Plane & Pilot
Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 National CFI of the Year

Improving the learning process

In the perfect scenario, the student is asked to consider the weather pattern and its hazards; to use weather services; to apply weather regulations; to interpret weather data; and to make the ultimate continue, divert or abort weather-related decision. It’s much more than an hour of ground training; it’s a realistic flight experience.

Another presentation could feature a scenario that slowly reveals itself. Preplanned events would build the accident chain in small, barely noticeable ways—just as in real life. Perhaps the departure time is delayed while waiting for fuel, then the groundspeed is five knots slower than planned, then weather starts a slight deterioration, then there’s a short ATC delay, add a small inconvenience with a nonessential cockpit technology failure and an impatient passenger, and you have all the ingredients for an accident chain. But with scenario-based training, this accident chain has a happy ending with the student correlating weather information in a realistic situation. Students should integrate information over different areas, interpreting it and demonstrating an understanding of it on a realistic flight.

Such presentations encourage a constant state of vigilance to detect changes from what was expected. The scenario should promote situational awareness and teach how to organize information, recognize changes and decide what, if any, revision should be made.

The newest Aviation Instructor’s Handbook introduces the “5P Checklist,” which encourages pilots to periodically reassess each of the five Ps (plane, pilot, passengers, programming and plan) during flight. Some instructors encourage the student to consider the five Ps at the top of each hour. Others suggest that it be completed when fuel tanks are being changed. The 5P Checklist is a tool that pilots can use to organize their assessment about the changing conditions of the five Ps.

With the five Ps, the pilot is encouraged to consider the following questions: What has changed since we last completed the evaluation? What are the major risk factors now? How does the change affect us now? How will it affect the duration of the flight? Are we comfortable with the effect? Is an accumulation of concerns—an accident chain—beginning? What resources in the cockpit can we use to assist us? What additional information would we like to have? From where or whom can we get this information? How can we solicit help? What resource do we wish we had? What can we do to improve our situation? Should we abort the flight, continue as planned or continue with a diversion?

Scenario-based training can transport the student to a realistic weather “experience” where he or she can practice thinking, assessing and deciding on the best course of action for a safe flight. Try it. You’ll like it.

Arlynn McMahon is the training center manager at Aero-Tech in Lexington, Ky. She is the author of Train Like You Fly: A Flight Instructor’s Guide to Scenario-Based Training and is the 2009 National Flight Instructor of the Year.


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