Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Asking Questions, Getting Answers

I'd like to ask a favor. A few months ago AOPA Flight Training started a new column titled "Since You Asked." I'm sure you've seen it by now. It's similar to your basic "Dear Abby" column, but it avoids dealing with strange events like relatives who drop by and insist on spending eternity with you. This column is concerned with flight training problems.

If you or your students have any questions dealing with a general aviation training concern, please e-mail us at Include the words "since you asked" in the subject line. We'd love to hear about your difficulties. Maybe we can help.

Flight instructors, for instance, may want to know how to handle a student who freezes at the controls. A student, on the other hand, may want to know what to do if he or she is the one doing the freezing. Of course, if someone freezes on the controls because he's worried about relatives who drop by to spend a lifetime, I can't help.

While I'd like to answer every question, I can't do that either. I have too many relatives to look after. Nevertheless, I'll answer as many as possible in the column. So feel free to send in your questions and encourage your students to do the same.

Behavioral Modeling

The next step

In the December issue of AOPA Flight Training magazine, I presented a primer on behavioral modeling. This provided a basic technique for disassembling your (the CFI's) subjective experience into sensory components, which could then be used to help train your students. Let's add to this process with the following seven-part format, which offers a more effective and complete means of modeling behavior.

The seven parts are:

  • Identify the behavior to be modeled.
  • Separate the behavior into individual elements.
  • Identify the cause-effect relationship(s) within each element.
  • Identify the V, A, and K sensory components for each element.
  • Specify the criteria for evaluating the sensory components.
  • TOTE (Test, Operate, Test, Exit).
  • Link elements.

Let's assume that I, the flight instructor, want to teach my student how to enter and maintain slow flight without flaps from a cruise flight condition. Identifying that this is what I want to teach is step one. I'll be the model, and we'll use this seven-part format to disassemble my skill at performing this maneuver.

Step two requires that we separate the chosen behavior into individual elements. Keep in mind that an element is the smallest action or event that's independent of and separate from the actions or events that precede and follow it. Since we're modeling my behavior, here are three distinct elements that comprise my slow flight behavior: power reduction, transition, and maintaining airspeed. Since this article has a length limit, we'll only model the transition element of this maneuver.

Step three involves identifying the cause-effect (C-E) relationship(s) within each element of behavior. This is the relationship that demonstrates how the events or activities within each element are contingent on one another. Concerning the transition element of slow flight, I've identified these C-E relationships: Increasing the angle of attack (cause) increases drag (effect); increasing drag (cause) decreases airspeed (effect); increasing the angle of attack at the appropriate rate (cause) keeps the airplane at a constant altitude during the transition (effect). Failure to identify and explain these C-E relationships to your students may lead them to believe that luck or superstition is responsible for the occurrence of that behavior. Once the C-E relationships are known, they become useful for assembling individual elements in step seven.

In step four, we identify the V, A, K (visual, audio, and kinesthetic) sensory components involved in the behavior we're modeling. (These were discussed in the previous article that I mentioned. You might want to review them before reading further.) Here are the sensory components that I use after power is reduced and the transition phase to slow flight begins.

I apply rearward elevator pressure (KE) to increase the angle of attack and compare the rate of elevator pull with the VSI's needle position (VE). Then I look at the altimeter (VE), followed by a look outside the cockpit (VE) to ensure level flight. Finally, I look at the airspeed indicator (VE) to check the airspeed. I repeat the entire process until the airspeed is five knots above the desired airspeed, at which point I enter the third element of slow flight, maintaining airspeed. The entire sensory sequence looks like this:

Step five requires specifying the criteria I use to evaluate the identified sensory components. For instance, the first two sensory components (KE/VE) require that I compare the elevator pull with the VSI's needle position. My criterion for determining the appropriate amount of pull on the elevator is to maintain a VSI needle reading of zero. Keeping the altimeter's hands at the assigned altitude is the criterion for the next sensory component (VE); keeping each wing equidistant above or below the horizon is the criterion for the following sensory component (VE); and an airspeed reading that's more than five kt above the desired slow flight speed is the criterion to continue repeating the entire sensory-component sequence.

Of course, if you have criteria, then you must also have a means of testing to see if those criteria are met. Therefore, step six requires that we test each criterion from step five using the TOTE (test, operate, test and exit) method. For example, I test the first two sensory components (KE/VE) by looking at the VSI's needle to see if it remains steady as I pull on the elevator. If the needle moves, I change how I operate by adjusting my pull on the elevator. Then I do the test again. When my pull is satisfactory, I exit and apply TOTE to the next sensory component in the sequence.

Finally, step seven links the individual elements together using traditional behavioral conditioning methods. We'll discuss these methods in more detail in a future article. It's very important to review and reinforce the cause-effect relationships (step three) supporting each of these elements.

You can use this seven-part format to disassemble almost any flying skill (yours or someone else's) into teachable components. Once these components, and the order in which they occur, are known, you can teach them to your students using the same seven-part format.

By Rod Machado

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports