Safety 2.0

Normal Procedures

Eddie sez:

"Solving tomorrow's problems with yesterday's solutions"

For many of us, it seems we've done everything there is to do in our efforts to become safer pilots and run safety conscious flight departments. We've gone through the Safety Management System (SMS) process, we've achieved that highly coveted "Stage 3" audit, and we've even done a few renewals. We've accomplished everything our training vendor put in front of us and they are running out of ways to challenge us. The annual safety stand-down is becoming repetitive.

After all that, we have this nagging feeling that in our effort to make safety routine, it has become routine. We know that is a recipe for complacency, but what can we do about that? What's next?

I think there is a way going forward. Allow me the chance to elaborate.

Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.

Last revision:


Cover Story:


Safety 2.0


Photo: Captain Justin Serbent's high tech cockpit and low tech "whiz wheel."
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"Solving Tomorrow's Problems With Yesterday's Solutions"

When I first heard this phrase I was immediately captivated. The obvious meaning is that we in aviation are stuck in the past, unwilling or unable to move forward. If we don't do something to completely ditch this thinking, we are in for some serious trouble. But wait, is that really true? Isn't there anything good from the past that we can (and should) take forward. You bet there is.

It's a good thing . . .

We are being paid to avoid hazard, but there are still many unexplored crevasses in our reservoir of knowledge. Our zeal for air transport is always soured when we so easily reflect on failures involving certain late comrades, who proved in the final analysis to be, like ourselves, only the tip of the arrow. We are obliged to recognize our possible epitaph — His end was abrupt."

— Ernest K. Gann
Fate is the Hunter


Photo: KC-135A Over-rotation Warning, T.O. 1KC-135A-1, p. 2-27
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I remember looking at this warning when I was in KC-135A copilot school thinking two things. First, what kind of idiots did they have flying these death traps who don't know enough to rotate to the correct pitch angle? Second, what kind of death trap airplane is this that a 2 to 3 degree error in rotation can leave the airplane unflyable?

Later that year I was at the controls of a maximum weight KC-135A when one of the engines blew up on me right at V1. (I write about that here: Know Your Limitations.) We were about twenty knots short of rotation speed with a thousand feet of pavement left. So I rotated ever so gingerly and found that the 8 to 9 degrees was indeed where the pitch needed to be.

From that point on, I started adding that to my takeoff briefing. "At rotation speed I will rotate to between 8 and 9 degrees."

"Don Lemon could have used that advice," Major Harry Butters said after hearing me say that. Harry started flying the KC-135A in 1965 and seemed to know the history behind every warning in the book. He explained that Captain Lemon was a KC-135A aircraft commander stationed at March Air Force Base, California who over-rotated his airplane on a takeoff at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. "The weather wasn't great but Don stalled the airplane and everybody on board was killed. The Air Force put in that warning to our flight manual the next year."

"Really?" I asked.

Harry pulled out his flight manual to the page where I knew the rotation warning appeared. Next to it was his handwritten note, "Capt D. Lemon, 17 Jan 1968."

"Son," Harry said, "Our flight manual is written in blood."

Sometimes we ignore history at our own peril.

It can also be a bad thing.

To put it briefly, automation has made it more and more unlikely that ordinary airline pilots will ever have to face a raw crisis in flight—but also more and more unlikely that they will be able to cope with such a crisis if one arises."

— William Langewiesche

Not too long ago pilots were simply accustomed to things going wrong, aircraft were simply more likely to misbehave. When you've had a few engine fires over the years, you tend to be better prepared for the next one. But our modern day aircraft are remarkably well behaved these days.

"What about modern 6-axis simulators?"

You can't learn to deal with panic and fear in a simulator, when you know you are going to walk away uninjured. But that brings up another issue. Many of our training vendors have become little more than diploma mills. If "SimuSafety, Inc." is getting a nice fat check for $100,000 (the list price of a G650 initial), how likely are they to fail you on your type ride? So too with recurrent. These schools have resorted to teaching just the minimum needed to pass a check ride, and little more.

As pilot experience levels (in terms of years, hours, and things experienced) decrease, the need for better training increases.

Time to Upgrade our Safety

So let's look at Safety version 2.0. Why? Just remember life is hard. (Life is fatal, after all.) Aviation is hard too. If you don't think so, you need to get your mind right.

Safety Version 2.0

Most occupations in aviation are a lot like other intricate skills, like playing the violin, winning at chess, or becoming an all star football quarterback. You can suit up and do it, but if you want to do it at the highest level, you will need to do something special to obtain that extra "something." But how do you get there? How does one become an expert?

It may be helpful to look at a few wrong answers before moving on to the right answers.

What doesn't work: Appointed Titles


Photo: The Five-Sided Puzzle Palace
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Before the days of Power Point, we could always identify the "expert" at any meeting in the Pentagon as the officer carrying the big stack of acetate slides. Now days, the same goes for any large meeting: it's the person behind the podium with the Power Point clicker. Of course, then and now, all of this is wrong.

The same holds true outside the office. Just because you wear the title "Chief Pilot," "Director of Operations," "Captain," or other such aviation title, does not make you an expert. You might be an expert, but the title didn't make you one. Just think of all the chief pilots you've known over the years that were completely clueless. Enough said about that.

What doesn't work: Lots of Practice (The "10,000 hour rule")


Photo: 10,000 hours, Scott Adams, 7 Feb 2013
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[Ericsson, pp. 109-112]

  • In his discussion of what it takes to become a top performer in a given field, [Malcolm ] Gladwell offered a catchy phrase: "the ten-thousand-hour rule." According to this rule, it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become a master in most fields. [ . . . ] Gladwell himself estimated that the Beatles had put in about ten thousand hours of practice while playing in Hamburg in the early 1960s and that Bill Gates put in roughly ten thousand hours of programming to develop his skills to a degree that allowed him to found and develop Microsoft. In general, Gladwell suggested, the same thing is true in essentially every field of human endeavor - people don't become expert at something until they've put in about ten thousand hours of practice.
  • The rule is irresistibly appealing. It's easy to remember, for one thing. [ . . . ] And it satisfies the human desire to discover a simple cause-and-effect relationship: just put in ten thousand hours of practice at anything, and you will become a master.
  • Unfortunately, this rule — which is the only thing that many people today know about the effects of practice — is wrong in several ways. [ . . . ] First, there is nothing special or magical about ten thousand hours. [ . . . ] Second, the number of ten thousand hours at age twenty for the best violinists was only an average.
  • Third, Gladwell didn't distinguish between the deliberate practice that the musicians in our study did and any sort of activity that might be labeled "practice." For example, one of his key examples of the ten thousand-hour rule was the Beatles' exhausting schedule of performances in Hamburg between 1960 and 1964. According to Gladwell, they played some twelve hundred times, each performance lasting as much as eight hours, which would have summed up to nearly ten thousand hours. Tune In, an exhaustive 2013 biography of the Beatles by Mark Lewisohn, calls this estimate into question and, after an extensive analysis, suggests that a more accurate total number is about eleven hundred hours of playing. So the Beatles became worldwide successes with far less than ten thousand hours of practice. More importantly, however, performing isn't the same thing as practice. Yes, the Beatles almost certainly improved as a band after their many hours of playing in Hamburg, particularly because they tended to play the same songs night after night, which gave them the opportunity to get feedback- both from the crowd and themselves - on their performance and find ways to improve it. But an hour of playing in front of a crowd, where the focus is on delivering the best possible performance at the time, is not the same as an hour of focused, goal-driven practice that is designed to address certain weaknesses and make certain improvements - the sort of practice that was the key factor in explaining the abilities of the Berlin student violinists.
  • This distinction between deliberate practice aimed at a particular goal and generic practice is crucial because not every type of practice leads to the improved ability that we saw in the music students or the ballet dancers. Generally speaking, deliberate practice and related types of practice that are designed to achieve a certain goal consist of individualized training activities - usually done alone - that are devised specifically to improve particular aspects of performance.
  • Gladwell did get one thing right, and it is worth repeating because it's crucial: becoming accomplished in any field in which there is a well-established history of people working to become experts requires a tremendous amount of effort exerted over many years. It may not require exactly ten thousand hours, but it will take a lot.

There is an old saying that a pilot spends the first 10,000 hours learning, and the next 10,000 hours forgetting, so the pilot ends up at where he or she started. I've found that the impact of complacency hits pilots especially hard around 10,000 hours. So I would amend the old joke to say that a pilot's expertise tends to grow with hours until it doesn't. At that point, the pilot has to work even harder to remain sharp.

What doesn't work: Perfect Practice (". . . makes perfect")


Photo: Tennis players (Tulane Public Relations)

If you put in a lot of tennis practice, you will probably improve. But unless you have good instructors or consistently play someone better than you, you are unlikely to get much better.
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[Ericsson, pp. 109-112]

  • We all follow pretty much the same pattern with any skill we learn, from baking a pie to writing a descriptive paragraph. We start off with a general idea of what we want to do, get some instruction from a teacher or a coach or a book or a website, practice until we reach an acceptable level, and then let it become automatic. And there's nothing wrong with that. For much of what we do in life, it's perfectly fine to reach a middling level of performance and just leave it like that. If all you want to do is to safely drive your car from point A to point B or to play the piano well enough to plink out "Fur Elise;" then this approach to learning is all you need.
  • But there is one very important thing to understand here: once you have reached this satisfactory skill level and automated your performance — your driving, your tennis playing, your baking of pies — you have stopped improving. People often misunderstand this because they assume that the continued driving or tennis playing or pie baking is a form of practice and that if they keep doing it they are bound to get better at it, slowly perhaps, but better nonetheless. They assume that someone who has been driving for twenty years must be a better driver than someone who has been driving for five, that a doctor who has been practicing medicine for twenty years muse be a better doctor than one who has been practicing for five, that a teacher who has been teaching for twenty years must be better than one who has been teaching for five.
  • But no. Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of "acceptable" performance and automacity, the additional years of "practice" don't lead to improvement. If anything, the doctor or the teacher or the driver who's been at it for twenty years is likely to be a bit worse than the one who's been doing it for only five, and the reason is that these automated abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve.

I see this a lot. Pilots tend to improve their skills with practice to a point. There often comes a point where doing the same thing over and over again actually makes the pilot worse. Think of the simple task of flying an ILS approach. At first, it is incredibly difficult to keep the needles centered. But after a while, it becomes second nature. Then, after years of flying ILS approaches, it isn't as easy as it once was. Why? I think it is because keeping those needles exactly centered proves to be overkill. We accept a needle width of error. And then half a dot isn't so bad. (That's the ATP tolerance, after all.) We expect less of ourselves and that's what we get. There is, fortunately, a solution.

What does work: "Practice with Effective Critique"


Photo: A radiologist examining tomography, (National Cancer Institute)
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[Ericsson, p. 141] A pattern of improvement [ . . . ] was seen in a study of radiologists interpreting mammograms. The radiologists improved considerably in their interpretations over the first three years they spent on the job, coming up with fewer and fewer false positives — that is, cases in which women did not have breast cancer but were called in for further screening — and then their rate of improvement slowed down sharply. Interestingly, this improvement over the first three years occurred only for radiologists who had not had fellowship training in radiology. Those doctors who had gone through a radiology fellowship did not have the same sort of learning curve but instead took only a few months on the job to reach the same skill level that the non fellowship radiologists took three years to develop.

Radiology is a field where feedback comes fairly quickly. These false positives can be identified on subsequent examinations and doctors learn from their mistakes. The doctors who attended fellowships had many opportunities to learn from their mistakes quickly. Those without the fellowships eventually learned, but it took longer.

How to Improve Effectively


Photo: Eddie's flight examiner days

A common compliment for many professionals is that he or she has incredibly high standards. But, even if that is true, these professionals rarely evaluate themselves by those standards. If, for example, you are evaluating a pilot's ability to keep those ILS needles centered on an approach to minimums, you can be brutally frank on the importance of doing just that. One needle width, after all, can be a few hundred feet off centerline. But when it is you flying the approach a needle width (or two) off center, the fact you spotted the runway and landed is proof you met those lofty standards of yours.

Okay, you say, you know that. But you always fly with another pilot in the other seat and you always end the flight with a post-flight critique. "How'd we do?" you ask. "Just another day at the office," your peer says. And that's the problem. Our peers are reluctant to give honest critique because (A) they are uncertain those critiques will be received well, and (B) they know they will be the ones being critiqued next time out.

But if we truly want to improve our skills (and retain the skills we have), honest critique is vital.

Guest Audits

I've written extensively about the value of a good line observation program and the need to have an outsider look at how you are doing on a periodic basis. More about that: Line Operation Observations. The bottom line is that the check rides you get from your training vendor don't evaluate you on the line and the critiques you get from peers in your own flight department tend to be exercises in politeness. I encourage you to start or continue a good line observation program, but to broaden the audience. You need to include pilots outside your normal sphere. But more than that, you need to set them up to give you the best and most honest critiques possible.


Photo: A view from the jumpseat, from Mark Eisner (with permission).
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Find a flight department you respect and offer to exchange audits

If you know of a nearby flight department that seems to do everything right, or at least seems to have its act together in ways that perhaps yours does not, you might consider a high level sit-down of ideas. It could be between chief pilots, or safety officer, or just like-minded pilots who strive for improvement. Two pilots involved with each flight department's standardization program would be ideal.

Find a pilot you respect and ask for an audit

An exchange of audits between flight departments is ideal, because you can learn when giving as well as receiving an audit. But such an exchange isn't always possible. Some flight departments, for example, operate under strict non-disclosure agreements. But that doesn't preclude you from getting a useful audit. If you know of a pilot who you respect, or even a contract pilot who seems to always have a good idea at the right time, you may have an ideal candidate. See: Line Observation Pilots for what to look for in a line observation pilot.

Agree on the purpose of the audit

The LOO is not a check ride and the observed pilots' careers are not at risk. The LOO is an opportunity to see how well the pilots are doing in the eyes of another pilot. The better the qualifications of the observing pilot, the better the feedback is likely to be. The primary purpose of the LOO is to catch complacency before it becomes a problem.

The purpose of the Line Operation Observation is to:

  1. Observe crew performance under normal operating conditions.
  2. Assess the effectiveness of training programs.
  3. Determine awareness of company policies and regulatory requirements.
  4. Provide a feedback opportunity for crews.

Establish a few ground rules

Everyone involved needs to understand that because the audit is taking place in a flight department doing a job and the line observation on a "live" trip, that the audit and line observations cannot interrupt the business of the flight department.

  1. The purpose of the LOO is two-fold. First, it is a check to ensure the organization is adhering to industry best practices and company procedures. Second, it is a way to see if the organization is meeting the needs of its crews.
  2. The LOO pilot does not have an official crew position and does not have the authority to take any enforcement action. The LOO pilot is simply an observer.
  3. If at any time the PIC believes the LOO pilot is interfering with the crew, the PIC has the authority to ask the LOO pilot to leave the cockpit.
  4. Anything the LOO pilot/auditor discovers during the line observation or audit is "internal business" and remains with the flight department.

Sell the idea

You will need your company's permission and will need to convince them that the audit will improve the safety of your flight department without encouraging the idea that you need improving because you are unsafe. A few thoughts:

  1. We have attained the highest levels of our Safety Management System (SMS) audits which ensure we meet internationally recognized standards; but we want to take it to the next level with an audit and an observation flight given by someone who has a more operational viewpoint. This will ensure that we are not only operating by the letter of the law, but also by the intent of industry best practices.
  2. Each of our pilots is trained above industry minimums and passes a regular simulator check ride that places them under normal and emergency situations as only a simulator can; but these do not measure our normal operating procedures under everyday operational situations. We are not, for example, evaluated to ensure we meet all requirements flying in the real world with the stress and complications caused by having to meet the requirements of everyday passenger flights. The line observation simply collects this data for us to consider.
  3. The auditor will sign a non-disclosure agreement that we will prepare, and will agree to keep all company information in the strictest of confidence.
  4. Results of any flight observations will remain with us. The observation pilot will debrief our chief pilot (or equivalent) and make suggestions for improvement if needed. The observation will not place any of our crews at risk of losing any qualifications.
  5. The audit and flight observation can be used as incentives to insurance brokers as evidence of our flight department's professionalism and highest safety standards. These types of programs can be used to lower premiums.

Introduce the program to your personnel, set everyone up for the proper mindset

Everyone in your operation should be briefed well in advance about the purpose and conduct of the audit and line observation. They should understand that the intent is to improve the operation, that nobody's job (or pay) is at risk, and that the execution of the job at hand takes priority over the audit or line observation.

Train the auditor

If the auditor has previous flight evaluation experience, you need only emphasize the need to remain "in the background" and the role is to observe, not to evaluate. With or without this experience, the auditor needs to understand your organization's desired outcomes:

  1. Discover any areas where personnel are not living up to external (regulatory) and internal (company) rules, regulations, or guidelines.
  2. Point out where industry best practices can improve support and flight personnel procedures.
  3. Determine if company manuals, procedures, facilities, and management are well suited to support personnel in the execution of their duties.
  4. Discover areas where safety can be improved with new procedures or equipment.
  5. Provide personnel a chance to provide anonymous feedback to management.

See: Line Observation Pilot Training for a few ideas on how to train a line observation pilot.

Conduct of the audit

You should customize the audit and line observations to meet your specific needs, to accommodate company restrictions, and then adjust to any time constraints you or the auditor may have.

  1. You should provide the auditor with a copy of your flight operations manual(s). Provide a good idea of where in the manual important, operational rules are given.
  2. Give the auditor a tour of the facility and aircraft. Allow individual department heads to conduct parts of the tour without the top level of flight department management present (to encourage feedback).
  3. Have the auditor interview everyone in the department, one-on-one, to describe their duties and offer feedback.
  4. Have the auditor ride along in the jumpseat on a "live" trip with passengers on board. Ideally this will be an "out and back" trip but a two-day trip with an overnight stay can be especially useful.
  5. Have the auditor provide instant, positive feedback if appropriate.
  6. Have the auditor provide a full debrief to the department head, including areas where improvement is needed.

The debrief

The debrief should be informal and may be limited to just the department head or selected members of the flight department, at the discretion of the department head. The auditor should cover everything seen, good and bad, as well as any suggestions. The person(s) receiving the debrief should make clear at the outset that they are interested in learning from the exercise and that the auditor's opinions will be appreciated and acted on if appropriate. Once the debrief is complete, it is up to the flight department's leadership to decide what comes next. I think these recommendations should be considered for the SMS process.

A few examples

The following examples come from my current and a previous flight department, over a span of fifteen years. The first wasn't an audit at all, merely a meeting of minds between flight department heads. The next two were solicited feedback from individual pilots. The last example was a formal audit and line observation.

  • Large Falcon operator goes Gulfstream
  • The director of aviation for a large (six aircraft, sixty people) Falcon operation asked me to visit prior to their conversion to an all-Gulfstream fleet. I provided what help I could regarding pilot flight operations and training, as well as maintenance best practices. But, in return, I learned about techniques they were using that were superior to our own. I brought back with me better ways to ensure oxygen compliance and tool inventory control.

  • Contract pilot with Carte Blanche to critique: engine cycles
  • We have always encouraged our contract pilots to provide honest feedback about everything they see. This tends to work slowly at first, since few contract pilots are willing to "bite the hand." But after a while, when they see how cheerfully we give and receive critiques amongst our full time crews, they start to open up. One such pilot noted that we were not recording engine cycles correctly. (We didn't record missed approaches as engine cycles, in accordance with Gulfstream rules.) We researched the suggestion and found our contract pilot was 100% correct.

  • Contract pilot with Carte Blanche to critique: rushed checklists
  • Another contract pilot appreciated our strict adherence to "Challenge-Do-Verify" checklist discipline but noticed that after we had become comfortable with him, we tended to accelerate the pace of the checklist to the point he was no longer able to keep up. (So his ability to verify was compromised.) We stressed among our crews that checklist pacing required more patience. Specifically, we had to allow the "challenge" before the "do" to keep things safe. That was five years ago and we seemed to have stuck with this more patient approach to checklist accomplishment.

  • Formal auditor lauds a technique only a quarter of our pilots were using
  • Our line observation pilot was struck by the fact the two pilots he observed were using three senses (aural, visual, tactile) for many crew coordination chores. Altitude changes, are announced by the PM while pointing to the altitude select knob and seeing the altitude select window. The PM then repeats the altitude while pointing to the altitude shown in the pilot's flight display. (There are many other examples.) The chief pilot didn't know about this technique and, as it turned out, only the two pilots flying the line observation were using the technique. (The other six pilots were not.) This encouraged the chief pilot to encourage the other pilots to adopt the technique.

Purposeful Recurrents

Psychology Professor Anders Ericsson coins the term "purposeful practice" to differentiate it from what he calls what most of us do, something he calls "naive practice." The former is a way to really ramp up our level of expertise, the latter is just going through the motions. Purposeful practice has the following characteristics:

[Ericsson, pp. 15-17]

  1. Purposeful practice has well defined, specific goals.
  2. Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal.
  3. Purposeful practice is focused.
  4. Purposeful practice involves feedback.
  5. Purposeful practice requires getting out of one's comfort zone.

In an ideal world, we would apply these principles to our regular recurrent training, but we aren't in an ideal world. We have regulatory requirements (61.58, etc.) to take care of. But there is a path to achieving purposeful recurrents.


Photo: SSJ-100 Simulator, Thales Superjet International, 1 Aug 2011
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Prevent status quo recurrent training

You know how it goes. You finish the last of the legal training requirements and the simulator instructor says, "anything else?" This is fine if you have an answer for something that can only be done in the simulator that has a meaningful impact on how you conduct yourself as a pilot. But more often than not, the instructor might have a suggestion of his own. Based on the number of all-engine-out instances in aircraft I've flown over the years, I think the usual answer of "let's try a deadstick landing" to be a waste of time. But there are better answers. Here are four examples for a start:

  • Mid-Atlantic engine failure requiring a 180° turn back and drift down in the middle oceanic track. (Try this using optimized drift down and again delaying descent until 15 nm from tracks and then descending below tracks instead of at engine-out drift down altitude.) For more about this, see: The Great Escape.
  • Maximum crosswind exercises using typical versus flight manual techniques. For takeoff, duplicate the Gulfstream GIV N23AC scenario by unloading the nose gear as soon as possible versus maintaining a three-point attitude until rotation. If your aircraft requires a "decrab in the flare" (as many do) versus landing "wing low", try both methods at maximum crosswind on a 50' wide runway. For more about this, see: Crosswind Landing.
  • Maximum weight takeoff using obstacle analysis software. I've met many pilots who bravely say they use obstacle analysis software departing Aspen or Eagle to allow maximum payload (fuel, passengers, and cargo), but have never tried it in the simulator. I'll then ask them what obstacle clearance they expect at two miles from takeoff. (The answer for a two-engine aircraft with an engine out should be 96 feet.) If you are going to use this software, you owe it to yourself to takeoff from Aspen to the north, lose an engine at V1, and listen the EGPWS go crazy. Do this on a day, VFR day so you can see those mountains and learn just how close you will be. Also learn that with the extra drag created if you don't have the airplane in coordinated flight can leave you in the rocks. For more about this, see: Departure Obstacle Analysis Strategy and scroll down to the Aspen example.
  • Dead Captain exercise. We ask the instructor to pick a takeoff where he will slip a note to the captain that says, "I want you to play dead at V1" that requires the right seat pilot to take the airplane, rotate, and safely get the airplane back on the ground.

I've had instructors tell me they don't have time for these, even after I noted they had very elaborate setups for simple maneuvers that wasted simulator time my company was paying for. I can imagine teaching the same simulator profile over and over again can be boring and instructors want to do something different. I don't care. The purpose of the recurrent is to hone my skills, not to amuse the instructor. Over the years we learned to identify one or two things to add to our training request. We never send pilots to recurrent without at least one or two of these special requests. This puts the stress on the instructor to fit it all in. And somehow they always do.

Substitute (or add) alternate training for experienced pilots

When you are new to an aircraft, it is vitally important to follow up initial training with some operational time and a good recurrent session. In fact, you should probably have several recurrent trainings. As it turns out, most FlightSafety full-service contracts are good for two years and that should be good enough for one initial followed by three recurrents. Now what? The usual answer is to renew and get four more recurrents. That might be the right answer, depending on the pilot and the aircraft. But if you are at the point where it is all getting stale and it seems you are teaching the instructor more than the other way around, it might be time to break up the routine. You might consider terminating the recurring contract for one year, and then at the six month point throwing in something different. You may find that the something different is actually cheaper and you will end up a better pilot. Your company will have saved some training dollars. And, on top of all that, you will have a renewed interest at your next recurrent after your recurrent contract is renewed.

Here is an example from a few years ago. We had three pilots each with a full service contract that cost us $60,000 per year per pilot, with a two-year term. We sent each pilot to recurrent every six months, as our company policy requires this. After doing this for two contracts spanning four years, our pilots were becoming bored. So we ended the contracts after each pilot's fourth recurrent of the expiring contract. We then allow each pilot to pick an upset recovery training flight school for the next training event. The most expensive was $30,000. For the following training event, we renewed the full service contract. Each pilot learned upset recovery in a high performance airplane, the company saved $30,000 per pilot, and each pilot felt more motivated at the next simulator recurrent. For more about upset recovery, see: Unusual Attitudes Recovery.

If you have been flying the same aircraft for ten years or so, the repetitive recurrents can lead to complacency. You should consider upset training, certainly. But you might also consider glider training, tailwheel training, or even helicopter training as ways to improve your stick and rudder skills and motivation.


Safety 2.0 doesn't mean discarding Safety 1.0. We need to fully embrace the lessons of the past and, in many cases, rediscover those lessons that many think technology has solved (but hasn't). But we should add effective critiques to our arsenal of weapons against complacency. We should look for opportunities for outside audits and line observations for critiques we would not have received under regulatory requirements. We should emphasize recurrent training that sharpens us in ways that are pertinent to everyday flight operations. Taken as a whole, these steps will make us better pilots (while improving our resumes) and prevent complacency. And, as a side benefit to those of us running flight departments, it keeps pilots fully engaged and perhaps less likely to jump ship for a bigger pay check, newer type rating, or more exciting challenges.


Photo: Eddie unloads an L-39 to 0.4 Gs during a nose high recovery.
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Ericsson, Anders, Pool, Robert, Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise, Mariner Books, New York, 2017.

Gann, Ernest K., Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot's Memoir, 1961, Simon & Schuster, New York

Langewiesche, William, Should Airplanes Be Flying Themselves, Vanity Fair, October 2014.

Technical Order 1C-135(K)A-1, KC-135A Flight Manual, USAF Series, 10 August 1975