Would training air traffic controllers to identify a possible aircraft in distress help save lives?

Would training air traffic controllers to identify a possible aircraft in distress help save lives?

Dan Gryder and FlightChops started an amazing conversation about modifying training through a grassroots effort to work toward preventing the leading cause of the rash of relentless general aviation fatal airplane crashes: loss of control. Their video dives into how the airlines has been able to maintain a nearly impeccable safety record, and provides suggestions for a “AQP Flight Review.” For those not familiar with AQP, Advanced Qualification Program, it’s the way that most airlines handle recurrent training, initial qualification, and currency.

One important topic that was brought up was on the use of all available resources in an emergency scenario, specifically air traffic control. In the video, Dan and FlightChops play out an emergency that was pre-planned with the emergency services and controllers, which showed important lessons that could be learned should that situation happen.

Another interesting topic that was bought up was on air traffic control’s role in identifying possible aircraft in distress and their reaction to such. In the video, Dan instructs his student to turn off course while receiving VFR flight following. They were not assigned a heading, and were just flying in uncontrolled airspace en route to a destination. The maneuver was meant to see what air traffic control’s reaction was to the course deviation. As evidenced in the video, there were several different reactions… ranging from no response to a “are you in distress?” response. Due to the varying nature of the response, I felt this warranted a little investigation into what exactly controllers are trained to do. I don’t feel this was improper of them, they were merely changing course on their own as many of us do while flying VFR.

I talked to a friend, mentor, and air traffic controller who was knowledgeable on the subject. As a pilot and controller, he has received an Archi award for his work in saving a pilot’s life by talking him down through the clouds. While we wish that all controllers were this in tune to an aircraft emergency, the truth is that FAA order 7110.65, the governing rules for air traffic control, provides little guidance for identifying aircraft in distress. While the controller did state that controllers do receive some training on aircraft emergencies, it’s very minimal. Controllers are told that if the pilot sounds drunk, it may be hypoxia, but many controllers couldn’t tell you off the top of their head on what attitude hypoxia occurs. While they aren’t required to have this knowledge, it can still be helpful in saving a pilot’s life, which does go above and beyond what is required in FAA order 7110.65.

I asked him specifically what he would do if he noticed an aircraft deviating from course and altitude. He told me that if the aircraft was on a heading for traffic or in controlled airspace (such as Class B), that the pilot would be immediately queried and or provided a correction. However, if the aircraft was flying VFR and outside of any conflict, it is controller’s discretion since VFR flight following is an “additional service.” He said that some controllers will say something and ask if everything is OK, while some controllers won’t say anything since they are VFR. So the truth is that 7110.65 and controller training provides little guidance on how to deal with identifying aircraft emergencies, even though ATC is one of the MOST VALUABLE RESOURCES that a pilot can have in an emergency. Additionally, the emergency procedures that air traffic controllers are taught involve a checklist, such as asking for fuel on board, souls, and arranging emergency services. While many controllers are pilots and will go above and beyond, the official guidance is ambiguous and many controllers do not want to stray beyond the minimum as they could be named as a contributing factor should an accident occur.

So the long and short of this is that I believe that this concept warrants further discussion, and that by leveraging the valuable resource of ATC to identify aircraft in distress, we may just be able to help save lives.

We want your opinion… so what are your thoughts? Would training air traffic controllers to identify a possible aircraft in distress help save lives?


Jaylon Joins the Family of Aviators

Jaylon Joins the Family of Aviators

I could not be more proud of this young man. I first met Jaylon in 2015 when he was just 14 years old as part of the EAA’s Young Eagles program. He had requested a flight through the program and I was excited to take him flying.

When he first showed up to the flight, I immediately knew he was unlike anyone I had ever taken flying. At age 14, he proudly told me that he had lots of Microsoft Flight Simulator time and was even part of a virtual airline (I didn’t even know that existed!). He had lived and breathed aviation from a young age, and knew it was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

When we went flying, I was shocked to see that although he had never been in a real plane, he was able to actually fly the plane and talk on the radios quite well. A natural pilot! Then I remember he looked over to me and said that he always wanted to go into the Houston Class B. I laughed pretty hard because I had never had a young enthusiast want to do that. After all, they usually want to make shooting noises and do steep turns! I called up approach and requested it, and they repeated back the instructions and transponder code. I looked over to change the transponder and Jaylon had already changed it. He was so excited. I knew this kid was special, and made it a point to continue to encourage his flying and hep him in any way I could.

Just like me, his family wasn’t able to support his dreams. Jaylon got a job working at the Pearland airport to help pay for his training, working every day it seemed while in high school. With the generous contributions of his instructor Tommy Etheredge who donated his time for free, he was able to finish his private pilot certificate just before starting college in Georgia. I keep saying this kid is going to go places and generations behind us will see his name in history books. I know that to be a fact. And he is no longer the young 14 year old that I took flying – he is an absolutely accomplished, hard working young man embarking on his aviation career.

And another huge thanks to everyone who has touched his life and mentored him in any way. Marcus, Katelyn, and so many others who have touched his life and given him the much needed words and actions of encouragement.

I’m so proud of you Jaylon, and I know only good things are to come. Welcome to the ranks of licensed aviators. As you go forward in your career, I hope that you continue to give back to the community and never give up on your dreams, no matter how hard it seems.

And from Tommy (his instructor):
“I am super happy for him! I’m glad it all worked out. It was tough, but he was worth helping. The examiner said he was excellent, just like you and I had encountered, and he felt it was worth helping him out as well.

I always wanted to help out someone like that since before I was a CFI, and I never thought it would happen so early in my career. It was tough, but definitely worth it. I’m glad you were able to help him when he started his flying. If he wasn’t as good as he was when I started teaching him, it would have been much harder.”

Let’s all welcome Jaylon to the family!


Scholarships Announced for 2019!

Scholarships Announced for 2019!

First and foremost, we would like to congratulate the 2018 Scholarship Winners! All of them have successfully completed their desired training.

In 2019 we are offering two (2) tailwheel endorsement flight training scholarships valued at approximately $1600 each. The window for applications begins on June 15, 2019 and ends on August 15, 2019. Winners will be announced prior to September 30.

Scholarship Application Documents:

  • 250-500 word essay detailing your interest in tailwheel airplanes
  • Resume

On June 15, there will be an online form on this page that will allow you to copy and paste your resume and your 250-500 word essay. This is the preferred method for submitting your application. If unable to use this feature, please email both the resume and essay to: education@fullthrottlaviationllc.com. After submission, essays and resumes will have the names redacted and current FullThrottle Aviation pilots will vote for the winners.

FullThrottle Aviation Tailwheel Training Scholarship
Number of Scholarships: 2
Approximate value: $1,600
Differences from 2018: The applicant must have only a minimum of a private pilot certificate.

The FullThrottle Aviation Skills Enhancement Flight Training Scholarship is for a pilot who is looking to expand their skillset with a tailwheel endorsement with the intense 3-day course curriculum. All training will be conducted with Delaware Valley Taildraggers, a FullThrottle Aviation company, located at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport (KPNE). Ground training & flight training (to a maximum of 8 hours of flight instruction) will be provided. Additional training needed over 3 days and 8 hours of training will be billed at $180/hr for dual instruction. Lodging at a local hotel will be provided for 2 nights, and the instructor will provide local transportation (from Philadelphia (PHL) , Newark (EWR), and to/from the hotel near KPNE). Recipient is responsible for all travel expenses if they are not in the local area. Applicant must weigh below 250 pounds.

More details about the course and syllabus can be found at: www.delawarevalleytaildraggers.com

Applicant Requirements:

  • Current private pilot certificate or higher level 
  • Pilot must be current and have flown 10 hours in the preceding 90 days.
  • Current 3rd, 2nd, or  1st class medical (no BasicMed)

Applications can be submitted online at: