Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Of Crash Courses And Self-Discovery

Who knew there could be so much to learn in the game?

I've decided that I don't know a damn thing about airplanes and even less about flight instructing. I was at one of those mind-numbing 16-hour crash-course CFI refresher clinics over the weekend and came away a little shaken. I've more or less recovered today, but when I walked back in the door last night, I was much "stuff" crammed into my brain in such a short period of time. I think I also discovered that I'm an analog pilot in a digital world.

Now, before anyone jumps up and says my "geezerness" is showing through, let's get a couple of things absolutely clear: I'm as computer savvy as most kids and more so than almost anyone of my peer group. I practically live with a laptop, and my iPhone is out of my hand only when I'm taking a shower. However, I knew I was behind the times and maybe out of luck when an intense conversation on GPS (or was it GNSS?) featured the question, "Does your box have GNSS in it?" At that point, I knew I was definitely out of my comfort zone: You just don't ask those kinds of questions in polite society. On top of that, I instantly found that an (RNP)Z held no attraction for me. Nor did an LPV, a PBM, a PTA or a BVD.

I suppose the moment that defined me in that room was when it was asked what navaids we had in our airplanes, and I asked, "Does a whiskey compass count?" I think I heard someone in the back whisper to his partner, "What's a compass?"

It has been more than 30 years since I've owned a navaid any more complex than a whiskey compass. Since my cross-country legs are never more than about 1.5 hours long (only 23 gallons usable), I've never seen the need for a GPS. A current sectional, a plotter, a compass and a pencil almost never have electrical or battery problems. Nor are they knocked out by meteor showers, bad guys with lasers or satellite-eating aliens.

Oh, wait, I just remembered: I have GPS in my phone. I wonder if I should have told them that, yes, I have GPS in my airplane, but I'm usually sitting on it. Of course, I could just bring up MapQuest and follow those directions.

I suppose what told me that I was seriously old school was that I was acutely aware that we were spending enormous blocks of time discussing things that have nothing to do with teaching how to fly an airplane. In fact, there was a 15-second statement accompanied by a slick PowerPoint presentation that told us that stall/spin accidents still account for something like 15% of aviation fatalities. However, there wasn't a single word said about what causes those accidents or what we, as instructors, should emphasize to reduce them. In the entire 16 hours, there wasn't a word about the basics of how to fly an airplane or how to teach it.


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