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9 Answers

How to develop a better instrument scan

Asked by: 7039 views , ,
Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Instrument Rating, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

I currently have an instrument student.  He is doing well except for one item that seems to be a real sticking point for him.  I simply cannot get him to keep his insturment scan going.  For a while he does well and then all of a sudden it is apparent he is losing the scan and becomes fixated. Any suggestions on how to break this bad habit?  Thanks in advance.

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9 Answers



  1. Micah on Mar 14, 2011

    Partial panel, lots of different looks, lots of practice.

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  2. Steve Pomroy on Mar 14, 2011

    Hi Rex.
     
    Fixation tends to increase with fatigue.  So you may want to spend some time pre-flight making sure your student is well rested and fed.  You may also want to consider keeping the instrument training to short blocks.  With time/training/experience, these blocks can be increased in duration.
     
    If you can determine that fatigue is not the problem, there are some training strategies you can try.  But as noted by Micah, lots of practice will be required.  There are no quick fixes here.
     
    Try backtracking the training a little bit into the initial attitudes and movements.  Cover up all of the performance instruments, leaving only the attitude indicator for use.  Have your student practice establishing and holding a variety of attitudes.  Emphasize that once you start uncovering the performance instruments, reference to the AI will still be required for control inputs.  The time you spend on this exercise probably won’t be long, as your student has already done some instrument flying.  But going back to basics can help.
     
    Once your student can hold an attitude consistently, begin exposing the performance instruments one at a time — and use them to set target parameters for the flight.  Emphasize the importance of the selective radial scan, i.e. – pick your priority performance instrument(s) (to gauge/measure/assess performance) and always return to the AI (for control inputs/corrections).
     
    As a final exercise, try having your student display his/her scan as they fly by actively pointing to the current instrument of choice.  This can also be done vocally.  Either way, this approach increases workload, and may result in reduced precision as a result.  But the technique can help to build the scan so that when you resume “normal” operations, the quality of flying will improve.
     
    Cheers,
    Steve
    http://flightwriter.com

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  3. Micah on Mar 14, 2011

    Good comments by Steve. I don’t have as much experience with instrument students as with private students, but in addition to Steve’s comments (or, his comments reminded me) I take students through 3 phases of instrument training: basic attitude flying, basic navigation, flying approaches. I think this is a common schedule, but once a student begins to grasp the elements of each phase, they go straight into partial panel. When they become proficient at partial panel I’ll reintroduce the full panel. It takes some adjustment, but they’re usually much better at that. With the full panel I’ll introduce the next phase of learning. This helps to separate the objectives of training from the cross-check skills they are developing.

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  4. Micah on Mar 15, 2011

    I am reminded of a trick I learned from other instructors: periodically asking, “what are you looking at” or “what are you doing right now (or next)” may help break the mental stalemate that causes/occurs during fixation.
     
    It could be possible that the student’s flying skills really aren’t (yet) that good. Maybe good enough to fly well in VFR, but never quite in control when flying by instrument reference. Maybe always a little off on trim or altitude–these things certainly add to the workload because the platform is not stable.

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  5. Jim Chambers on Mar 15, 2011

    My instructor had me do some drills…  Stuff like start at a given altitude and heading, climb to 250 ft above, descend to 500 feet below, climb to 500 ft above… etc — all while holding 85 knots.  Then bring in turns to cardinal headings in each segment of climb /descent. There is no way you can do these if your scan is not going like mad.  Just my $.02.

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  6. Rex de Foor on Mar 15, 2011

    You guys are great.  Lots of good ideas here and I will definitely incorporate them into our next session.  Just FYI, this guys 172 is equipped with a KMD550 MFD and some of the problems went away when I turned that off.  Ever hear of flying the magenta line?  I think that was some of the problem, but the work  continues.  Thanks again for all the useful input.  I will keep you updated on the progress.
     
    Rex

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  7. Earl Kessler on Mar 16, 2011

    Hey Rex,
    I remember a crusty old CFI friend used a fly swatter as a pointer to attract the student’s attention to the gauge that he should be looking at.  Low tech, but effective.  Just don’t whack him with it.

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  8. LovemyGF on Mar 29, 2011

    Hi,
    When I did my instrument training years ago, I realized what caused me to “lose” my scan, and how to fix it.
    Usually, when “I had everything under control,” my mind started to drift away and almost “daydream” about when I had to do after the flight, work, school, friends, projects, etc.  By daydreaming, I started to lose my scan and began to fixate, which then caused me to go from way ahead of the airplane to way behind it.  As to why, I am not sure…maybe just a mental break (face it, scanning, tuning, navigating, talking, flying, all at once is mentally draining), but I figured out why my scan would go to hell.
    My fix was to ask myself when I felt that I was ahead of the plane, rather than just kinda zone out, “where am I at?” or “what is going to happen next?” Me key was to always keep busy.
    Maybe periodically ask your student such questions, if he has the same problem I did, will help.

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  9. Rex de Foor on Aug 29, 2011

    Just wanted to thank you guys again for all the input………………ALL of it has been useful and helpful.  Your suggestions must work because my student PASSED his instrument checkride……….YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!
     
    CONGRATULATIONS JOHNNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
    Your favorite CFI
     
    Rex

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