One of the principle obligations of the the MMOPA Board of Directors is to improve the safety record of the PA46 fleet. Significant strides have been made over the years, and the PA46 fleet now enjoys an enviable safety record when contrasted against other general aviation cross-country aircraft fleets. However, more improvements can be made, and, in an effort to further this obligation the MMOPA Board of Directors has created the MMOPA Master Aviator Program. This program is the result of MMOPA having identified areas of flight operation that need improvement to increase safety. It provides a path forward for training for the PA46 pilot, honors those pilots that elect to participate in the MMOPA Master Aviator Program, and rewards those pilots that progress upwards to ultimately reach the highest level (MMOPA Master Aviator).
A consensus amongst flight instructors and other training professionals that comprise the Training Committee reveal 3 areas of PA46 operations that should receive emphasis to improve safety in the PA46 fleet. We believe that training, understanding, and experience in these areas will drastically reduce accidents in the PA46 fleet. Those areas of emphasis are:
- Pilot flight experience: Many pilots in the PA46 community are not flying often enough. The flight instructor community notices a direct correlation with piloting ability and recency of experience. Those pilots that average more than 100 hours in the previous year tend to perform well at training events, and those that average less that 100 hours/year in the last year tend to perform less well during training events. There appears to be an exponential decrease in piloting performance for those pilots that average less than 100 hours/year, and a minimal increase in performance for those pilots that fly more than 100 hours/year. The key point is pilots that average more than 100 hours/year tend to be more comfortable piloting and operating their airplanes than those that fly less than 100 hours/year. MMOPA encourages pilots to fly more than 100 hours/year.
- Awareness and understanding of the stall/spin accident: A stall/spin accident in a PA46 always results in a fatality. The stall/spin accident is simply unsurvivable in a PA46 due to the high rate of descent in a spin at terrain impact, and a spin from less than 1000ft AGL does not allow for sufficient altitude to recover. Oftentimes the stall/spin accident is precipitated by other factors in flight (engine loss of power, autopilot mishandling, icing conditions, skidding turn, etc.), but the end result is always a fatal stall/spin if the pilot mishandles the situation, especially from low altitude. The PA46 flight instructor community recognizes a serious lack of understanding about the stall/spin scenario within the PA46 piloting community. The instructors seek to increase the understanding of the stall/spin accident and also provide a greater understanding of the proper recovery from a stall/spin situation.
- Flight operations in the runway environment: There are far too many accidents in and around the runway, oftentimes during the takeoff or landing phase of flight. These accidents are rarely fatal, often costly, and entirely preventable. They include nose gear collapses, brake failures, crosswind landing mishaps, tire failures, and poor flight technique (improper/poor rudder control and/or drift from centerline) near the runway.
Solving the problems
In an effort to stem the accidents associated with recency of experience, the stall/spin scenario, and poor piloting around the runway, the MMOPA Master Aviator Program has been initiated. The instructor community believes that the following training/experience will help in each accident scenario:
- Pilot Experience: Simply put, pilots should fly the PA46 more than 100 hours/year, and this minimum recency of flight experience is required to be awarded any of the MMOPA Aviator Award.
- Stall/Spin Accident: Stall/spin training is not aerobatics training. Stall/spin training is mostly ground-based, but also includes experience with the stall/spin in an airplane that is approved for spins, and provided by a qualified trainer. This training is required to be awarded the MMOPA Aviator or Senior Aviator Award.
- Runway Environment Accident: The tailwheel airplane is an outstanding platform to provide training on the proper use of the flight controls on/near the ground, especially in the takeoff and landing phase of flight. An entire generation of pilots have been trained in directionally stable airplanes that are forgiving of improper pilot technique in the landing and takeoff phase. The tailwheel airplane is directionally unstable and requires proper technique to avoid a ground loop accident, hence making it an ideal trainer for proper flight control inputs on the takeoff and landing phase of flight. The PA46 instructor community sees a marked improvement in piloting ability during training events for pilots that have the tailwheel endorsement, and an even greater improvement in pilot ability for those that regularly operate tailwheel airplanes. The tailwheel endorsement is required for a pilot to be awarded the MMOPA Master Aviator Award.
Awarding of Wings
To be awarded any of the MMOPA Awards, a PA46 pilot must complete all of the requirements listed in the table “MMOPA Awards Requirements”. Some pilots will have previous PA46 experience (and possibly some other training leading to awarding), which will allow them to progress up the award levels faster. Progressing up the award levels is not intended to be easy. It is intended to be achievable only by those pilots that are committed to regular training and those willing to put forth the resources required to become excellent at piloting a PA46. The ultimate goal is for every pilot to achieve the level of Master Aviator. A pilot that is awarded Master Aviator will have significant experience, specialized training, and an extremely low probability of being an accident statistic. Being an MMOPA Master Aviator is the ultimate in PA46 awarding.
To retain the honor of being an MMOPA Master Aviator year after year, a Master Aviator must have flown 100 hours in the PA46 in the last year and have achieved a new FAA rating (any new rating such as commercial pilot, ATP, CFI, rotorcraft, glider, seaplane rating, etc) or have attended an aviation course in the past year. Some examples of additional training/courses are:
- Dunker/over-water training
- Altitude chamber training
- Advanced aircraft qualification course
- MMOPA Mid-year training, etc
- NBAA Single-Pilot Safety Standdown
- Mountain Training/Backcountry Training
- Aerobatic Training
- Warbird training
- Any military aviation course
MMOPA believes that ongoing training is required for a pilot to retain the piloting skills expected of an MMOPA Master Aviator.
There are three additional areas of consideration that will dramatically improve safety in the PA46 fleet, and these areas of consideration are required to be awarded any level of MMOPA awards:
- Mid-Year Training: Mid-year training will greatly increase the knowledge and skills of PA46 pilots, especially pilots new to the PA46. MMOPA strongly encourages pilots to attend Mid-Year training provided by approved vendors. Ideally this training will occur within 4-8 months after initial training, and then occur sporadically throughout the remainder of the time of PA46 ownership/piloting.
- Convention Attendance: Not just a social event, the MMOPA Convention is a wonderful training event with some of the best aviation educational content available. We believe attendance will create a safer pilot. Attendance to at least one convention every three years is required to earn any of the MMOPA awards.
- Accident/incident history: To qualify for any of the MMOPA awards, a pilot cannot have experienced an accident or incident in the last 3 years, unless that pilot were to have had an accident or incident and have received the MMOPA Broken Wings Award for superior airmanship/decisionmaking in an emergency situation for his/her performance in that particular flight.
MMOPA believes in the training required to achieve the status of Master Aviator. As such, MMOPA will assist MMOPA members in the pursuit of the Wings by providing vouchers to assist in the payment for some of the training events. Vouchers for $400 are available with the following guidelines and stipulations:
- Only one voucher can be used each year by any MMOPA member
- A request for the voucher must be submitted through the MMOPA Executive Director and MMOPA will pay the voucher to the approved vendor directly after training
- Vouchers must be used in order of priority of training. Pilots must first attend mid-year training, then attend stall/spin training, then attend tailwheel training (leading to the tailwheel endorsement) to receive a voucher
- Vouchers can only be used at approved training vendors (vendors that are placed on the “Approved Training Vendor List” by the Training Committee)
Pilots are encouraged to progress through the following training timeline:
With the initiation of the Wings Program, the MMOPA Board of Directors has created the MMOPA Training Committee. This committee shall be populated with members appointed by the MMOPA Board of Directors that meet the following stipulations:
- 7 Members maximum
- 3 of the members must be active flight instructors in the PA46 community
- 2 of the members must be from the MMOPA Board of Directors
- Members serve for 2-year terms, and can serve consecutive terms at the pleasure of the MMOPA Board of Directors
The MMOPA Training Committee shall have the following obligations:
- Meet at least annually (ideally at least two months prior to the MMOPA Convention)
- Review the accidents/incidents in the previous 5 years in an effort to notice trends, areas that need improvement, and areas where benefit has been realized. These findings shall be incorporated into improving the MMOPA Master Aviator Program by focusing award requirements on areas within the MMOPA fleet that need improvement.
- Suggest the curriculum for Mid-Year training providers
- Review the accident/incidents for the last year and decide if any pilot should receive the Broken Wing Award
- Approve vendors for Mid-year training and stall/spin training
Benefits of earning MMOPA Wings
- At each MMOPA Convention, the President of MMOPA shall annually announce/introduce those pilots that have achieved the highest level of award, the MMOPA Master Aviator
- Pilots that have earned MMOPA awards shall be encouraged to wear their “wings” on their name tag at the MMOPA Convention
- The MMOPA Board of Directors shall work diligently with the insurance industry to illustrate the dedication to training and commitment to safety required to earn the MMOPA Master Aviator Award. We believe those pilots that earn Master Aviator Award should earn not only the respect of others in the PA46 community, but also earn respect from the insurance industry as pilots who have an extremely low risk profile.