Evaluating Safety Management (PTS proposed changes) Part 1

“The goal of the airman certification process is to ensure the applicant is ready to safely manage the risks of flight as pilot-in-command, consistent with the privileges of the certificate or rating exercised.”

In other words… lets add a bunch of extra cost and time to pilot training in the interest of safety management. Evaluate it not only during a written exam, but also take critical time away from from the stick and rudder arena, and then somehow magically pilots will be safer.

In 1977, the FAA had this nifty illustration as concerns teaching in AC-60-14.

A pilot had a hinge on his head, and a CFI would take a pitcher of knowledge and pour it into the student, and then knowledge would come out of the students mouth. It was a comical example of how learning does not occur…. or perhaps better said, of how long term useful learning does not occur. Short term wise, the pitcher thing can sort of work.

There’s a whole subset of aviation instruction specifically built up to make money via leveraging short term memory for the written exam. Such courses have all the test questions, and they go through nearly every one over a 2-3 day period. While doing so, they also present memory tricks and such for a lot of questions which pretty much guarantees someone will pass the exam.

While cram and forget courses seem a questionable sort of practice, there is a need for them by some students. The complexity of the written exam is such that unless one is good with the paper side of things, and/or is a recent student, the written exam can be a barrier. More than a few times over the years I’ve a recommended a student who has difficulty to go to one of those weekend guaranteed to pass the exam courses over the years just to get it out of the way. The really important info we cover in flight and ground school, and does get checked again during the oral, just not as much in depth as the written. Consider how the exam would need to change if the test questions and answers were not published before hand?

And now the FAA is proposing adding more complexity to the oral and practical (and in time, no doubt the written)? Will it really make a difference in the safety domain? I sort of doubt it, but there will be money to be made in 141’s and a new industry of cram and forget oral and practical prep will come into being. Otoh, how many potential pilots will drop out due to increased complexity?

This is not to say Safety Management etc is a bad thing. The proverbial “A superior pilot is one who uses his superior judgment so as not to have to use his superior skill.” is all too true. The challenge is how do we get folks to the superior judgement arena?

Safety by example was promoted, ADM was promoted, FITS was promoted, a subset of airline CPM was promoted, and the accident rates don’t change very much. Peripheral matters like doubling the size of the PTS, and poking at means of evaluation at huge expense to our students is unlikely to make much of a dent in rates either.



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