On Advanced


I was also shopping around for the right instructor. Ironically, the best one I had never sat with me in an airplane. E-Pilot coached me from many miles away. In this case, he replies to my recounting of a flight on which I was learning about in-flight judgement, and was thinking of changing instructors, as I wasn't learning well with the one I had.

93/04/30 10:30 From: E-Pilot

To: DIPLOCAT Judith Bradt Sub: Go-arounds

What would you have done if your student was executing a poor approach that verged on dangerous and really ought to have been abandoned for a go-around? How long would you wait?

I'd have sat there, silent, until the aircraft was just at the point of crashing before taking over; the flight lesson would have ended there, and we'd go someplace without distractions to talk. Since spanking is politically incorrect, I'd have grounded you for thirty days if you hadn't realized WHY I took over. In fact, I might have grounded you anyway to get your attention. Some lessons you can NEVER afford to forget.

I also think that if my instructor had been with me, we would have had the kind of discussion that you and I are having here about how important it is to go around, and how dangerous to fixate on "gotta land it, no matter what".

The airplane is not a classroom: it's a laboratory. As an instructor, you don't teach theory or discuss it in an airplane: you demonstrate and allow for trial and error practice. Mistakes are welcomed so that a pilot can learn from their experience to recognize what they can and cannot do with an aircraft. We are both on our way to learning that.

You have to understand the difference between salvaging an approach while correcting mistakes or for prevailing transient conditions, and going around because you weren't in position to land, or you were in the wrong configuration.

The lack of a stabilized approach will kill more professional pilots than any other cause, other than traffic accidents. It is the third leading cause of general aviation fatalities, overall, behind continued VFR flight into IMC, and fuel starvation. Substantially reducing flaps -- what you did -- was dangerous enough in a light aircraft. What were you flying? It probably grossed out at 2000-3000 lbs. You were descending with greater than 50% flaps, likely without a lot of power. You mistakenly reduced the flaps you had by 50% -- that's one-half the lift, and four times less drag. I don't know what altitude you were at when you reduced the flap setting, but if it was less than 200 feet, you probably come very close to making a very hard landing. Why?

Did you have the good sense to add full power?

You were also very close to a stall. Why?

Having just re-read your first note about this, I see that the stall warning horn "honked" during this episode. Do you have an idea of why that happened?

Do the same thing in an airplane weighing 15,000-30,000 pounds, and you're in a bonafide emergency. Add a swept-back wing and turbofan engines to the equation, and you likely would have crashed.

Check, visually, for FULL elevator/stabilator trim movement just before takeoff. You live on the east coast, where there's a major storm every 10 days in the winter: there's likely to be slush on the takeways which you're likely to pick up on the tail -- AND THE TRIM MECHANISM. How do you know that the trim hasn't frozen if you don't check full movement of the tab VISUALLY? Fail to check your trim in Alaska, New England, the northern U.S. East Coast, or Canada after taxiing in slush, and someday you'll have a very, very unpleasant (and abruptly short) flight.

You said you were thinking of changing instructors. Are you worthy of a better instructor? Do you practice at every opportunity; read and study aerodynamics, FARs, the AIM, and meterorology at every opportunity; go out to the airport every chance you get just to watch airplanes and think about what the pilot is doing? Are you going to the simulator to improve your scan and situational awareness -- every chance you get?

If any of the answers are no, what good is a better instructor going to do for you?

Improvement in flying comes, in part, through self-reliance. I'm hearing that you're still nervous about flying solo. Before you go out looking for a better instructor, you better be the best pilot you can be. Being too lazy to study or lacking interest in working hard is poor reason to seek a new instructor.

Improvement is mainly a matter of hard work and study. It's a matter of learning from experience, good and bad. It's learning from mistakes, and -- using wisdom, knowledge, insight, perception, judgment and memory -- avoiding mistakes.

(Tell me, how did you find your good instructors, and how did you decide to lose the ones you didn't like?)

Most of my instructors were, at best, lousy. I've flown with two good instructors -- the experience and opportunity of which I didn't nearly take advantage of, mainly because I was too self-absorbed and lazy, and I've met two, maybe a third, who were excellent. All instructors that I've worked with I sat and talked with first, to --

1). see if we can get along well together;

2). see if we speak the same language;

3). understand what their experience level and qualifications are;

4). understand how well they understand flying;

5). to determine their basic level of honesty, character, and commitment are; and

6). get a feeling for their personal motivation for flying, teaching, and flight instructing.

I will NEVER fly with someone who is building time. NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER. Even when checking out in a new airplane, I go with the business owner, chief pilot or chief flight instructor. One chief pilot asked why I wouldn't go with Joe Dull-normal: I asked him if Joe was a better pilot than he was. No, Joe wasn't, I was told. Good, I replied. I don't fly with better when I can fly with best. It cost more to do that sometimes, particularly when the Chief Pilot wasn't nearly as good as he thought he was: in that case, I went to Joe later. By and large, it has usually worked out for the best.

Ending the relationship with an instructor is a fairly simple matter. Much like a landing, you have to know when to fish or cut bait when there's only one pole. After talking with the person about what I perceived to be differences in styles or teaching techniques in an attempt to reconcile differences, I usually end the relationship on a good note, placing the blame on my shoulders. I cite that I learn differently than the particular style in which they teach -- so that the emphasis is not on who's right, but what's right. Understand the difference?

You may not realize it, but there's three, possibly four ways in which people learn (auditory, visual and kinesthetic). By this example:

(1). Some people learn by watching. They can read a ton, listen to lectures, etc, but they won't effectively learn until you reach them visually, showing them videotapes, drawing diagrams, or letting them see it in real life.

(2). Some people learn through hearing. You can show them anything and everything, but they won't understand until they hear how to do it. This student will relate exactly how you explained a stall, but probably wouldn't be able to draw a diagram unless they talked their way through it. (3). Some people won't learn unless they're doing it, feeling for themselves the right and wrong way. This pilot learns immediately the difference between a skid, slip or straight and level. They store the information by body-sense: ask them what they saw or heard, and you'll get a "I dunno." Ask what they felt, and you'll get volumes...

A terribly frustrating situation develops when an auditory teacher is in charge of teaching, say, a visual student. The styles are incompatible, and both teacher and student get completely exasperated trying to reconcile their differences. Such frustration usually results in destroying the student for they eventually feel stupid, incapable of learning or understanding. The teacher usually feels that the student is slow or stupid because they cannot grasp the concept, not understanding the lack of student intellectual response to their teaching style. (This is terribly destructive to elementary school-age children, and usually sets a pattern for life.)

A good instructor listens for clues from a student, such as "What should I see (or, be looking for) at this point?" or "I didn't hear you say that." or "This doesn't feel right." With these clues, an excellent instructor adjusts their teaching style to see if there's a sudden, marked improvement in the student's progress.

So, sometimes I need to point out to my instructor the different styles of storing information and learning, in order to show them that their method of teaching isn't the most effective for my particular style of learning (information storage and retrieval). This way, they understand that I'm not rejecting them. There are differences, not right or wrong on an interpersonal sense, which cannot be rectified or remedied. The "WHO is right" conflict is avoided in favour of "What is right". Options are left open to all.

Rarely have I run into a situation, tough I have, where my learning ability has out-stripped the instructor's teaching ability or experience level. It does happen, but in your case, I think something else is operating here. What, I don't know exactly.

Needless to say, aviation is a very small community. I know people today who know others I have flown with 15, even 20, years ago. In this business, what you do can haunt you later to an even greater extent than any other occupation, with the possible exception of nuclear power plant operators, police and fire personnel.

But on Sunday I was on my own, and so I made my own decisions. Afterwards, I decided that I'd made a collection of poor moves. I did it differently the next time.

Are congratulations in order here? I'm glad you relied on yourself, that you did things differently the next time. Take advantage of that, young woman: you might not get a "next time" next time.

Here, I'm not suggesting that you fly reactively out of FEAR, but temper your decisions responsively with wisdom, insight, and a keen sense of knowing EXACTLY was is going on with YOU AND THE AIRPLANE AND THE PREVAILING CONDITIONS AND OTHER AIRCRAFT AND THE OPERATING ENVIRONMENT AROUND YOU ("situational awareness") with a healthy skepticism and suspicion. When all else fails, ask yourself "If I had to sit before a Board of Inquest, how would I justify my actions (or lack thereof)?"

I liked what you said about "all *professional* pilots are their own worst critics." In combination with your opening remarks, I take it you mean professional in attitude, not just in occupation.


Again, I believe that First Class is not a seat in the airplane -- it's a way of life. You don't have to make a living at flying in order to make decisions like you DO earn a living flying.

Once again, thank you for the reminder that, noted emergencies notwithstanding, it's right to go around when an approach is bad -- as in, just not set up the way I want it done, as well as plain dangerous.

Develop, Judy, the wisdom of knowing what is salvageable, and what is not. I've continued approaches I wasn't comfortable with, but because I was working to correct the approach right up to the point of touchdown -- where I have the option of continuing to landing OR going around.

Which isn't to say that I haven't made mistakes. We both know that I have. But I really strive to avoid doing anything by default, landings and approaches included.

Going around is a hallmark of being wise. Going around too often is an indication of lacking skill, experience, good judgment; cowardice; or all of the above.

Next: Why an Instrument Rating?

Judy & JJ
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