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On Flight Instructors
2010-03-18

On Flight Instructors Almost anyone can learn to fly an airplane if exposed to the environment long enough, and teaching someone properly is extremely hard work. It takes a truly dedicated individual to take this kind of interest in their students. It doesn't take long after becoming a CFI to realize that if you want to do it, you can just sit there and keep them from killing themselves, and sooner or later, after they have spent enough of their hard earned money, almost all of them will learn to fly well enough to pass the tests and become certificated. Fortunately, most flight instructors try to be good teachers. The really bad ones are a minority.

It's a damn crime when students are subjected to bad instruction. These students become pilots believing they have a handle on everything they need to know to survive in the air environment. The truth is that they are barely competent through no fault of their own. Through trial and error they have reached a basic level of acquired skills. They have demonstrated competence to an examiner on a specific day and point in time, and been passed. They are now on their own to survive or perish as they individually seek either
higher learning or level off and cease learning. Fortunately, most learn through trial and error that they need to understand things a lot better. These are the majority thank God! They go on and seek competent help, and manage to get "caught up" to where they should have been had their instructor's done a decent job . Some, unfortunately, for various reasons, never actually come to realize that true safety in flying comes from a complete understanding of the most basic of the skills involved. It's only a matter of time until these pilots have a serious problem; sometimes years; sometimes never. But the initial fault remains; some flight instructor obscured by time and place, who knew how to fly, but didn't care enough to learn how to teach!

After all the formal text and syllabus on teaching has been absorbed, and for a flight instructor, this is usually the bare essentials, there is a factor above that which will in part determine how well a flight instructor can teach. It's difficult to define in exact terms, as it's found in each individual at a different intensity level, but it has a common denominator, and that denominator is "interest". This factor is so important to the success of a flight instructor that I have spent a great deal of my time discussing it with every CFI applicant I have recommended for certification.

It's interest in teaching that will determine how effective one becomes as a flight instructor. It's a genuine concern for doing the absolute best job you can that makes the difference. This goes much deeper than the obvious. It's because flight instructors for the most part don't have extensive educational exposure to a formal teaching education that this is so important. Flight instruction is unique to teaching, as it relates to the
task of taking a student into a constantly changing environment and instructing them from within this environment to eventually be able to survive within this environment without assistance . In other words, you are teaching in real time; what to do to survive in real time. This interest factor of which I speak isn't really found in the text books that deal with flight instruction. It's beyond that level. It's a unique quality that has to be nurtured and cultivated.

You begin by developing a general attitude toward your students. You take the time to get to know each one separately; their motivation; their background; and most importantly, the level from which they will be
absorbing your instruction. This is the key that opens the door. If I had to put a finger on the one thing that I believe separates a flight instructor from a superior flight instructor, I would put that finger on the superior instructor's ability to find the exact level on which he/she can communicate with an individual student so that the student can understand and comprehend what the instructor is teaching. This single factor should be the teaching goal of every flight instructor. It takes effort to achieve this communication "key", and a lot of instructors don't ever concentrate enough on their own performance to achieve it.

It requires a constant and sometimes brutal self evaluation of the instructor's own performance by the
instructor involved. Each lesson should be as much a learning experience for the instructor as it is for the student. An honest self evaluation should be made and adjustments made in the teaching method used. as actual experience with each student dictates these adjustments necessary. At no time should the instructor become complacent with his/her own performance.

Verification and assessment of student comprehension should be made on an ongoing basis at all times, and if any deviation from the desired standard is detected by the instructor; either in the student's or the instructor's performance, a review should be initiated immediately trying a new approach, until the desired comprehension has been achieved. You can cut this thing many different ways. You can make it as complicated or as simple as you like, but the bottom line is always the same. The superior flight instructor uses a teaching approach that is personally geared to each individual student and based entirely on the instructor's having taken the time to gain the knowledge necessary about that individual student to implement a level on which the student can absorb

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