number of options for staying in the game. Recent online courses included: Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), Fatigue Countermeasure Training, and Failure to Follow Procedures — Landing Gear Failure. But the complete list of online courses includes well more than 75 and at least half are available free. The courses don’t have to be completed in a single sitting but can be completed in multiple sessions.
The faasafety.gov website is also the portal to the FAA Wings program, which is structured to provide an incentive for pilots to periodically seek out “postgraduate” training with an instructor. The program was recently redesigned to make it much more attractive. Check it out.
In addition to the online programs, the FAA FAASTeam sponsors thousands of safety seminars around the country. The website lets pilots ask to be notified when a safety seminar is being held within a geographic area they’ve specified.
Gets Along Well with Others
While the continuing education options discussed so far are solo efforts requiring self-motivation and scheduling, there are at least two other programs that encourage pilots to interact with other pilots, seasoned veterans and experienced instructors.
The IMC Clubs, developed to help pilots “mastering the art of instrument navigation,” was established by Radek Wyrzykowski, a Master CFI and a member of SAFE who has given more than 4,500 hours of dual flight instruction.
The clubs are a network of local chapters that schedule regular biweekly meetings where pilots and instructors have the opportunity to discuss topics related to instrument flying. The chapters identify local instrument flight “missions,” which members fly before debriefing at the biweekly chapter meetings. Participation in the biweekly meetings gives members the opportunity to learn and to share their knowledge and experiences. The mission flights are designed on a graduated scale of complexity.
Although the meetings are open to the public, membership in the club is free and entitles members to access the organization’s extensive knowledge database and connect with a network of pilots. For more information about IMC Clubs, log on to imcclubs.cloverpad.org.
SAFE Mentoring Program
A recent addition to the continuing education catalog is the SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) mentor program. Open to members of SAFE, the program matches current educators or educators in training in all areas of aviation education with experienced mentors.
The matching is based on several factors, such as similar professional areas in aviation, experience in a particular aircraft, needed teaching or particular technical expertise, and geographical location. Each person seeking a mentor is provided with information about three suitable mentors. The person to be mentored makes the final selection of the mentor he or she thinks will best suit his or her needs. For more information, visit safepilots.org.
If we’re going to be truly “professional” pilots, it behooves us to continue increasing our knowledge and expertise with post-certificate courses and programs so we can continue to fly proficiently and safely. As someone, wiser than I, said, an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
Send reader mail to: [email protected] or P.O. Box 8500, Winter Park, FL 32789.