Flight Operations

Instructor Corner
by Dan Cook, Flight Training and Safety Committee, Soaring Association of Canada (SAC). This article was originally prepared for the SAC’s internal newsletter, Free Flight

Pssst! Let’s talk. Recent gliding accidents have indicated that not all instructors are comfortable determining when they should take control from a student during flight instruction. Some instructors have argued that many instructors take control too soon and don’t give the student enough latitude to practice. This problem may be true in some situations, but it has the potential to quickly lead to an unsafe situation. Worse still, some instructors never stop manipulating the controls while the student practices the air exercise. Usually there is a fear that the student will put the instructor in an unsafe situation. Unfortunately, the student never gets a true feel for the glider’s response, and learning the necessary handling skills is very much slowed. To assist instructors in understanding how far is too far, we will examine a risk management model that describes comfort zones.

The comfort zone principle

Figure 1: The comfort zone principle

The comfort zone model illustrates how challenging situations can have both positive (expanding) and negative (reducing) effects upon a participant’s personal view of their own experience. The large goose egg represents a pilot’s overall total knowledge, skill, and experience. The comfort zone represents one’s personal level of satisfaction with the risks in flying. These are the elements of safety that protect us and make us feel comfortable. As long as pilots operate the glider within their personal comfort zones, they should be able to conduct the flight safely. The stretch zone represents flying activity that is beyond their normal experience and skill level, and therefore, outside their normal comfort area. Flying in this range under supervision can be safe. However, the new experience will develop a pilot’s capabilities, introducing them to new experiences, skills, and knowledge. The risk and danger zones illustrated are beyond the pilot’s normal range of capabilities; flight exercises attempted in these zones may not have suitably safe outcomes. Based on the law of primacy, if the instructor takes a student into the risk or danger zone, this could be a negative learning experience (example: stall/spin exercises too early will likely inhibit later training).

A good glider instructor will use the knowledge of their student’s capabilities (zones) to allow the student to experience flight in their stretch zone, thus learning from new experiences. The instructor will take control from the student when the flight moves towards the limits of the student’s capability to handle the exercise safely (risk zone). The instructor must never allow the flight to progress to the danger zone, where the student is not capable of maintaining the flight safely. Of course, the instructor has more experience, knowledge, and skill than the student does. The instructor’s comfort zone should easily encompass the student’s stretch zone. If the instructor allows the student to go into the instructor’s risk zone, the flight is not being conducted safely.

Comfort zone limits

Figure 2: Possible relative size of a student’s zones (solid colours) vs. relative size of an instructor’s zones (dashed lines)

This model is only good if instructors can identify these zones in themselves and in their students. How do you tell the limit of your perceived risk zone, let alone your student’s?

When you are in your comfort zone, you might experience personal symptoms similar to those described in Table 1. This table is based on observations made by instructors. These symptoms may or may not be evident in an instructional flight, nor are they limited to those expressed. Everyone is different, and all instructors need to learn about their own symptoms, as well as those of their students, to develop their own criteria. The table will give you references to help you start measuring the transition between comfort and stretch zones. Body language, physiological responses, speech patterns and tone, and the ability to communicate are indications that a person may be transitioning from one zone to another.

When nearing critical times in a flight lesson (e.g. the landing phase), the instructor may ask questions about the flight to find out indirectly what zone the student may be in. If the instructor listens to what is said, and notices how the student responds, more information becomes available. Lack of response is a bad sign, and taking control is recommended until you find out what the problem is. At a critical point in the flight, if a verbal prompt is made to the student and there is no immediate response, the instructor must take control.

An instructor will often look for head movement. Proper scan procedure is one of the first techniques to deteriorate near the end of a student’s stretch zone. If possible, one can also look at the back of the ears or neck for colour of skin and signs of sweat.

As an instructor, any time a student takes you into your own stretch zone, you should take control and put the flight back into your comfort zone. Escalation of zones can also progress very quickly; for example, in spin recovery exercises, you may find yourself in your risk area quickly. Anticipation and prompt response are necessary. However, more often than not, it will be a student or another pilot who is performing well that will surprise you. Also, moving from the student’s stretch zone to risk zone may be subtle. Don’t let your guard down, stay alert, and keep looking for clues from your student.

Last, but not least, we need to mention the instructor/ student syndrome described in the Glider Instruction Manual. Do not fall into the trap where the student realizes some aspect of the flight is not correct or ideal and continues in the expectation that the instructor will prompt a correction, and the instructor is waiting for the student to correct the problem and does not issue a prompt in time.

In summary, please remember that a serious accident with an instructor on board is never acceptable. We are in the aircraft to fly safely first, and to instruct second. Stay in your comfort zone if you are instructing, and keep your students out of their risk or danger zones!

Many thanks to Kevin Moloney, of the British Gliding Association (BGA) Safety Committee, who presented this model at the International Scientific and Technical Soaring Organisation (OSTIV) Training Safety Panel in 2005.

(minimal learning)
(good learning)
(marginal learning)
(no learning)
Personal Symptoms

• Good feeling about flight
• Alert but relaxed
• Easily managing flight and manoeuvres
• No stress symptoms

• Slight butterflies in pit of stomach
• Heightened alertness
• Start asking yourself questions or thinking about options and mentally providing answers to yourself
• Some stress symptoms -hair standingon end, goose bumps

• Burning in pit of stomach or nausea
• Easily distracted or may have difficulty focusing on problems
• Asking yourself questions but no longer providing answers to yourself
• Under stress, sweating, increased heart rate

• No feeling, numbness or extreme nausea
• Tunnel vision starts to set in, you are only able to focus on one thing
• Loss of situational awareness (airspeed, traffic, etc.)
• High stress, rapid or irregular heartbeat
Instructor-Observed Student Symptoms

• Student communicative
• Student notices elements or situation of flight without prompting
• Handles all tasks
• Relaxed, noticeable head movement, looking around

• Less talkative or may ask more questions
• May express lack of confidence or request assurance
• Weaker scan technique
• May have to focus on new task and need promoting to complete others
• Becomes a bit restless or may mention feeling uncomfortable

• Stops asking questions or may seem distracted
• Has difficulty answering questions or has a nervous voice pattern
• May not respond quickly to verbal or physical control prompts
• Head fairly still
• Sweating visible, pale, clammy skin, colour behind ears or deliberate breathing

• Does not respond to questions
• May stop flying and become passenger
• No response to verbal or physical prompts on controls
• No head movement
• May freeze on controls
• White skin tones or irregular breathing

Table 1: Safety zone symptoms

Flight Instructor Refresher Courses
by Jim Dow, Chief, Flight Training, General Aviation, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Flight instructor refresher courses have been part of the history of Canadian flight training since they were established by Order-in-Council in October 1951, in partnership with the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) and the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association (now known as the Aero Club of Canada [ACC]). Canada was at war-the Korean War. There were fewer than 7 000 pilots in Canada, and aviation was growing. The federal government believed that investment in pilot training would be good for the country. Flight schools were given a grant of $100 for each individual granted a private pilot licence from their school. Each individual receiving a private pilot licence was also given a grant of $100. A further $100 was available for those who were subsequently accepted in the air component in any of the three military services (only available for male British subjects).

The flight instructor refresher courses were fully funded through a grant to industry. Instructors did not have to pay for the course, for their travel to and from the course, for their accommodation and meals, or for the flying that was part of the course. Upon completion of the course, their ratings were extended, rather than renewed, according to a complex formula that depended on when your rating was going to expire. Industry administered the courses and Transport Canada provided the instruction. It all worked, until 1992. That was the year the federal government announced in its economic statement that all grants and contributions would be phased out over a period of three years.

The refresher course funding in 1992–93 was $112,000. At that time, the courses were available to 120 aeroplane instructors and nine helicopter instructors. Two aeroplane instructor courses were held in western Canada and two in eastern Canada, while the helicopter course alternated each year between east and west. The loss of funding seemed like the end of the line for the courses. Without the grant, industry was no longer interested in being involved. The situation seemed impossible, but a decision was made to carry on with the courses in a different way. Transport Canada would take on the administration of the courses-they were already providing the instructional staff-reduce them from five to three days, eliminate the flying, and offer them in major centres, closer to where instructors lived and worked. Instructors would have to pay their own expenses, but there was no fee for the course itself. Many people wondered if anyone would show up!

Instructors did show up-in even greater numbers. Ironically, the loss of funding increased the participation. In the last year of the courses run by Transport Canada, 164 aeroplane instructors participated. Thirteen instructors attended the last helicopter course in 2005. But the model was not sustainable. It ran counter to our operating principles. The assumptions of the 1950s could no longer be used to support the delivery of training directly to industry on a continuing basis. We knew the courses were important. We knew that instructors thought they were valuable-they told us this, and many instructors participated even when they didn’t need to renew their ratings.

On April 1, 2007, with the coming into effect of General Aviation Advisory Circular 421-001-Flight Instructor Refresher Courses-Aeroplane and Helicopter, procedures were set out for authorizing industry to conduct aeroplane or helicopter flight instructor refresher courses. The door is now open for industry to step in and take them into the future. There will be a period of transition as the procedures are refined and as industry gains confidence in the approach. In total, there are about 1 800 pilots with aeroplane flight instructor ratings and about 180 helicopter instructors. Many of these are not actively instructing. In a 12-month period, about 250 aeroplane instructor rating renewal flight tests are conducted and about 40 helicopter instructor rating flight tests are conducted. Add to this the renewals by refresher courses (about 160 per year) and the renewals by experience (about 30 per year), and good potential can be seen for continued interest in the courses, even allowing for the fact that a fee will be charged by the course providers.

Transport Canada will still be involved in the refresher courses. Prospective course providers have to submit a training course outline for approval, and the initial courses will all be monitored. Up to four hours of each course can still be filled by Transport Canada presenters. There is room in the standards for a wide range of topics. For each topic, there must be learning objectives identified. There must be a quality system to control and continuously improve the course quality. We hope to see more courses in more places than Transport Canada was able to provide. We hope to see instructors embrace this new model and to continue to participate and to see the courses as important instruments for their professional development.

Note: Since this article was written, the first delegation to conduct a flight instructor refresher course was given to Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.

Warning! Special Configuration at the Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (CYUL)

Taxiway Juliett is a curved taxiway that links the deicing pad at CYUL to Taxiway Alpha. Because of the taxiway’s special configuration and the need to meet the requirements of TP 312, Aerodromes Standards and Recommended Practices, the stop line for Runway 28 is located on Taxiway Juliett. Pilots therefore find themselves holding at an angle of 180° to the runway instead of the usual 90°.

As for Taxiway Alpha, it is not completely perpendicular to the threshold of Runway 28. In addition, when approaching Runway 28 on Taxiway Alpha, the runway threshold is not visible because the taxiway does not cross the actual threshold, but is juxtaposed with the runway threshold. This closeness is the reason behind the stop lines on Alpha, which are required in order to protect arrivals and departures

Note the two stop lines on Alpha, immediately north and south of Runway 28. This sketch is taken from the Canada Air Pilot (CAP 5) Low Visibility Taxi Chart for CYUL.

Note the two stop lines on Alpha, immediately north and south of Runway 28. This sketch is taken from the Canada Air Pilot (CAP 5) Low Visibility Taxi Chart for CYUL.

These two special configurations are conducive to runway incursions. Following several runway incursions in 2001–2002, Transport Canada, Air Canada, the Aéroports de Montréal and NAV CANADA met in order to find solutions. Each stakeholder had implemented various mitigating action, which were published in an article in Aviation Safety Letter 4/2002. The situation had greatly improved. Unfortunately, the 2006–2007 season had its fair share of runway incursions.

Working together

The same stakeholders, along with representatives from other air carriers, met in the spring of 2007 to study the situation, and made a commitment to take the following action:

  • Use phraseology that will draw attention to the special configuration of Taxiway Juliett.
  • Offer the possibility of including a reminder on the automatic terminal information service (ATIS) about the position of the stop lines on Juliett when the de-icing pad is being used.
  • Offer the possibility of adding indications on the ground to draw attention to the stop lines on Juliett.
  • Publish hot spots on the aerodrome charts contained in the Canada Air Pilot (CAP), so that other aviation publication suppliers can also include them in publications used by air carriers.
  • Publish articles in various aviation publications to raise awareness of the problem.

Safety is everyone’s business. Be careful when approaching Runway 28; an incursion can happen in the blink of an eye...

Date modified: