Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stick in the Mud

Everyone knows that a "stick in the mud" is someone who is completely resistant to change. That's not me: I'm resistant to useless change.

An Ameriflight pilot who also flew a Cessna 120 once pointed to the Beech 99 that made his living, saying, "That's not flying, it's airplane pointing." Flight training is developing into training in airplane pointing. This development has proceeded to the point that loss of control is the largest cause of transport-category airplane accidents.

Loss of control is the largest cause of transport-category airplane accidents!

I've written about this problem before (see here and here, among other places; the former appeared as a letter to the Editor of Aviation Week. But I'm old enough to remain unsurprised when nobody listens to me.

But I hope people listen to Rod Machado, or at least they should. Rod is an engaging speaker and a funny writer, but always with a serious message.

He writes a column for AOPA Pilot. While I appreciate AOPA, I find their magazines to be poorly written and jingoistic; generally, the article impacts terrain in a nose-high, right-wing-low attitude. The writing is competent, but I'd rather read poetry.

But this month's issue was worth reading because of Rod's column, which got it right: In defense of stick-and-rudder training. He uses the FAA's (and flight training industry's) own logic to puncture itself. "There's no law of psychology - not one - supporting the idea that presolo students learn the basics of flying more effectively...when they are distracted by the burden of simultaneously having to learn higher-order flight skills. The concept is antithetical to the building-block principle of learning."

Well said, Rod!

We have to remember, as Rod writes elsewhere, that "that your objective when teaching someone how to fly is to 'teach them to fly.' " In our rush to be efficient we have lost sight of the goal.

Conversely, right now I am working with a Commercial Pilot candidate who has done most of his flying from uncontrolled fields, and his radio work needs work. But he can fly: he keeps the ball centered, he handles crosswinds well, he's aware of the weather and traffic. So the radio work becomes an add-on.

It's not the primary goal.

Over, and out.

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