I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel of CFIs who teach in technologically advanced aircraft. We fielded many questions from the crowd but one of them in particular struck me as quite useful so I thought I would share it here. The question was to find out what we as CFIs regularly see as weak areas in our clients who fly these technological wonders. Here for the rest of you is the summary of what the panel said:
-Button push verification: People push a button and don't look to see that it did what they thought it would. This goes for the autopilot and the Garmin systems.
-Being able to fly a published missed approach: Most folks never do them and that skill atrophies fast. Most of us have literally had people say "I don't know what to do now" after they get the power up.
-Letting ATC push you around: If you don't like what they ask you to do or you aren't confident you can do it, tell them. Even better is to offer an alternative that you know you can do.
-Understanding the care of the aircraft: What regular maintenance needs to be done, what must be on board for legal reasons, etc
-Hand flying: especially IFR
-Willingness to strive for improvement: Some pilots look at where they are and just accept it as "good enough". Though we were preaching to the choir at this event, every pilot should always work for improvement. Temper that with looking back every now and again to see how far you've come.
-IFR proficiency: Other than a vector to final ILS, many pilots' IFR skills are somewhat lacking. Procedure turns, DME arcs, holds, etc. are common weak areas.
-VOR use: Most pilots look at us crosseyed when we ask them to fly heading 290 to intercept the 260 radial off XYZ VOR and track it outbound.
-SRM skills: know your airplane, use your autopilot, use your Garmin's features to your advantage (VNAV, insert waypoints, OBS functionality, etc)
-Control/Performance techniques: A certain pitch angle plus a certain amount of manifold pressure in a certain configuration will give consistent performance. Many pilots find themselves constantly adding and removing power when their speeds aren't just right. Knowing what your plane will do at X power setting reduces a great deal of work both VFR and IFR.
-Know when the autopilot is on: Look at the annunciations. Your flight director might be on but the AP isn't necessarily. Back to the earlier point of pushing buttons and not looking to see what happened.
-Emergency memory items: One of my favorites. Reference my post from about 2 months ago about which emergency items should be memorized. Spring load your brain to just do them because when the real deal hits, you won't be able to think clearly.
-Set reasonable minimums: The autopilot's skill level is not that of most pilots. Taking your aircraft into any situation you wouldn't be comfortable flying it in by hand (or even partial panel?) could lead to disaster (and has on quite a few occasions in just the last few years).
-Know there is a need for more than the usual amount of training: Your aircraft is capable of so much more than most and therefore you have to do more training than most to stay current. The airlines use a thorough check out every 6 months. Most airline pilots I fly with tell me these avionics are more complex than those in their 737. These two facts together make for a recommendation that we all spend some time every 6 months or so going over the things we haven't done in a while.
Safe flying everybody!
Chief Pilot of The Flight Academy www.theflightacademy.com
30 Sep 2008 15:43