December 2000 Issue

Measly Living

Flight instructor shortage won’t get better unless the reality of the job changes

I would like to comment about your editorial on shortage of flight instructors [Editor’s Log, November].

For several years I flew for a commuter airline. At 50 I was told I did not meet their pilot profile and I should quit. I also had personal problems at home, so I left to be closer to home.

I decided to go back into flight instruction. For the next three years I worked six and sometimes seven days a week, sometimes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in order to accommodate students. All for only a four-figure income a year.

Three years later I found a job on a assembly line. It only pays a couple of dollars above minimum wage, but it doubled my yearly income. I continued doing flight instruction after hours for about the next six months. I would drive 20 miles to the airport, brief my student, watch them preflight, fly for one hour, debrief and fill out paper work, and drive home. I was paid for the hour of flying and spent about three hours to earn this. I was making less than minimum wage for my time, but at least I was flying.

Then one of my students was upset that he didn’t get his license in 40 hours, so he complained to the FAA. They went through my records and logbooks. The inspector stated that I was required to have my documents in a language and condition that was acceptable to the administrator, and that he was not pleased with my record keeping.

At that time I took out my flight instructor certificate, tore it up and gave it to him. I said that he had just done me a favor, that I was losing money and time pursuing this. I have not been flying since and I probably will not again.

If we want better instructors some of the things I feel need to be changed are: 1) Require 3,000 hours of flight time before instructing, not 300. 2) A minimum of $1,000 a month so that a person can survive. 3) Have flight instructors as full-time employees so they qualify for benefits.

Until something changes, what we have now is what we will have.

Before I get a lot of response back, I know that Comair, Flight Safety and others pay what I am making on the assembly line, but I am talking about the FBO at your local GA airport.

Via e-mail


Hey Ump, Want to Use My Glasses?
In reading your “Healthy Choice” [Medical Matters, October], I noticed something odd about the third class vision section of the summation box at the bottom of the page.

In 16 years of performing various forms of visual examination, I have never seen, nor recorded, “20/24” as a visual acuity reading. Am I seeing cross-eyed? Do you really mean 20/40?

-Tina Ziolkowski
Via e-mail

You bet we do. Makes you wonder how we passed the vision test at our last medical, doesn’t it?


The ‘Ideal’ AME is Out There
This is in response to Paul Bertorelli’s article “Medical Certification is a Broken Wheel” [Medical Matters, October].

I concur with your conclusion that the ideal AME is one who is able to separate the medical problem from the bureaucratic one and keep you out of bureaucratic trouble in Oklahoma City whenever possible.

I have discovered three cases of diabetes mellitus in the last year by doing a urine test on applicants. These men had no idea they had the problem.

They are now being treated with oral medication or diet, should have none of the ravages of “diabetes” and all have their medical certificates.

I have the pleasure of serving on the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council. EAA has identified a group of pilot advocates who are members and also AMEs.

-Charles Nicholson
Concord, N.C.


Don’t Forget the Airport on Unicom
I just read “Sounding Smart” [Airmanship, October]. As a low-time pilot with 600 hours over 50 years of flying, I try to keep in touch and your magazine is very helpful. I do have one suggestion to make – that you should add the airport name at the beginning and the end of transmissions on CTAF at uncontrolled airports. Where I fly in North Georgia there are many airports fairly close together that have the same frequency. Unless you give the name at the beginning and the end it’s hard for others to tell where you are.

-Frank Barron
Rome, Ga.

Absolutely true. We, too, get frustrated trying to figure out what airport other traffic is at based only on the runway the pilot calls and the amount of static in the transmission.


Looking for a Little Light Reading
After reading Pat Veillette’s article “Real vs. Ideal” [Risk Management, October], I’m wondering where can I get a copy of FAA Order 8110.7, Engineering Flight Test Guide for Small Airplanes? Also, he mentions several commercially available books to assist in preparing performance charts. Could you furnish a list of some of those texts? Great article and thanks for your help.

-Marion Todd
Asheville, N.C.

Pat Veillette responds: There are several books which discuss this topic, ranging from those which the weekend pilot might enjoy up through those requiring a very thorough background in aeronautical engineering. There may be other books on the market now regarding this topic but these were available at the time I started the masters thesis.

The first three books are available on the civilian market and give some good techniques to the non-engineering/lay pilot in understandable terms.

Schiff, Barry. The Proficient Pilot II, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1987.

Smith, Hubert “Skip”. Performance Flight Testing, Tab Books Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., 1982.

Schiff, Barry. The Proficient Pilot I. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1985.

The next book is quite technical in nature and would be of interest mainly to someone with some scientific training. It’s quite good.

Roberts, Sean C. Light Aircraft Performance for Test Pilots and Flight Test Engineers, Flight Research Inc., Mojave, California, 1980.

The following books are very technical and require a background in aeronautical engineering. These were the main references I used in the conduct of my study.

Lang, James D. Aircraft Performance, Stability, and Control. Departments of Aeronautics, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1974.

Webb, Duane E. Engineering Flight Test Manual, Part I: Principles of Aircraft Performance. Department of Mechanics, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, 1983.

U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force. U.S.A.F. Test Pilot School Flight Test Handbook. Edwards Air Force Base, California. August, 1979.

U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Aviation Administration. FAA Order 8110.7, Engineering Flight Test Guide for Small Airplanes. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, continuously updated.


Where’s Help When It’s Needed?
Your article “Jersey Inferno” [Accident Probe, October] left me thinking about some issues I think merit discussion among pilots and controllers. Sure, this accident was the result of loss of control which was brought on by equipment failure; however, was the controller part of the accident chain here?

The pilot launched into a low visibility situation that was known to the pilot and the controller. Upon calling departure the pilot was given instructions to turn left heading 010 and climb to 5,000, OK. Immediately the controller amended the altitude to 2,000 feet and reiterated the left turn command. A lot to do at a very busy time.

Then the pilot confesses that he has a gyro problem. At this point there should be some procedure that treats this flight differently. Gyro and control problems are fatal and are out and out emergencies. Even if the pilot did not declare an emergency the words gyro or control or the indication of a loss of control should send a controller into a different set of rules.

As the pilot had difficulty holding a heading and requested higher, the controller stopped him at 2,000. What is that about? I wonder if the controller had any training that would let him know that the pilot in this instance was literally fighting for his life.

A climb would have been a very big help since it would have slowed the plane and given the pilot the time to debug his instrument problem. Surely the controller was following procedures designed to keep the plane out of Newark airspace and traffic, which was a top priority, but did it trump the priority of helping to save the pilot’s life?

Now admittedly the situation was tough since Linden literally resides underneath the Newark Class B. Of course this raises the related question: Why did the controller turn the pilot to 010 – north toward Newark – instead of to the south and away from Newark?

Now I do not know about you, but when I fly IFR I find the climb into the unknown phase to be the most difficult part of the flight. Any distraction takes away from my primary focus on controlling the plane when it is close to the ground, accelerating, climbing, turning and transitioning from visual to instruments.

My points are as follows: Controllers should be trained to understand the delicate nature of launching into IFR and the distractions that multiple calls and changes can cause. Controllers should be trained to recognize the beginning of a loss of control situation and provide appropriate help like heading information, climb or descent data and recommended ways out and assurances like “fly the airplane.” At a minimum they should not deny the request of a pilot who has reported a gyro problem. Finally, pilots should be able to say “control problem” and get immediate help.

I recognize that flying the airplane is a pilot’s full responsibility. I recognize that controllers are busy and are very competent and efficient. Nevertheless, no one wants fatalities and loss of property and the aviation community is responsible to more than just itself, witness the loss of innocent life on the ground.

On a related note: A Baron crashed next to Teterboro last year after the pilot misunderstood the approach instructions and turned the wrong way. The controller then got on the pilot and told him to reverse his turn and in so doing he entered an accelerated stall and crashed.

Pilots screw up, it’s true, and they may need to be trained or punished or both. But they do not need to be killed. If the goal is to prevent accidents and loss of life, controllers will need to be trained to help pilots when they are in trouble.

Flying all over the northeast I have found that most of the controllers are excellent, but some take great pleasure in pointing out pilot errors and in chastising pilots. The rebukes may be earned, but should be saved for the ground or a written report – the stakes in the air are just too high.

-Name Withheld by Request

Like pilots, controllers are in a difficult position. Their saves are seldom recognized and their errors are prominently displayed.

Though much of your analysis makes sense, consider also the other side of the radio.

All pilots know that an emergency allows them to legally do whatever they want with respect to ignoring controllers’ instructions. In a way, the pilot’s confidence and experience could have been his undoing because he may have thought himself capable of following the controller’s instructions while he dealt with the problem.

We have heard the tape of the radio calls, and the controller was not rude or condescending, merely professional and matter-of-fact. If the pilot had spoken up, he would have gotten better assistance. But controllers aren’t mind-readers.