Difference Between Slips and Mistakes in Flight Training

There is a hangar story which is as old as when flight training used to take place in biplanes and the trainer and student seated one behind another. This story was often told at every given opportunity by the local people.

According to what is narrated in the story, a flight instructor uses his intelligence to make a particular hesitant student to take control of the airplane. In doing so, the instructor disconnects the control stick, tapped the student to have his attention and then the stick is flipped overboard.

The student pilot wants to make an impression, but he doesn’t understand clearly what message is being communicated. He reaches forward and does exactly as his instructor.

Putting aside the doubtful credibility, there are obviously an error in the action taken by student.

Was it a mistake or a slip?

Let us not discuss about language. The process of teaching and learning depends heavily on the right analysis and correction of errors. It is crucial to understand the type of error that needs to be taken care of in a particular situation.

Reference has been given in official handbook as well. A flight instructor or student pilot can turn to page 2 – 28a of the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, publication FAA-H-8083-9A.

It mentions and discusses about two types of errors: Slips and Mistakes

A slips, as is described in the handbook, occurs “when a person plans to do one thing, but then inadvertently does something else.”

A mistake, on the other hand, “occurs when a person plans to do the wrong thing and is successful.”

according to the above two definition, something that cannot be ignored, the action of a student qualifies as a mistake.

What about the action of the instructor?

Certainly, he also did the wrong thing and his action was successful, which makes it an even bigger mistake.

It can also be reasoned out that the action of the CFI was a slip, as he wanted to convey a message to the student stating, “You are in charge!”. Unknowingly, a different message was conveyed.

Another, much more acceptable example of a slip is when a pilot lands an aircraft and retracts the landing gear inadvertently in place of the flaps.

Or, consider the situation when flaps are added too soon by the pilot on a landing approach. The steepened glide path must be corrected by him by using the power.

This scenario takes us in another common happening during flight training and that is that desire of a student pilot to please the instructor. The natural and normal judgment of a student pilot is altered with this objective in mind.

Do you call it a slip or a mistake?

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