A new approach to FIRCs

Flying self-selects fabulous people. It is easy to become fond of them. They are competent, committed and persistent. You already know this because you work with these folks all the time. My wife, Martha, and I became especially aware of how wonderful pilots are, and fond of them, during the decade or so that we traveled around the country teaching ground schools. It was also during that decade that we learned how vulnerable these special people are to the risks associated with flying.

We taught relatively large numbers, and it was not uncommon for us to return to a city in two months and learn that someone we had just taught was already dead from an airplane crash. I can name dozens. These were not foolhardy people. They just didn’t understand the risks they were taking. In each case the death was considered a local tragedy. These people make fabulous obituaries.

It points out there is such a strong need to help pilots gain insights that will save their lives. This is why I have come to so be deeply saddened by the lost opportunity represented by Flight Instructor Refresher Courses that cover all over again the same things we instructors all learned when we were training to become private pilots. Covering things like thrust, drag, lift, and weight has little or no effect on our ability to teach pilots things that will determine whether they and their passengers live or die.

When we decided we were going to create a FIRC, we made the decision it was time to respect the valuable resource that flight instructors are—to help them gain the specific tools to teach pilots things that will actually make a difference on how well they take care of themselves and their passengers.

We decided our FIRC should cover things like identifying and changing at-risk behaviors. Flight instructors often see scary behavior in their own customers, but until now, haven’t been given the specific tools to help their customers gain the insight they need. Plus, when someone at the airport comes to grief in an airplane, people who knew that person are often not surprised. They had seen it coming. It is the flight instructor who is in the best position to counsel that person before the tragedy happens, but once again, without being prepared, they won’t know what to say that could modify that person’s conduct.

Another subject we decided to cover is “Conducting a Meaningful Flight Review.” The flight review is a very special opportunity for flight instructors to provide meaningful assistance. The FAA provides very little guidance on flight reviews, and in order to leave their customers with life-saving insights, the flight instructor needs preparation to make the most of it.

Most important, it is our suggestion in the FIRC that flight instructors teach their customers to employ a risk management analysis as a preflight action from the very first lesson. Pilots should find it no more acceptable to skip this preflight action than to go flying without a preflight inspection of the airplane. With practice, learning pilots will gain the skill of analyzing risks and coming up with a mitigation plan for them. Right now new pilots learn this on their own, after they leave flight training. It is not working well. It is our hope that with preparation from our FIRC, flight instructors will be able to do much better for their customers.

We hope that as a minimum taking this FIRC will make flight instructors thoughtful. The best case is that they will become strong advocates of risk management to everyone in aviation.

–John King, co-founder King Schools

  • http://www,flyafi.com Bill Griggs Sr

    One of the errors being made by man pilots is the new tendency to the use of new avionics and computer systems which give you so much information that you are overloaded and spend so much heads down time that your increase the risk of mid airs. Their is also a lose of basic of pilot skills with the use of auto pilots and advance systems. Stick and rudder skill are not being maintained. With over 15,000 hours of instruction given and operating a flight school for 48 years this concerns me.

  • Roy “Skip” Owings

    I earned my private license in 1974, owned a couple of Tri-Pacers over the early years and amassed a whopping 274 hours flying around the mountains of western Montana, Idaho, and Washington. At that point life came along and made it unfeasable for me to continue flying. My last logbook entry was 3/1/81.
    It is a longer tale than I can relate here, but after a heart attack and a job 700 miles from my home in Montana, I am back in aviation. I am working on my BFR with a great young instructor who wasn’t even born when I quit flying. One of his first comments was how well I could handle and fly the plane after thirty years. We have a real mutual admiration society going in that he is impressed with the way piloting skills were taught in the early days and I am really enjoying flying with a superb young instructor who is very competent with the equipment in my plane (a 1974 172M with a 180 Lycoming and cs prop., and a very nice panel.). I sincerely hope we can continue to learn from each other for a long time to come.

  • http://www.lightsportairplaneservices.com Mike Franz

    As an FAASTeam Representative working at the National level to reduce accidents by helping flight schools to modernize flight training methods, I applaud your recognition of the need to include ADM & RM training into Flight Reviews and FIRCs.

    Working as HelicopterSBT, I have trained 41 CFIs to be FITS SBT Facilitators and bring the 3 core Concepts and their elements to pilots in all ab initio, recurrent training & flight reviews. On internet forums, I challenge all pilots to have an established SRM procedure in all of their actions during pre-flight, in flight & post flight procedures. We need to instill in pilots the responsibility to “Protect the Sacred Trust” that passengers and students place in them and train them how to do this, again ab initio.

    I would like to discuss this more with you and thank you for your initiatives in this area to date!

  • John

    I want to revise the training curriculum at the flight school where I work. Where can I find FITS SBT material to use to improve my pilot training program?

  • http://www.fcaflightcenter.com charley valera

    John, we met at last years AOPA summit and discussed the current lack of major marketing in GA. Bringing a spotlight to GA more than from me to you to Mike Franz to Skip Owings….
    On your initiative for FIRC’s, I commend you and Martha. This is long overdue and we must make the changes before we are mandated to. I own a small flight school in central MA. We, like you suggested, can see it coming in a licensed pilot who will be the next one to go down and not be surprised it took so long. Sad and a shame. A new FIRC’S needs to be understood of the person more than the theory of flight. Most CFIs I know are just to nice of people to say, “sorry, you’re not there yet”.
    On an issue of needing CFI’s. We need more. How to get them without raising the cost of flight training? I hear about tennis and golf instructors making more per hour. But they don’t have maintenance, insurance and fuel costs equaling 80% per hour to operate. Any suggestions here?

    Charley Valera