Flight Instructors Protect Thyself

This coroner’s report on the accident to Martinus Van Hattem is essential reading for aerobatic flight instructors. There are four main lessons for us in this:

  • be familiar with the POH
  • maintain appropriate training records
  • ensure that you have professional indemnity insurance
  • get a lawyer

You may find yourself up against expert witnesses and consequential adverse comments from the coroner about yourself otherwise.

  • “Mr Arnot considered that the “recognised standard” for a basic aerobatic endorsement is between eight and 10 hours of training, although he accepted that “it’s a little bit dependant on pilot ability”.”
    • My aerobatic syllabus comprises 7 hours of flight training (which includes the spin endorsement) and several hours of classroom briefing. The trainees consistently achieve it in that flight time.
  • “Mr Awad, the former CEO of AWAL (from 2013 – 2021) gave evidence that his aerobatic endorsement in the USA took in the order of 10 hours. He undertook a series of training flights with a check pilot who was a very experienced aerobatic pilot with each flight being “roughly between one and 1.5 hours in duration”. He considered eight to ten hours to be “the basic”.”
    • There is no such thing as an aerobatic endorsement in the USA!
  • “CASA’s Branch Manager of Sport and Recreation Aviation, Dr Anthony Stanton, gave evidence that he would expect a flight activity endorsement to take eight hours, and “on average 10 to 15 hours”. In his experience, the instruction should take place with a series of lessons. He gave the following evidence: So for example, you’d go – you’d start off with spinning, you’d have a 45(min) to an hour long brief on the aerodynamics of spinning, the risks of spinning, what we were about to go and do in the aircraft. You would then go and do about an hour’s flight time of just spinning. You’d come back, you’d let the student digest that. Normally you’d come back another day and you’d move on to the next lesson, but each lesson, each manoeuvre normally would be about an hour. The MOS today reflects what the CAR used to reflect in the past, which is four manoeuvres plus the unusual attitudes. So there’s five hours’ worth of focusing on each manoeuvre, plus the ground briefing time. The MOS today talks about the underpinning knowledge. And then, as evidence has been given before me, you put those things together, which would be another couple of hours, two or three hours. That’s all going well. And then you’ve got the average student who doesn’t do it perfectly within the hour.”
    • I have been instructing aerobatics for many years and the above does not appear consistent with my recollection nor my copies of the documents. The old CAO required loop, barrel roll, slow roll, stall turn and roll off the top – that is 5 manoeuvres. Spinning was separate so 6 altogether! The Part 61 MOS excludes barrel roll, roll off the top and replaces slow roll with simply a roll. The old CAO did not mention “the unusual attitudes” at all!

When will we see an Advisory Circular on Aerobatics to replace the obsolete CAAP 155-1?

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