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From the Right Seat: Recording Lessons

A student's best friend

Ask your students to bring tape recorders to their next lessons.

Does your student have trouble remembering from one lesson to the next? If neither motivation nor oxygen deficiency is the problem, why not try tape recording each lesson?

Encourage your students to bring their tape recorders and a sufficient supply of tapes to each training session. Have them record the pre- and postflight briefings for review at a convenient time. Tape recording makes it easier for students to retain the essential parts of every lesson, which also makes your job a lot easier.

When possible, also have them record the in-flight portion of each lesson. This works best when they're able to tap directly into the intercom system. Unfortunately, using an open mic in the cockpit instead of a direct audio connection produces recordings that sound like a busy Hong Kong street corner. Some portable intercom systems have a separate jack for direct-connection recordings. Few airplane intercom systems have an extra jack for tape recordings. More often than not, students need to create their own jack connection.

A trip to Radio Shack usually solves the problem. Find the most senior salesman - the one with a Don King-type hairdo. This is a sure sign that this fellow has worked with electricity. He'll help you to find the proper jacks necessary to ensure a good recording.

Recently, a student sent me copies of all his private pilot lessons that we recorded several years ago. He thanked me for encouraging him to record these lessons, saying that they were even more valuable now that he's a flight instructor. Listening to his own lessons and his struggle to understand certain topics made him a more empathetic teacher. He's a better instructor for it.

Tape recordings also allow students to adapt to an air traffic controller's rapid-fire speech rate. Psychologists tell us that we can learn to understand speech spoken at a rate 10 times faster than normal conversation with a 40 percent distortion of the transmission. To a student, that's exactly what comes out of most air traffic control towers. Exposure to ATC's speech rate is the key to comprehending what's being said.

Have your students record of all their communications with the tower and approach control. If they review these tapes often enough, they'll begin to understand the words, the patterns, and the appropriate responses. After 60 minutes of listening to rapid-fire communications, most student begin to acclimate to ATC's speaking style.

Until then, happy recording.

By Rod Machado

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