OSHblog: Hey, This Place Is Busy


Maybe it was just the madhouse of arrivals Sunday afternoon when we landed, or maybe it’s that I skipped working the show last year, but this show feels busy—in a good way. Here’s an interesting observation: Jim Alpiser of Garmin told me how he usually gets to the show at 7:30 a.m. and expects a short wait in traffic. It took him 30 minutes to get into the show Monday. That’s before most of the public comes to the show and there was nothing unusual about the traffic flow. EAA has that dialed down to a science.

I had a similar experience an hour later. Who are all these people? It would be interesting to know if there was an uptick in vendors, or the staff they brought. Or is it an upswing in visitors? Alpiser said the Garmin booth was packed all day. GA camping in the North 40 had wrapped around the approach end of Runway 9, which is indicative of healthy fly-ins. We’re told Fond du Lac is similarly packed. I’ll say from the swivel-head, tight-knuckle seat I had on the FISKE arrival there were plenty of people heading in — all at the same time. The image is the ADS-B display on ForeFlight.

Pilot Proficiency Center

It warms my heart to see the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center hopping with pilots as I did the times I poked my head in. If you’re at the show and have a pilot certificate in your pocket, you owe yourself the favor of hitting the PPC. Where else can you get free instruction from experienced CFIs on 30 different scenarios ranging from canyon flying to IFR—with live ATC no less? You can see the full list here.

Real proficiency training is still a gaping hole in the light GA world and there needs to be more of it in a way that’s accessible to all pilots. I was recently talking with Paul Ratte of USAIG about a program for corporate flight departments that pays in full for the pilots to attend additional scenario-based training beyond their six-month aircraft work. The insurance company does it because saving even one claim per year in cabin-class turbine aircraft would pay for the entire program. What can we do in GA?

At its heart, this is a cultural thing, which means changing mindsets is key. (I wouldn’t object to tying training to airplane insurance premiums, but I’d call it paying a surcharge for not training rather than a discount to train.) However, there’s a simple accessibility problem as well. Cirrus has the right idea with integrated, online training that includes a follow-up flight syllabus. Pilot Workshops also has their IFR Mastery program of you-are-there scenarios that work the mental juices each month. (Full disclosure: I help develop the Mastery scenarios.)

This isn’t enough, though. We need programs like the PPC that pilots can do at home. That means pilots need access to presentations, simulators and instructors in real time. Those simulators need realistic avionics that accurately represent equipment we use in our cockpits and systems for the instructors to analyze their client’s performance.

Some of this exists today; some is still wanting. However, I have yet to see a serious program targeting GA pilots in general for ongoing proficiency using scenarios and simulation. This would be a monthly, “proficiency in pieces” as my friend Frank Robinson calls it. Each month a digestible chunk is handled on a Saturday morning. Over the course of a year, all the key points get addressed. It’s like a phase inspection program replacing an aircraft annual for those who are familiar. It would involve both automated and live—if remotely located—instruction. Any takers?

There’s one more component that’s critical: It needs to be fun. People build habits around things that reinforce the behavior. The carrot of some cash savings only goes so far. The yoke of “it’s good for you” never works in the long run. But make it fun, generate some competition, reward involvement with enjoyment and recognition, and now you’ve got a chance of building a habit. And a safety habit is really what we mean when we talk about building a safety culture.

In the meantime, come have some fun at the PPC if you’re in Central Wisconsin this week. We’ll have a video on the PPC tomorrow.