Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Instructing The Instructor

Ten things every instructor learns, whether he wants to or not

9 Recognize what the airplane is doing versus what the student is making it do. Airplanes would rather do the right thing, than the wrong thing. Nine times out of 10, when an instructor has to step in and straighten things out, the airplane has been bullied into a bad position by unknowing hands. At that point, the trick, as an instructor, is to keep from screaming, "Oh, my God!" and jerking the controls while browbeating the student. The challenge is to calmly explain to the student what he did wrong, and how not to do it again. It's also a challenge to be calm even though the pain from biting your lip is killing you.

10 You can't BS students. Students may not know that much about flying, but they know BS when they hear it. They all possess an innate sense that tells them when we're blowing smoke. No matter what information we present or how we do it, students know instantly whether we're firm in our knowledge or winging it in the hopes they won't notice. They can also smell when we're truly committed to their learning and when we're just logging time. In fact, they can easily tell when we've had a hard night and can hardly wait for the hop to be over. Our impatience shows through. And any instructor alive would be lying if he or she (we) didn't admit to having one of "those" days where we're watching the minute hand count down.

The world of the flight instructor can be comical, threatening, frustrating and irritating, but one thing it definitely isn't is boring. Regardless of how seemingly routine you expect a flight to be, between the forces of nature and the quirks built into the human brain, at any second, a gremlin could jump out of the aerial bushes ahead and spoil our entire day. Or week. The best part about those surprises, however, is that they become yet one more, "Wow, wait 'till you hear what happened today…" story for the bar.

And then there are the emails that say, "Thanks. You saved my life today. That thing you taught me about…" And that's when you know your time has been well invested.

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