Instructor Secrets

Of course, for much good guff there is my book “Aerobatics Down Under” – the Kindle version is only US$3 or about A$4 at https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07PXY467M

Let’s start with an interesting article by Michael Ralph about learning aerobatics pre-Part 61. Before Part 61 for spinning (upright and, separately, inverted) and aerobatics there was a couple of paragraphs in CAO 40.0.
There was a specific definition of “spinning training means training in the aeronautical skills and aeronautical knowledge necessary to safely recover an aeroplane from an upright spin, or an inverted spin.“ The Day VFR Syllabus specified the required underpinning knowledge, but only for upright spins.
There were five aerobatic manoeuvres specified in the manner of aviation legalise:
“The holder of an aeroplane pilot licence may carry out:
(a) a barrel roll; or
(b) a loop; or
(c) a slow roll; or
(d) a roll off the top; or
(e) a stall turn;
if an authorised flight instructor, or an approved person, who gave the holder flying training in the manoeuvre:
(f) is satisfied that the holder can safely perform the manoeuvre; and
(g) makes an entry to that effect in the holder’s personal log book.“
So, someone may have all five manoeuvres in their logbook endorsement (as a single entry or multiple entries) or only some of the five.
This important note then followed:
“If a pilot is approved to carry out more than 1 of these manoeuvres, he or she may carry out combinations of those manoeuvres.“
You would know that the roll off the top is itself a combination manoeuvre so permitted if one had a loop and a, let’s just say, roll endorsement. I should mention that before Part 61, aerobatics had to be taught at a flight school to, at least nominally, their syllabus approved by CASA. We could debate barrel rolls at length.
Doing many low level approvals over the years I used to encounter many variations of the manoeuvres listed in aerobatic endorsements. For example, one of my students had so many difficulties with stall turns that we parted without that endorsement done – but everything else included in the endorsement. What would CASA think when he transitioned to a Part 61 licence – did he get an aerobatic endorsement or not? Did he deserve one?
CASA introduced their CAAP 155-1, Aerobatics, on 2007 with, at the time, a lot of good stuff,. It seems to me that the average aerobatic instructor didn’t know that it ever existed.

I subsequently coached Michael for the aerobatics contest at the Australian Light Aircraft Championships – he did well but I don’t recall the details.

My syllabus also has UA recoveries near the end of the course. The hardest thing about UAs is the identification of a UA with the consequent need to take different action to recover as distinct from just continuing to fly the manoeuvre. Trainees need to know what a normal manoeuvre looks, feels and sounds like before they can identify their situation as a UA. Also, later in the course, they are fairly competent in flying the airplane at all attitudes so are able to better deal with the UA exercises – especially when they are set up with their eyes closed and they don’t know what they will encounter. Of course, they are likely to encounter UAs along the way when they mess something up – learning opportunities – the instructor learns about the student too.

I should also add – back then all aerobatic training had to be done by a flying school with an AOC and instructors were obliged to follow the syllabus in the Operations Manual approved by CASA. Of course, they say it wasn’t “approved”, rather “accepted” – just weasel words in case something slipped through however the point is that if there was anything in there that the individual FOI didn’t like then it would not be “accepted”. Individual instructors didn’t get much wiggle room. It seems to me that there was a Melbourne way of doing things which differed from other parts of the country. Different regions of CASA wanted stuff done in different ways, some allegedly contrary to the POH. I was brought up on the Melbourne way of doing stuff so I accept that has influenced what I do now.

That story reminded me of when I was giving rides to VIPs at the end of AirVenture at Oshkosh in a Pitts S-2B. One gentlemen told me that he had 20,000 hours – I then asked him how many hours of aerobatics …. 20,000 hours. Good, I thought. I handed control to him once we were away from Oshkosh. We got some height over the lake and he told me that he was going to do a loop. I sat there, relaxed as one normally is when a very experienced pilot is doing a simple manoeuvre. We fall out of it so I took over and recovered. A bit of advice then another attempt with the same result. OK, change of plan, I was going to talk him through the next one. …… and this is an inverted flat spin …. taking over!

That 20,000 hour retired (for many years) pilot did all-through jet training so had never encountered propeller effects before, especially in the high-powered Pitts, however he was very experienced in jet aerobatics. I was taking lots of people for a ride in the Pitts that day so no time to talk beyond the essentials for a passenger ride. A reminder to never assume.

I’ll come back and finish this little story later about when I took a Pitts S-2B to a big flight school for demonstration to their aerobatic instructors – I flew with three of them.

The next article below is a reminder that instructors are really just normal people. I have this general theory that whoever gets in the front seat of a Decathlon has their IQ lowered by 10% and the person in the back seat has their IQ raided by 10%.

Another time, I remember one pilot that I was flying with for the first time. He got in the front seat of the Super Decathlon first and by the time that I got in and found the ends of the harness he was starting the engine then he closed the door. He didn’t impress me at all.

When we got back from the flight we had an interesting debriefing.