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The Student As A Problem
2010-03-18

The Student As A Problem Of great concern to the responsible instructor is the prospective pilot who is heavily occupied with concerns unrelated to flying. Many students who are highly successful in a given field expect that level of success to carry directly into flying. Such will not be the case. It is important that the student be apprised of this and the instructional program adapted to the conditions. We are working toward a personality change.

The pilot, who drives to the airport after a hard day, presents a unique flying problem. Flying requires a completely different mind-set. The combinations of mental and physical skills of flying are so different from most occupations that failure to make the change over is a common cause of flight difficulties. Getting into the air will not get you away from it all -- unless you throw the mental switches. Few occupations require the use of CHECKLISTS the way flying does. The forward planning for such things as frequencies, altitudes, communications, speeds, directions, and cockpit settings must be part of the pilot's mind set.

Not every learning experiment is going to be successful. A student who expects immediate and continual success is being self deceptive. It doesn't work that way. Unrealistic expectations of progress and success may tempt a student to quit. Don't let it happen. Embarrassment, anxiety and fear are typically experienced in flight training. We all have instinctive fears of falling and loud unexpected noises. Fear is an intelligent reaction to a perceived threat--failing to acknowledge the presence of a threat and its companion, fear, is indicative of a lack of perception and/or intelligence. We will practice falling (stalls) and the creation of noises to customize the student's reaction to these instincts progressively and gently. A successful student takes the long view, has patience, is willing to recognize and admit mistakes, and remembers both successful and unsuccessful operations. The more learning mistakes you make the sooner you will develop a confidence level needed to succeed.

More often than not the student pilot with a problem has something similar to what is medically known as agnosia. He is oblivious to the obvious. He doesn't know what he doesn't know. Have you failed to recognize the missed or ignored items of the preflight? Were checks omitted during run up? Was the radio used to give incomplete or inaccurate radio information? Was a required control input needed to achieve coordinated flight not applied? Did flight into airspace occur without clearance? The forgiving nature of the aircraft, weather, Air Traffic Control, and the instructor will only last so long and will cover only a certain number of situations. The worst possible event is to 'get away' with a mental omission. Next time you might not 'get away' with it. I have had occasion to fly with pilots whose primary instructors allowed rather than corrected fundamental safety errors. This permissiveness is poor instruction and a disservice to the pilot and aviation. What is worse, these pilots are the most resentful of being shown the error of their ways.

There is an agnosia like deficiency, being oblivious to the obvious, not knowing what you don't know, that can lead to unexpected and undesirable instructional excitement. The agnosia look-alike causes complacency, a factor responsible for many more accidents than one would think. An insidious aspect of this complacency is that it tends to affect those who have the greatest feeling of competence and experience. The opposite of this is the kind of student who realizes that the more you know about a given aspect of flying, the less certain you will become of how well you really understand what you think you know. It reminds one of the advanced student who learned more and more about less and less until he knew absolutely everything about nothing. The standard check for knowledge would be the ability to explain, in our own words, a complex operation to a child.

As our flight skills grow, they are outgrown most of all by our perception of those skills. As flight time accumulates our perception of skill leaves actual skill far behind. We think we are better than we are. We may be tempted to push our safety limits since nothing bad will happen--until it happens. How you live within your capabilities is what determines good judgment and longevity. Be twice as careful when you think you can fly. Every landing is a challenge. Landings should become more accurate, softer, and controlled. Become more aware of the options that allow us to correct deviations safely.

As a teacher, I was not given to meaningless praise or reward. A student wants to hear instructor feedback as to how he is doing. It is important that false praise not be given at any point. Such contrived praise is easily detected and felt by the student.

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.

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 an autopilot.

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