May 2008 Issue

The Problem With Flight Instruction

Because they donít know any better, many instructors leave their students with a poor understanding of basic airmanship.

Perhaps youíve heard the riddle, "What do you call the person who graduates at the bottom of the class in medical school?" The answer: Doctor. The maxim being conveyed applies equally well to aviation: What do you call the pilot who has met the minimum standards set forth in FAR 61.183-187? Answer: Certificated Flight Instructor. Yet whether acting in the capacity of doctor or flight instructor, that individual is directly responsible for another personís well being. Others literally may live or die based directly on the doctorís and the flight instructorís knowledge and skills. The path to becoming a practicing doctor evolved to include a rigorous course of study and years of apprenticeship: college, med school, internship, residency, fellowship. The tradition in aviation, on the other hand, has been to treat flight instructing as the bullpen for corporate and airline flying. Still clinging to this model, many instructors teach largely for their own benefit and not the benefit of their students. Instructing, after all, is supposed to be a transient phase; building time, the primary goal; low pay and high turnover at flight schools, expected.

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