A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.")
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you
may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be
something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network.
The right instructor will make
learning to fly a challenge, but still a pleasure. He/she will play
a big part in:
- how quickly you'll reach your goal, and therefore
- how much it'll cost to complete your training,
- whether you'll finish at all, and most importantly
- how safe you'll truly be when you finish.
It's fairly rare in most locations to have a choice of CFIs, but
if you do have a choice there are ways to pick the best instructor
for you. Sad to say, there are some times when it's better to avoid
flying with the only choice available at all, and consider
traveling somewhere else to take lessons. Further, when you are
just learning to fly you have no frame of reference when forming a
relationship with someone who has a huge impact on your future, and
that of your family.
So…how can you choose a primary flight instructor?
The myth of hours
It's commonly accepted in flying circles that the more flight
time a person has, the better pilot he or she is. Sure, we'd like
all CFIs to be recently retired airline captains with thousands of
hours just gushing to bring more pilots into the fold. The reality
is that most primary CFIs are at the beginning of their career,
just recently out of training themselves, and often very overworked
from an unpredictable flying schedule and the frequent need to work
nights in other industries to make ends meet. Instructing can be
boring, repetitive work, and the luster of actually being paid
(very little) to fly can wear off rapidly.
Countering the myth
Hours alone does not a good CFI make. Even that airline or
military pilot can severely hamper your progress if he/she is not a
teacher first and a pilot second. Knowing what to do does not mean
you can see it in others, or coach them smoothly to correctness
when they don't do things right the first (or the fortieth) time.
Some of the very best CFIs are very low-time pilots…if they
have a passion for teaching.
Interview your instructor
Here's a real novel idea: CFIs are working for you. Like you
would any other prospective employee, you should interview
instructors wanting to get the job. Ask your instructor not only
how many hours he/she has in airplanes, but also:
- How many hours of instruction have you logged?
- What else have you taught besides flying? Have you been a
tutor, a teacher, a corporate trainer?
- What formal training have you received on instructional
- If you got an airline or charter job tomorrow, would you want
to keep instructing on the side?
Get references from pilots who have completed training with that
instructor, and if possible, talk to persons who have flown with
him/her but have not achieved their goal.
Aero-tip of the day: Go beyond flight hours,
and interview for teaching ability and professionalism when picking
a flight instructor.