Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Correlations and Connections

A good flight instructor is much more than someone who can explain things. After all, books can explain things. Good flight instructors, on the other hand, help their students understand the relationship between otherwise unrelated ideas. In this way, the best flight instructors go beyond explanation, making the aviation world a less mysterious place.

For instance, the airplane's spinner is more than a cosmetic device. It also helps to separate and direct airflow into the cowling, allowing the engine to cool more efficiently. In the same way, airplane antennas are less confusing when students understand how antenna size is correlated with transmission wavelength. Longer antennas are more efficient at receiving longer wavelengths, and shorter antennas are more efficient at receiving shorter wavelengths. That's why the automatic direction finder (ADF) antenna is so long-because the ADF signal is low frequency, which means it has a long wavelength. That's also why the high frequency distance-measuring equipment (DME) signal is received on a short antenna.

AOPA Flight Training can help your students by helping you to make more of these connections. So, read these articles carefully. Then, read them again.

From The Right Seat

I Was Just About To Do That

Would you like to drive your students absolutely crazy? It's easy. Tell them what to do just as they're getting ready to do it on their own. Then watch them pull their hair out and reach for the aspirin bottle. Without a doubt, this is one of the top five sources of student pilot frustration.

If you've ever heard a student say, "I was just about to do that," then it's likely that you've spoken a little too soon. On one hand, the student feels frustrated because he didn't get to demonstrate his knowledge and initiative. On the other hand, you're not Kreskin, and you can't read minds. You don't know how far the student will go, and you can't let a dangerous situation develop. So what do you do?

Here's how you might handle the problem. First, let your student know that you're aware of the problem and the frustration it produces. Make sure the student understands that it's not always possible for you to avoid speaking too soon. Then let him or her know that it's OK to inform you when they think this has happened. For instance, the student might say, "Rod, I was just getting ready to put flaps down before you asked." In the student's eyes, this gives him credit for knowing the proper steps to take without appearing to make excuses after the fact.

You can also prevent this problem by having the student verbalize his actions ahead of time. Encourage him to make statements such as, "After I turn downwind and check for traffic, I'll call the tower." This way, you know what's on his mind. More important, you know that something is on his mind. Furthermore, if the student finds this technique useful, it can be a valuable aid when he is flying solo.

If you feel that your student is not going to produce the desired behavior, you might say something like, "Bob, tell me about what's happening now," or "Bob, what are you planning on doing next?" This technique works very well, especially if your student's name is Bob. All kidding aside, questions such as these will help cue your student to perform the appropriate behavior.

There's one thing that's absolutely necessary to make all of this work. Try-and this is a big try for all of us-to be silent for as long as you can. If there's even a small chance that your student will perform the appropriate action in a reasonable time, wait it out. It's much less frustrating for the student and more fun for you.

By Rod Machado

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