Airtourer Pilot Proficiency Program (PPP)
Pilot proficiency programs have been run by other type clubs for some time. The concept was first introduced to the Airtourer community at the convention in 1999 by Russell Kelly from the Australian Money Pilots Association. (See Newsletter 90, May 1999). At the time the idea was not progressed for a number of reasons including the widely dispersed membership.
In 2021 the committee decided to develop a pilot proficiency program structured to be accessible to the full membership. Many other type clubs conduct their program face to face, typically over 2 to 4 days and including a flying exercise that may satisfy a flight review requirement.
The Airtourer association members are widely spread, from the United Kingdom to New Zealand and a broader approach is required.
This program is very much self driven. Structure and resources will be provided but it’s up to the individual to progress through that structure. A weekend program, at a flying school, will be included to bring it all together. This is envisaged to be every year or alternate year depending on how the program develops.
Philosophy of the Program.
The PPP is intended to be an ongoing program of learning, revision, and continuous improvement. It is not an external assessment such as a flight review, although this may be included as an optional component. A flight review is a spot check, the PPP is about continuous improvement.
Why Do We Fly?
Before getting into the program it’s worthwhile taking a step back and asking ourselves why we fly. We can try emotion responses like “slipping the surly bonds of earth”, or trying to justify it as being an efficient way to travel, but realistically, it’s simply because it’s fun. So, what makes it fun?
If we look at other activities that are considered fun they have some characteristics in common. Generally fun things are hard to do well, whether it’s hitting a small dimpled ball into a distant hole or creating something to a high standard. Danger is often involved, like driving a motor vehicle faster than everyone else on a track or running a ball the length of a field while others are intent on stopping you, with violence.
The fun comes from the satisfaction of doing it well, while avoiding the hazards. This very much aligns with aviation which is potentially catastrophic, yet by applying a range of skills we have an enjoyable and safe flying experience.
Aim of the PPP
The aim of the PPP is therefore to prepare us to mitigate the inherent risks so we can enjoy our hobby safely. It’s all about knowledge, judgement and skill which can be summed up as airmanship.
Airmanship is one of those terms often heard in aviation yet there are many definitions. One of the best models of airmanship is discussed in the book “Redefining Airmanship” by retired USAF pilot and safety specialist, Tony Kern.
This PPP is unashamedly based on Kern’s model of airmanship and his suggestions on a personal airmanship improvement program outlined in the book.
The Tony Kern Airmanship Model
The Kern model is based around an analogy of a building.
The foundations of airmanship being Discipline, Skill and Proficiency. Sitting on the foundation are the Pillars of Knowledge. Knowledge of self, aircraft, team, environment, risk and mission. These then support situational awareness leading to sound judgement. It is the sound judgement that enables us to make the safe decisions.
The Airtourer PPP
The Airtourer PPP will be a 12 month program based on six two month modules. This is longer than the Tony Kern suggestion but is probably more appropriate for general aviation and the fewer flying opportunities.
Airtourer PPP Modules
|Module||Skills & Proficiency||Pillars of Knowledge|
|1||DIY Flight Review||Self assessment, review of airmanship & Fuel System|
|2||Basic flying skills||Self – fit to fly|
|3||Aerodrome operations – circuits||Flaps, undercarriage & flight instruments.
Regs - Airfield operations.
|4||Navigation & weather||Weather, communication and navigation instruments.
|5||Emergencies, EFATO, PFL||Flight Manual emergency procedures.
Accident case studies.
Understanding of risk.
Resources to help in emergencies.
Electrical and flight control systems.
DIY or actual Flight Review.
Each module will include reading and self study tasks as well as flying exercises to cover aspects of the Kern model, particularly proficiency and the pillars of knowledge.
Fundamental to this program is “self”:
- Self discipline to work through the program,
- Self learning,
- Self assessment, and
- Above all, being honest with yourself.
This may appear quite a challenge, but remember, if you’ve already earned your licence, you’ve already proved you have these character traits. It’s very much a case of reaping what you sow although it’s important to set modest, achievable goals rather that aiming for perfection.
Two important tools for the program are a calendar and a journal. A calendar, where you purposely allocate time for the program. Set aside about an hour a week that you can dedicate to study / research / reading / preparation without the threat of distractions. Similarly, allocate time for flying. Don't wait for an opportunity as there will always be the grass to cut, the car to wash or some other “higher” priority task. Obviously, some flexibility will be required due to factors such as weather but if you don’t specifically plan the good intentions will get lost.
The journal is important as the writing process enforces a level of discipline in self assessment. It is for your eyes only, so the self assessment can be completely honest. Notes and abbreviations are fine, so long as you can understand them later. The journal is the record of your progress through the program. It’s a record of both the flying and the ground study. It’s the place holder for topics to follow-up at another time and questions to seek answers to.
The journal should be reviewed on at least a monthly, but better still, a weekly basis. Repetition is a well established principle of learning. The reviews provide the repetition as well as charting your progress through the journey to being a better pilot.
A spriral bound A4 or A5 notebook should suffice. It should fit in your nav bag so it’s with the aircraft when you fly. Review your flight as soon as possible afterwards while it’s still fresh in your mind. Take time to note what went well, what could have been improved and what needs follow-up.
We need a baseline to be able to measure progress. The first module will therefore be relatively simple, a baseline self check of our flying as well as our knowledge and attitudes. The flying baseline will be a “do it yourself” flight review, while the knowledge baseline is a self assessment quiz. Both of these exercises will be completed again at the end with a full expectation of the final being measurably better than the first.
It’s also time to develop your understanding of airmanship. Consider purchasing Redefining Airmanship by Tony Kern, alternatively see if your local library can obtain a copy.
This concludes the introduction to the Airtourer PPP. The detail of each module including exercises and study material is included separately and accessible by association members. System study will be added in the later modules starting with the fuel system. It won’t be all boring reading, some topics will be covered by e-learning. If members desire, discussion sessions via Zoom are possible. It’s really up to you. So, log in, work through the detail of the modules and get more enjoyment from your flying while developing you skill, knowledge and judgement.