February 2015 Issue

Old? Or Young?

Research into instructional accidents shows younger instructors are involved in far fewer fatals than older ones.

One of aviation’s enduring truisms is that a young, relatively inexperienced flight instructor is less safe than an older, experienced, grizzled veteran with hundreds of successful private pilot applicants under his belt. The presumption is that experience—perhaps having flown enough hours/years to make mistakes, live through them and learn from it all—somehow makes that grizzled veteran a superior instructor, one who doesn’t get into trouble with students. But the reality is quite shockingly the reverse. When the data is crunched—which I recently did for a detailed research study—it turns out that young instructors are involved in vastly fewer accidents than their older counterparts, even though they’re responsible for more than 90 percent of instruction in the U.S. Although my study involved a fairly small number of accidents over a short period, the data revealed that between 2007 to 2011, if you died in an accident with a CFI, there was a 78-percent chance you were flying with a non-Millennial-generation instructor. I suspect most of us would find this surprising. I certainly did.

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