A few years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a handbook that contained its beliefs about the best ways for teachers to teach, the best ways for students to learn, and the best ways for instructors and students to become true believers and practitioners of FAA gospel. The book is called FAA-H-8083-9A, Aviation Instructor's Handbook.
The FAA makes this suggestion for conducting dual instructional flights: "Correction of student errors does not include the practice of taking over from students immediately when a mistake is made. Safety permitting, it is frequently better to let students progress part of the way into the mistake and find a way out. For example, in a weight-shift control aircraft the bar is moved right to turn left.
A student may show an initial tendency to move the bar in the direction of the desired turn. This tendency dissipates with time, but allowing the student to see the effect of his or her control input is a valuable aid in illustrating the stability of the aircraft. It is difficult for students to learn a maneuver properly if they seldom have the opportunity to correct an error."
Of course, the instructor could be conservative and intervene to prevent an accident as soon as an error became apparent. The instructor could subsequently demonstrate what was about to go wrong, and how to recover, had the error become fully developed.
If an instructor waits too long to intervene when an error occurs during a dual instructional flight, or isn't aware of what's happening in time to take corrective action, the National Transportation Board (NTSB) may have to enter the picture. Unfortunately, the aircraft in these two accidents weren't equipped with cockpit voice or video recorders, so it's not possible to know exactly what occurred.
A Cirrus SR20 being operated as a Part 91 instructional flight crashed in Deltona, Fla. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The commercial pilot flight instructor and commercial pilot receiving instruction were killed. The flight originated from Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), in Sanford, Fla.
Two witnesses saw the airplane flying eastbound between 225 to 250 feet above the trees. They told investigators that the engine quit and the airplane made a sharp turn to the right. Then, the nose pitched downward and the airplane started spinning. Just before the airplane disappeared from view, the witnesses saw a parachute deploy, but the canopy didn't fully open. A short time later, they heard the sound of an impact.
When the airplane didn't return to its base of operation, the operator called the FAA, who started a search. The county sheriff's department located the wreckage the next morning.
Data downloaded from the airplane's multifunction display (MFD) and primary flight display (PFD) showed that at 2:13:30 p.m., the maximum recorded airspeed was 115 knots with a ground speed of 124 knots. The engine rpm was reduced from 2,440 rpm to 1,840 rpm at 2:13:34. At 2:17:10, the airplane was at 3,257 feet, heading 078 degrees.
The airplane began to pitch downward with an indicated airspeed of 60 knots and a ground speed of 57 knots. At 2:17:19, the airplane had descended down to 3,138 feet on a heading of 082 degrees with an indicated airspeed of 75 knots and a ground speed of 63 knots. The engine rpm decreased to 1,050 rpm at 2:17:28, and the airplane was heading 081 degrees at 50 knots indicated airspeed and ground speed. At 2:17:29, the airplane began a 13-degree, left-wing down roll before it reversed to the right.
The right roll reached 28 degrees before it reversed back to the left. At 2:17:34, the airplane was at 3,131 feet heading 064 degrees, the engine rpm had increased to 2,500 rpm, the indicated airspeed was 54 knots, and the ground speed was 52 knots. The airplane entered a left-hand spin at 2:17:35. The data ended at 2:18:02.
The flight instructor, 23, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane. In addition, the pilot receiving instruction, 30, also held a flight instructor certificate with the same ratings. The instructor had 1,299.1 hours as a flight instructor, of which 473.4 hours were in the SR20.
The pilot receiving instruction had 175.6 total hours with 132.2 in the Cirrus SR20. This was his second dual local flight with the instructor. The flight had been scheduled to take place from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The training syllabus for the flight included takeoff and climb procedures, traffic pattern operations, operations of systems in flight and air work, including slow flight, stalls, emergency and abnormal procedures.
Weather at Sanford was VFR with wind from 150 degrees at six knots, visibility 10 miles, clear sky, temperature 21 degrees C., dew point 5 degrees C.
Investigators determined that the airplane's ballistic parachute system had been activated and the activation handle was separated from the handle holder. The handle holder bracket was bent downward and the activation cable was separated from the cabin roof. Activation cable continuity was confirmed from the handle to the firing pin actuator.
Examination of the airframe, flight controls and engine revealed no anomalies. An engine run by the manufacturer was normal.
The Cirrus SR20 Flight Standards Manual calls for flight crews to "...ensure that at no time the aircraft is operated at an altitude less than 3,000 feet AGL (above ground level). In the event of an inadvertent spin, this will allow the flight crew additional time to execute recovery or CAPS (Cirrus Airframe Parachute System) deployment procedures."
Investigators reviewed 10 additional MFD data files from other aircraft flown by the flight instructor. None of that data showed that the airplanes engaged in maneuvering of the type indicated by data files from the accident flight.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot receiving instructions to correct failure to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering, which resulted in a stall and loss of control. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor's inadequate supervision and both pilots' failure to deploy the ballistic parachute at a higher altitude.
A single-engine Diamond DA20-C1 crashed in Payson, Utah, while on a Part 91 dual instructional flight in VFR conditions. The commercial pilot/certified flight instructor and the student pilot were killed. The flight originated at Provo Municipal Airport, Provo, Utah.
Witnesses reported hearing and seeing the airplane descend in a spiral or spin. It made numerous rotations before impacting the driveway of a house. Witnesses said they heard engine sounds. The airplane was operating below radar coverage, and no distress calls were received by FAA facilities or the operator at Provo Airport.
The instructor had flown 28 flights with the student, who was preparing for his private pilot check flight. Maneuvers on that flight were stalls, slow flight and landing pattern. The aircraft wreckage was located directly under airspace designated as a practice area. The floor of the practice area was 7,000 feet mean sea level (MSL), and the upper altitude limit was 10,000 feet. The terrain elevation was approximately 4,530 feet MSL.
The certified flight instructor, 34, held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, instrument airplane, and a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine, and instrument airplane. She had logged 869.8 hours of flight time with 512.7 hours of that as dual instruction given.
The CFI's husband was interviewed in order to establish her stress and fatigue levels on the day of the accident. He stated that she had a full-time job as the finance director of a city, was taking night classes for a masters degree, and they had two children. During the week, she'd usually do flight instruction during off hours, which included lunch breaks. She attended night classes on Tuesdays. The night before the accident, she was in bed at 10:45, and slept until 6:15 a.m. She had not complained of fatigue or any physical ailments, and she wasn't under any unusual stresses.
The student pilot, 25, had a total 63.7 hours of flight time (53.6 hours dual, and 10.1 hours solo). He was found positioned in the left seat with his seat harness and shoulder straps buckled. The CFI was positioned in the right seat. Her lap belt and shoulder straps weren't buckled or positioned around her body.
The NTSB report noted anecdotal reports of restraints opening inadvertently after being brushed by clothing, but no evidence of this occurring could be found. Nothing was identified that would have precluded the normal operation of the airplane's engine or flight controls. The toxicological screening on the instructor detected ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever.
The aircraft operator had a policy that spins and spin training may only be conducted by designated instructors, and each instructor must complete a flight check every 12 months for each training course they're approved to teach.
One of the accident instructor's students who had just completed her solo flight told investigators about an event that happened during dual instruction about two weeks before the accident. The student stated that they were practicing slow flight. During the transition back to normal cruise, the engine cut out, the left wing dropped and they entered a spin making one complete rotation. The CFI regained control of the airplane by adding full power, full right rudder and opposite aileron. After they regained normal flight, the engine ran rough. They returned to the airport.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during a slow flight maneuver that resulted in a stall and spin, and the flight instructor's delayed or improper remedial actions to recover from the spin.