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Feature Article: Advice to instructors
Go down to lost and found and get your memory every time you
have a senior moment.
As a teacher, I was not given to meaningless praise or reward.
As a flight instructor, I judge the lesson by knowledge applied,
improvement observed, and satisfaction achieved. The achievement
of normal expectations is viewed as acceptable but not deserving
of profuse adulation. Only when my retarded students did beyond
the usual were they praised. Praise, thus achieved value by not
being a throw-away for everyone. My gifted students were always
faced with ever higher expectations. My standards were once compared
with an ever extending extension ladder. One of my many weaknesses
as a flight instructor is an unwillingness to accept from a pilot
or a student less than their highest level of performance. Close
is accepted only when accompanied by significant improvement.
It is a poor student that does not exceed his teacher.
Instruction As I Do It...
The instructor helps you teach yourself to fly. The instructor
tries to get inside your head. He wants to recognize your fears
and concerns. The instructor is trying to use what you know and
don't know to shorten the time and lower the cost of your learning
to fly. Good instructors like to teach. They will keep you from
getting hurt you as you wander through all the mistakes that every
student pilot should make.
Once read, that every advance by mankind has been achieved by
laziness. I hate to see students preflighting inefficiently. I
believe that flying correctly is the easiest way to fly. Every
maneuver can be either easy or
hard depending on how 'lazy' the pilot has been in knowing how
to make it 'easy'. I cringe when a pilot works too hard at flying.
Flying is easy only when it is efficient and I don't mean using
I tend to be, too, intense in my instruction. I want my students
to succeed, save money, and learn quickly. I love flying and teaching
it and have difficulty accepting that others may have other conflicting
interests like jobs, vacations, and family. I am constantly narrowing
the student's perceptual field to flying or a single aspect of
it. Students, on the other hand, fail to see that flying is not
just the 'fun' of being in the air. Flying is the homework, preparation,
and required knowledge to make the 'fun' safe. The best flight
instruction takes place on the ground, it is on the ground that
you are exposed to the habit of preparation that makes flying
safe. Learn the habit of "What if..." before you ever
get into the plane. Murphy's Law exists in flying as in everything
Teaching to a higher level...
The teaching process requires that the performance objective proposed
to the student be explained, diagrammed, and demonstrated. I demonstrate
those objectives that are difficult to explain. I will create
situations that are likely to be a part of the students later
experience such as all the things that can go wrong during landings.
In all maneuvers I will try to give the student the cues to use.
Not all are visual. Sound is a very important first cue to changes
in airspeed. The element of success in any flight lesson is the
best motivation. I try to find some success to tie up the flight
package. I avoid relating problems of the lesson as a 'blame'.
We learn as much from our mistakes as from our successes.
Before a lesson I have established what to teach and how to teach
it. First I decide what ground preparation is required. I will
walk and talk the student through the big picture and then go
through details of anticipation and those parameters of expected
performance. Since we are building, usually, on prior knowledge
we must review those aspects preceding every lesson. Without the
prerequisites the lesson will be less than satisfactory. Every
student's flying career is like a new painting. The lesson plan
for a previous student must be adjusted to fit the next. The instructor
must find what works and mix and match the learning process to
achieve the final result. There are many routes to the same destination;
some are more difficult, bumpy, frustrating and expensive but
all will get us there if we persevere.
An intensive flight instructional period should not exceed 45
minutes of new material. Any instruction of new material beyond
this time will result in deteriorating performance and frustration.
However, it is important that a student's endurance be extended.
It is little clues that warn the instructor of student fatigue.
Failure to clear, pull carburetor heat, or trim correctly are
common signs. As an instructor, I point out to the student my
detection of fatigue and continue the lesson only to review material
while returning to base. Physical fatigue is not as significant
as is fatigue brought on by emotional pressures inside the student.
The poorest judge of fatigue and the performance impairment occuring
is the individual involved.
If the student has not prepared for the lesson, then the lesson
should be canceled, changed to a review, or otherwise adapted
for best utilization of resources. The student should be told
the sequence of maneuvers the instructor plans to follow. New
skill elements will be introduced early in the lesson. Review
and skill maintenance will be covered as time allows. Any discussion,
along with diagrams and walk through, should cover the procedure,
control movements, power settings, common errors, and performance
While there may be more than one way to teach a flight skill,
some ways may be quicker, more efficient, better, cheaper, or
safer. Behind the way I do or teach a given skill is what I have
learned from mistakes with numerous students, pilots and instructors.
Since the ultimate goal extends beyond a trainer, the student
should be taught from the beginning, as though he was in a higher
performance aircraft. The instructor who initially takes the easy
way to teach is performing a disservice to the student and thus
to aviation. I have detected in checkrides such instructional
faults as allowing a tight grip on the yoke, not using trim, always
making partial flap landings, not verbalizing clearing, and not
permitting the student to do the radio communications. I try to
concentrate on procedures that are safe to use in the worst of
If a particular maneuver is not performed by a student to acceptable
levels the instructor should choose the most economic method of
correction. Instructional skill is demonstrated where the instructor
is able to detect, analyze cause, and provide corrective feedback
to the student immediately. Some correction of errors should wait
until landing. Perhaps a demonstration by the instructor is required.
(My past students have indicated that I may not demonstrate often
enough.) Have the student repeat the exercise while the instructor
talks through the procedure. Have the student talk through a dry
run before doing it again. Every student and maneuver will require
a slightly different instructional touch. Rules and requirements
will not make you a knowledgeable, safe pilot--instruction will.
If the flying process is tending to overload the student it is
best to remove the pressure. The instructor may assume radio and
traffic watch or even talk the student through a procedure. Make
sure that the student is reducing the work load by correct use
of trim for airspeed. Have him talk through each maneuver as an
aid to the anticipation required for smoothness. Be aware than
much of 'getting behind' in flying has to do with airspeed control.
The truism that the way you first learn something stays with you
for life applies doubly to flying. The student who is taught procedures
in flying that were acceptable or even standard forty years ago
may be dangerously unsafe today. The radio techniques of forty
years ago are the equivalent of Elizabethan English in today's
airspace. The God-like ability of the instructor to perform flying
miracles of precision and performance gives a halo to even antiquated
instruction. The student, with his flying career ahead, can only
proceed oblivious to deficiency of procedure and the hazards created
A student may begin to feel various pressures to solo. I do not
solo a student until he has good command of the basics of flight
control, FARs, airspace and communications. I do not teach landings
until the basics are near mastery and only them do we learn about
the emergency and special situations that can occur in the landing
and takeoff process.
Because of the concentrated information that is being loaded
on the student in the beginning, I use a tape recorder so that
the material is available under less stressful conditions. This
allows the student to listen and make notes about unanswered questions
or concerns. With the instructional tapes as a guide the student
can plan a head for the next lesson. the first thing I usually
ask of a student is, "Are there any questions?" I average
over thirty minutes of pre-lesson ground instruction before every
flight. If a particular can be walked through, we walk it through.
I use the FAA Instructor's Handbook from page 85 as a lesson plan
guide but I have many variations and supplements to the basic
requirements simply because I feel that the FAA requires only
a minimum and I don't teach to minimum skills. Prepare for the
lesson by reference to the syllabus and ;I very much recommend
that you call the instructor the night before a lesson to confirm
that you have read the related reading material from the FAA texts
or equivalent written in a more interesting style.
I have been known to be a difficult taskmaster in setting my performance
criteria for students. I admit to some tendency to press students
in their accuracy in flying a specific airspeed instead of accepting
the POH variable range. I admit that I expect my students and
pilots to be proficient in their radio work. We rehearse on the
ground and in the air until it meet professional level. I admit
that I expect taxiing skills be practiced and developed quickly.
I admit that I take a bit longer in soloing my students. However,
after my students solo they progress quickly and efficiently in
their ability to fly solo between airports of all kinds and complexity.
My students use trim for all changes of configuration; they fly
hands off and use only two fingers on the yoke.
My students have been exposed to crosswinds up to 18 knots at
90°. They have flown SVFR and marginal VFR. They have
landed on a farmers field. They have flown to a weather emergency
field and made a surveillance approach using radar assistance.
They have made their night landings at least five different airports.
My students are proficient at pilotage. They know where they are!
My students are, if anything overly proficient, in their ability
to follow ATC instructions and to suggest other options. My students
are respectful in their care and treatment of the aircraft, courteous
in their relations with other pilots and aircraft. My students
transition into larger and more complex aircraft with a minimum
of time and difficulty because they have learned to fly and control
the C-150 or C-172 as though it were a much larger and complex
Last Modified June 13, ©2021 TAGE.COM