Editor's Log

April 2000 Issue




Try, Try Again

Putting more effort into learning may help keep your instructor around

Go ahead. Make an instructor’s day. Volumes have been written about the state of flight instruction. Veteran pilots sometimes chafe at the notion of paying some kid barely out of puberty to approve them for instrument flight for another six months or, worse yet, sign off on their ability to fly at all for another two years. New pilots wonder what they’re getting when their instructor clocks in with a minimum of experience.

The notions get worse as even those instructors vanish in a few months – snapped up for a lousy job by a tiny commuter airline and replaced by someone even younger and with even less experience. Their most redeeming quality is that they’re cheap to hire.

Then there are the part-time instructors. They have other jobs and instruct, not to build hours, but because of the rewards it brings them. You get the feeling that the income derived from instructing is nice, but it’s not the reason they’re there. They can be great instructors, but they tend to be hard to book because of their non-instructing career. They generally cost more, but they’re worth it.

Finally, you have career instructors with lots of experience who don’t give a damn about how many hours they’re accumulating. They’re often the most expensive of the lot. They tend to be self-employed and figure that someone who’s paying a mechanic $65 an hour to work on the plane ought to pay a reasonable fee to learn to fly the plane.

The economics of instructing force many people in all three categories to give it up. But there is something all pilots can do to encourage quality instructors – and it doesn’t cost anything.

Try.

Who can blame an instructor for getting disillusioned by cheapskates who treat everyone like a waiter and know-it-alls who feel like the instructor’s signature on a BFR is their birthright? Amid the disillusioning customers are the ones who really want to learn, who really do their best, and who put a lot of effort into getting it right.

Ask any instructor what that means to them, and odds are not a single one will say, “Another $30 in my pocket.”

By trying hard to achieve the kind of perfection that eludes everyone, you show your instructor that he or she is making a difference. That means more job satisfaction, which might keep them instructing longer, which helps everyone who comes after you.

I hear a lot of veterans say that flight training today is minting worse pilots than it did years ago. To them I say, take a look at the economics of instructing. Is it any wonder good instructors are hard to find?

Personally, I demand more of the instructors I fly with now than I did in the past. As a result, I have stopped throwing my money at revolving-door instructors and opt instead for experienced instructors who take a professional approach.

If all pilots did that, maybe more good pilots would consider instructing as a long-term option. And that would increase safety for us all.


-Ken Ibold