October 25, 2013
There's a tenet in aviation that if you can explain or demonstrate a task to another pilot, it proves that you truly know the material.
What if you don't? The effort to explain a concept or task can unmask the reason for your error and help eliminate it. That's why some occasional role reversal is valuable during flight training.
At various times during training, opportunities come along for you to gauge your knowledge by explaining the reasoning behind the techniques you demonstrate in flight. That's good rehearsal for your practical test, when your ability to exhibit knowledge comes in for verbal and observational examination.
The three hours of test prep mandated for private pilot trainees by 14 CFR 61.109 carve out an official niche for parsing procedures and principles. But it need not be the first time you "teach" terms, tasks, and techniques.
Post-training-flight debriefings are a good chance to focus on this skill. Reviewing a turn around a point flown in a 10-knot wind, you note that you steepened the bank angle to maximum as you reached the downwind heading. Why did the steeper bank angle keep the maneuver within standards? It increased the rate of turn, enabling you to maintain the proper distance from the ground reference as the groundspeed increased. (Sketch an illustration.)
At the completion of a steep turn, you reduced pitch during the rollout to avoid climbing. Why was this necessary? ("The steep turn's horizontal component of lift requires the aircraft to be flown at a higher angle of attack than is needed in straight-and-level flight.")
Don't overlook discussing any unexpected scenarios encountered during the lesson, explaining the thinking that went into your decisions about how to react in those high-value teachable moments.
Riding as a rear-seater on another student's dual lesson is a great chance to watch the learning process unfold; think of it as a free lesson experienced from a new vantage point.
Some Q-and-A during a phase check, or when flying with a stand-in for your regular CFI, can sharpen your focus on elements of technique.
One possible outcome of assuming the teacher's role is that you may uncover the need to hit the books again on a subject or two.
Another possible outcome: You may find that you're a pretty good teacher!
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