June 4, 2014
By Rod Machado
When I sit downto learn from an online presentation, it better hold my attention or my mind will drift off faster than a party balloon in gale-force winds. There was no mental drift when I sat down to take the Air Safety Institute’s online eFIRC (Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic) a few months ago. ASI has outdone itself in the conception, creation, and production of its eFIRC. To set the mood, let’s examine the original reason for the FIRC, and then see what ASI offers instructors with its live (in person) FIRC and its new eFIRC offering.
In the early 1960s, my friend Pete Campbell—one of the best FAA inspectors and aviation educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing—convinced the FAA higher-ups to tackle general aviation’s alarming accident rate by directly educating flight instructors. Enter the FIRC, which became the primary means by which flight instructors renewed their instructor certificates every 24 calendar months. The FAA’s FIRC made its maiden voyage in 1964. The course consisted of 24 hours of classroom instruction spread over three days and was taught by six of the FAA’s top aviation educators.
By 1971—after 200 seminars, attended by more than 16,000 instructors—the flight instruction accident rate decreased by 67 percent. Campbell proved a very important point about aviation “classroom” education—it saves lives. With the proper classroom training, instructors learned to fly more safely and became better teachers in the process. In turn, these same instructors began producing safer pilots.
By the late 1970s, the FAA ceased teaching the FIRCs and began allowing nongovernmental organizations to conduct these clinics around the country. I was lucky enough to begin teaching these programs for AOPA in 1978.
My great fortune was in sharing the stage with some of aviation’s most dynamic, talented, and bright instructors. I’m speaking of individuals such as Catherine Fish, one of the top female aviation educators in the world, and Dr. Gerry Fairbairn, one of the smartest men I know in the business of aviation education. Please forgive me for being unable to introduce you to each and every one of these outstanding educators, but you can see many of them at the live FIRCs that ASI presents around the country. These individuals are, without question, some of the very best aviation instructors in the world. No brag. Just fact.
Unfortunately, travel costs, scheduling, and previous commitments prevent some instructors from attending a live ASI FIRC. Fortunately, over the past few years, there’s been another option available to instructors, which doesn’t involve leaving the comfort of home. I’m speaking of the online version of this course. ASI’s eFIRC is an option you should seriously consider.
I recently took ASI’s eFIRC in the comfort of my own home, meaning that I didn’t have to travel on an airliner to do it. This reduced my chance of having to sit next to a crying baby who smokes. I’m here to witness to you that ASI has done something wonderful with its online offering. It has created not only a highly educational course—it’s also created one that’s enjoyable to sit through.
Here’s how the online FIRC works.
There are 10 mandatory lesson blocks that must be completed. These range from courses on How to Give an Effective and Useful Flight Review to Navigating in the 21st Century: Pilotage and GPS. Then there are six elective courses (out of nine total) ranging from Decision Making to Mountain Flying. All 16 courses represent the equivalent of 16 hours of mandatory classroom education that the FAA now requires for flight instructor certificate renewal.
One of the many highlights of this course is the video presentations made by recognized flight training experts. For instance, designated examiners Doug Stewart and Jason Blair provide practical insights on fine-tuning a flight review. Max Trescott shares his wisdom on glass cockpit training, and Kathy Yodice provides a legal perspective for flight instructors. These are just a few of the videos that you’ll have a chance to view. So be prepared for the insights and wisdom shared by some of aviation’s most knowledgeable instructors, along with compelling video education in many other areas.
No doubt there are other great online and live FIRCs, but ASI’s live and online programs will not disappoint you. If you’re unable to make it to a live ASI FIRC, please consider the online version. My experience with the course was a highly enjoyable one. It was the quality of training, professional course construction, and course content that held my attention throughout the entire online program.
Rod Machado’s latest book is the How to Fly an Airplane Handbook.
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