Safety is the FAA’s mission and the agency has established an ambitious goal for reducing the GA accident rate over the next five years. Given the incredible diversity of GA pilots, aircraft, and operations, the challenge may seem as daunting and as nebulous as the cliché of “solving world hunger.”
Building on Bright Spots. In that light, the opening example in Chip and Dan Heath’s 2010 book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is both illuminating and inspiring. As the story goes, an international charity employee assigned to an Asian country finds that he has six months to make a difference in the fight against malnutrition. Most people would be paralyzed in the mire of abstract macro-scale causes like poverty. Instead, this employee noticed, investigated, and then emulated what the book calls “bright spots,” or small steps that make a big difference. Recognizing that knowledge alone does not change behavior, he created opportunities for village mothers to use a few simple nutrition-enhancing techniques on a daily basis. The results were striking. After six months, small changes to the mothers’ culture and daily practices had produced measureable nutritional improvements in 65 percent of the village children.
As we will use this newly established Angle of Attack department to explain in the coming year, the FAA is taking a similar approach to the GA community’s parallel challenge. Rather than regulate big changes, the FAA is looking to identify, communicate, and replicate best practices that can mitigate and, better yet, eliminate the leading GA accident causes. Just as the village mothers played the critical role in propagating healthier practices, the FAA is counting on certificated flight instructors (CFI) to be agents of safety-enhancing changes to GA culture and training. The FAASTeam’s CFI workshops are already well established, and there will be additional opportunities for CFI outreach, education, training, and sharing of best practices over the coming months.
Small Change, Large Impact. That said, there is no need to wait before implementing some of the best practices that already contribute to safety. One such practice is the postflight briefing. This vital part of the training and learning process frequently gets short shrift in the bustle of real-world flight instruction. Pilots-in-training can also affirm that the postflight briefing is often little more than a laundry list recital of the student’s mistakes. While better than a flight with no debrief at all, this approach leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Here’s a small change that you as an individual CFI can leverage for better training impact. Before your next instructional flight, read Chapter 5 of the FAA Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, which describes how an effective and authentic postflight critique contributes to developing the student-pilot’s skills in self-assessment and situational awareness. Review the suggested collaborative assessment process of guiding the student to replay, reconstruct, reflect, and redirect the experience of the flight. Then, put it into practice by making it a standard part of your postflight briefing. It is one way to help your students get the training and the “nutrition” they need to grow into safe and competent pilots. (FAA Safety Briefing JanFeb 2011)