Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Counting On The Instructor

How long should an instructor wait before correcting a student’s mistake?

A few years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a handbook that contained its beliefs about the best ways for teachers to teach, the best ways for students to learn, and the best ways for instructors and students to become true believers and practitioners of FAA gospel. The book is called FAA-H-8083-9A, Aviation Instructor's Handbook.

The FAA makes this suggestion for conducting dual instructional flights: "Correction of student errors does not include the practice of taking over from students immediately when a mistake is made. Safety permitting, it is frequently better to let students progress part of the way into the mistake and find a way out. For example, in a weight-shift control aircraft the bar is moved right to turn left.

A student may show an initial tendency to move the bar in the direction of the desired turn. This tendency dissipates with time, but allowing the student to see the effect of his or her control input is a valuable aid in illustrating the stability of the aircraft. It is difficult for students to learn a maneuver properly if they seldom have the opportunity to correct an error."

Of course, the instructor could be conservative and intervene to prevent an accident as soon as an error became apparent. The instructor could subsequently demonstrate what was about to go wrong, and how to recover, had the error become fully developed.

If an instructor waits too long to intervene when an error occurs during a dual instructional flight, or isn't aware of what's happening in time to take corrective action, the National Transportation Board (NTSB) may have to enter the picture. Unfortunately, the aircraft in these two accidents weren't equipped with cockpit voice or video recorders, so it's not possible to know exactly what occurred.

Cirrus SR20
A Cirrus SR20 being operated as a Part 91 instructional flight crashed in Deltona, Fla. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The commercial pilot flight instructor and commercial pilot receiving instruction were killed. The flight originated from Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), in Sanford, Fla.

Two witnesses saw the airplane flying eastbound between 225 to 250 feet above the trees. They told investigators that the engine quit and the airplane made a sharp turn to the right. Then, the nose pitched downward and the airplane started spinning. Just before the airplane disappeared from view, the witnesses saw a parachute deploy, but the canopy didn't fully open. A short time later, they heard the sound of an impact.


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