AVmail: October 7, 2013

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Letter of the Week:
SAFE Recommendations Clarified

AVweb's September 22 article titled "SAFE Wants Pilot Experience Data Collected" misstates the recommendation made by the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) at the GA and Part 135 Survey stakeholders meeting.  The assertion that SAFE believes "the FAA should be looking in pilots' logbooks to help it curtail the GA accident rate" is inaccurate.  Moreover, the misrepresentation of our recommendation has fostered confusion and angst among pilots about the true intent of our suggested changes.

The SAFE recommendation simply proposed a refinement of two survey questions already being asked by the FAA.  SAFE neither recommended nor implied that the FAA should start reviewing pilot's logbooks.

The existing FAA survey asks a host of questions concerning the hours an aircraft is flown per year, the types of equipment and avionics in the aircraft, and the types of flying that the aircraft is engaged in.  Further, the voluntary survey is completely anonymous.  The only identification required in the survey is the aircraft N-number.

The types of flying listed on the existing survey include:

  • personal/recreational
  • business transportation
  • corporate/executive transportation
  • sight-seeing
  • air medical services
  • aerial application
  • instructional
  • and several others

Under instructional, the existing FAA survey stipulates that this category include only "flying under the supervision of a flight instructor including student pilot solo."  The existing survey states that any other instructional flight must be listed as other.  Unfortunately, other also includes "ferry flights; positioning flights; sales demos; etc."

This breakdown of instructional flight in the existing survey misses an opportunity to gain insight into the types of training pilots are receiving.  Consequently, SAFE recommended the addition of two questions under instructional.  The two questions SAFE proposed and their rationale follow:

Recommended addition:  Primary Instructional Flight Dual instruction provided to pilots holding no higher than a student pilot certificate, including "supervised solo."

Rationale:  In addition to gaining data on how many hours are conducted while providing primary instruction (thus giving some statistical support to student starts), combing that information with data from the avionics questions could provide insight into the percentage of student pilots who are learning to fly in glass cockpits compared to those learning in legacy instrument equipped cockpits.

Recommended addition: Instructional Flight To include: Flight reviews; Instrument Proficiency Checks; WINGS programs; and complex/tailwheel/high-performance training.

Rationale:  During accident investigations, there is rarely any information about whether or not the pilot had received any proficiency or recurrent training. Once a pilot receives an instrument rating, there is no requirement to receive recurrent training. Many fatal en route accidents involving instrument-rated pilots who lost control occur as a result of an instrument or auto pilot failure. Had these pilots received some form of recurrent training focusing on partial panel and hand-flying skills, perhaps the accidents could have been avoided. Thus SAFE believes that having such data would reveal the percentage of instrument-rated pilots who obtain recurrent training. Data on recurrent training would also provide metrics to determine the percentage of the pilot population who participate in the WINGS program.

As the rest of our press release on this subject clearly stated, such recurrent training information, especially concerning the frequency of instrument proficiency checks and FAA WINGS program participation, could provide a deeper understanding of how to lower the rate of loss-of-control accidents.

Loss-of-control is the leading cause of fatal GA accidents, more than the second through sixth causes combined.  If you'd like to know more about causal factors of Loss of Control fatal GA accidents, check out SAFE's resource center.

We appreciate AVweb's role in keeping the aviation community up to date regarding SAFE's mission to improve safety and raise the bar in aviation education.  It is equally important, however, that information be conveyed accurately.  If you would like more information on our activities and initiatives, please visit SAFEPilots.org.

Doug Stewart
Executive Director
Society of Aviation and Flight Educators

Dumbing Down Pilots

It seems that, per the article on autopilots, we feel the need to accept and dumb down our commercial pilots.

I cannot imagine the level of idiot it would take to disengage the autopilot without a full announcement to the second pilot in the cockpit.  Communication is a key to operations, not another "warning buzzer."

Jim Vroom