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What My Instruction Is Not
2010-03-18

What My Instruction Is Not Flying is not the same as it was in WWI or WWII. What worked then is unsafe now. Accountability of the instructor rests entirely on the teaching of the safest possible procedures. The Safety or relative safety of other procedures should be routinely included. Teach the best and safest current technique. Demonstrate the relative safety of any others. It is only when the student has his license or flies with others that he is able to discern the quality of his instruction. Airplanes are able to fly well, the pilot must learn to fly just as well. Your skills in other areas do not transfer to flying except in relatively small and specific areas such as navigation, engine operation, or communications.

The instructor who perpetuates antiquated operational techniques is condoning criminal activity in today's flight environment. This perpetuation is most commonly accomplished by teaching down to the student rather than up to proficiency standards. A student will achieve to a teacher's expectations. When the teacher accepts and expects less of a student, the student performs accordingly. Any lowering teaching standards is not in the best interests of the flying student nor of aviation. A few, well-chosen words, will often do more than a running commentary.

It costs nearly as much to operate an airplane on the ground as it the air. Efficiency in copying the ATIS with the engine running will lead to greater time saving in the air. The ability to pre-set several engine speeds by sound and finger position both on the ground and in the air will improve efficiency and safety. I have found that the most inefficient use of student pilot time is the way they use and hold the checklist. The student should be trained from the beginning to make any departure or arrival request that will reduce the expense of flying. It is up to the instructor to advise the student if his flight program is either uneconomical or inefficient. Maximum use should be made of departure and return times from practice sessions. Failure of the instructor to include the recognition of checkpoints and departure/arrival routes is a disservice and contributes to inefficiency. In some cases it may be best to delay beginning instruction until a more practical time. The inefficiently trained pilot is the one most likely to have future difficulty due to air contamination of the fuel tanks, radio procedures, or checkpoint awareness.

Learning to fly is not a race. There are several 'short-cuts' to an early solo. These short cuts are not right for the kind a flying to follow. The 'right' way is harder to master and less enjoyable in the immediate situation.
The actual flying of the airplane is relatively easy, like riding a bike or roller-skating. The precision and planning needed to make flying safe is more difficult and subject to stronger critiques. The setting of standards is never complete, every flight is best if raised to a higher level. A mistake is a learning experience. Exposure to mistake opportunities is needed to reveal flawed or unlearned techniques. The way you learn is just as important as what you learn and perhaps more so. The importance of what you learn is a variable of many small steps upward. Taking a few steps backwards to re-think a step is part of the process.

The highest level or satisfaction that I achieve in instruction is when I see or hear a student of mine use my words to explain or teach others. My demise will not bee the end of my teaching. This is especially rewarding
when a student who has given up on himself, heeds my advice not to quit. On continuing, he crosses the 'hump' and goes on and on and on. The good student exceeds his teacher. The readiness of a pilot for a flight is in a large part made up of his intellectual awareness of aircraft and his own capabilities. This concept of being ready means the pilot is knowledgeable of the risks inherent in a given flight condition? Why is it more desirable to initially climb at best rate rather than cruise? When should a pilot choose to fly close to rising terrain? Why make thirty degree banks? To what extent should a pilot trust a tower or radar controller. What options does the new pilot have? What changes in flight procedures are desirable under SVFR or at night? The pilot's knowledge and awareness of the real risks set the threshold of tension onset and thereby the decision making process.

Unless every student maneuver has airspeed and heading parameters designed to grow and meet the requirements for the flight examination, the time and money are wasted. This does not mean that every maneuver and student need be perfect. It does mean that the student must know what the tolerances of acceptability are. If, for whatever reason, his solo performance is outside these limits he must so advise his instructor and plan for a corrective lesson. Criticism is a nine-letter dirty word. No one likes criticism. When you hire a teacher (flight instructor) you are hiring a critic; one whose job is to criticize. The instructor must be able to make criticism constructive. Any instructor can point out errors; teachers tell why.

Instructional decisions are a component part of every flight and ground lesson. The decisions are made to increase the probability of learning and retention by the student. The instructor is creating situations that allow the student to learn and demonstrate that he has learned. While the instructor may be an active participant in the initial lessons, it is important that proficiency be demonstrated with a minimum of instructor input.

Every instructor must make multiple decisions as to what to teach, how to teach it, how to evaluate learning, how to confirm proficiency, and how often to review. Some students have a style of learning that may not adapt to your method of teaching. The sooner this lack of conformity is noted the sooner the student can be referred elsewhere.

I recently flew with a student where my criticism was rampant. I was faced with a training situation where the student was not flying frequently enough to retain previous acquired skills. The student started out tense and my criticism about his tension and tight (frozen) control use just made matters worse. I wanted him to be a better and safer pilot. He was faced with a conflict in time constraint between flying and his occupation. We went home.

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