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Aviation Updates: FAA's LSA Rule Change, Pilot Pass Rate Challenges, and Pro Tips for July

July 2023

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Light Sport Airplanes are about ready to get a significant upgrade.

The FAA published a notice of proposed rule-making in the federal register as part of the MOSAIC (Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates) program. It’s a bold move that will up the maximum stall speed for certification. That, in turn, will move the weight up as well. All of this points to two significant benefits. 

New airplanes can be designed as an LSA that is more robust. Some current LSAs don’t hold up to well in training and can be noisy. 

Most training airplanes with a standard airworthiness certificate can be used for training sport pilots and as rentals. The increased weight would cover Cessna 172s, Archers, Diamond DA40s, and many more. 

If it becomes law, this will significantly impact the Soort Pilot certificate, airplanes, and training. It opens up the market for more pilots that before found airplane choices too limited. 

It could also help with the current CFI shortage.  Did you know that a Sport Pilot can become  Sport Pilot Flight Instructor with as little as 150 hours without needing an instrument rating and Commercial Pilot Certificate?  This could help with initial solos, cross-country training, and so on. A rule change several years ago allowed training time received from a Soort Pilot Flight Instructor to be used towards a Private Pilot Certificate.  Using Sport Pilot CFIs in Cessna 172s could potentially help get students through training quicker as we’d have more CFIs. It would also allow the Sport CFI to earn money sooner and pay for additional ratings.  

For someone pursuing an aviation career, it would be two new ratings along the way, Sport Pilot and Sport CFI, that before had no real value to them. Now these new ratings would enable that person to start making money at 150 hours and help pay for Private, instrument, commercial, CFI, and Multi-Engine ratings. 

Let’s see how this flushes out over the next couple of months. 

Pass Rates for almost all ratings are down. Especially for Private Pilots

We are all a little jittery over the news that the first-time pass rates are dropping. No one has proposed an absolute reason, but several contributing factors exist. I’d like to discuss two of these in this article. 

The first factor is the current experience of the overall flight instructor workforce. Around 80% of CFIs training students today have less than two years of experience. As most of you know, you get your CFI by demonstrating you can fly safely to a standard from the right seat and talk/teach, use the radio, etc., without missing a beat. There is a disconnect between what happens after the test is passed. In the real world of flight instructing, you need to talk less, way less, and allow students to make and learn from their mistakes. The very training you receive as a CFI in training is about explaining every detail as you demonstrate a maneuver, pre-deliver all of the common errors the student will likely make, and then identify and fix them as they occur. This is not really how we teach at all. It does prove that you can fly from the right seat, identify and fix errors on the fly and not miss radio calls.  That’s it. It lacks what all CFIs who do this for a living know. Explain how to do it, demonstrate it, and let the student practice and make mistakes. We let them try to learn and self-correct before we get anywhere near the controls. New CFIs aren’t taught these things.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a required residency like there is for medical students.  In residency, you get experience and develop a sense of when to step and when not to.  As a new CFI, your residency is your first five students.  They teach you a lot, but at who’s cost?  Mentoring and additional teaching is what is needed.  We won’t get that anytime soon from the FAA.  Fortunately, SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators),, is working on a mentoring program and a course they call CFI-Pro.  More on that to come.

The second issue is that the DPE shortage, or unavailability, causes students to finish training and wait around for sometimes months to get a test.  Skills, proficiency, and recency all fade.  Without frequent proficiency flights, the fail rate goes up.

So what if you’re in that space where you need a checkride soon?  You feel qualified, but how do you really know?  Get with an experienced CFI that still trains and recommends applicants for the type of test you need.  They are a rare breed these days, but they are out there.  Experience measured in years but not in training and recommending applicants for a practical test is not what we need as much.  Plenty of great CFI’s only do upset training, aerobatics, and so on but haven’t touched any training for a certificate or rating in a long time.  Though they bring experience as excellent teachers, they aren’t current on what and why people fail tests.  If you don’t have any local resources as I’ve described, turn to SAFE to find a good CFI to help you when you get near your test.

We are all trying to turn out better, more qualified pilots who pass on the first attempt.  With the two obstacles I pointed out, it’s getting a lot harder to do that.

I’ll have more to say on this after we get more data on pass rates and percentages of new (under two years), flight instructor certificates out there.

Pro Tips for July

  1. What happens if the CO sensor goes off while you are doing a runup?  The obvious answer is to return to parking, but it may not be necessary.  What’s up?  If you are one of the many pilots that have a huge checklist to get through, the CO sensor may have gone off because you were in the same spot for a long time, and CO did build up in the cockpit.  Of course, don’t ignore it.  But move the airplane around a little and vent the cabin.  You may find out that the CO sensor goes off.  Better yet, use a simple checklist that doesn’t have you sitting in the runup for a long time. The POH has a checklist that works just fine.

  2. If you fly an airplane with seatbelts that have inertia reels, this one is for you.  Inertia reels allow the seatbelt to hold together in one area when the seatbelt isn’t being used.  Once you pull on the seatbelt, the inertial reel releases the rest of the seatbelt and shoulder harness so you can fasten it.  If you pull too quickly, the inertia reel will stop you from pulling any more seatbelt out.  Why?  The simple system doesn’t know why the pulling was so hard.  It could be that you just hit something on the ground, and the airplane suddenly stopped.  Or it could be that you just pulled the seatbelt too sharply.  Either way, you need to release the seatbelt and let the inertial reel reset before you can pull the seatbelt out any further.

  3. If you use an EFB, like ForeFlight, ALWAYS carry a battery pack with enough capacity to power the EFB (iPad, for example) for as much endurance as your airplane has plus an hour.  Never rely on the internal battery in the tablet or the accessory electric plug that is in the airplane.  If you are using Sentry or Stratus, up your battery pack to cover those too.

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