Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Instructor Report

Coach Your Students

I was looking through Dave English's book of aviation quotations (Slipping the Surley Bonds) recently when I found a quote by Air Vice-Marshal James Edgar Johnson of the British Royal Air Force. It reads: Great pilots are made, not born.... A man may possess good eyesight, sensitive hands, and perfect coordination, but the end result is only fashioned by steady coaching, much practice, and experience."

James Edgar Johnson is correct in his assertion that steady coaching is fundamental to the making of great pilots. After all, a coach is more than just an instructor. He is often the confidant, the cheerleader, the therapist, and the waterboy. These are some of the individual roles that we must play in helping our students to become skillful pilots.

So, when you hop into the cockpit with students, think of your- self as a coach, not just a dispenser of aeronautical information. Give your students a pep talk when necessary, a pat on the back when earned, or an admonition when deserved. Coach them.

While we may never produce great pilots, we can certainly produce safe ones if we play our roles correctly.

From The Right Seat

Power-Off Approaches: Gliding From The Beginning

One of my favorite techniques for introducing students to landing practice is the power-off approach. While some consider this an advanced technique, I've found that a modified version is useful during the early stages of training.

Using this method helps students to judge their glidepath for landing on a specific portion of the runway. Yes, it's just as easy to make power-on approaches at this stage. Nevertheless, judging the airplane's power-off glide potential is a valuable skill for students to have, especially if they must make an emergency landing someday. A second benefit is that this clears any lingering question students have about what would happen in the event of a powerplant failure, thus making for a student who is more confident and at ease.

The classic power-off approach is begun downwind, abeam the desired landing point. But traffic doesn't always permit a descent from this position. To compensate for this, I instruct my students to maintain pattern altitude until they believe they are in a position to make a power-off glide to the runway. Depending on traffic, they may begin their descent abeam the landing spot, on base, or, in some cases, on a long final. In any event, I have my students judge - initially with a little help from me - when to begin a power-off descent to the runway. At this point, I have them reduce power to flight-idle and establish the appropriate glide speed.

What if students sense that they won't be able to reach the runway? Instead of continuously jockeying the throttle, instruct them to move it to an intermediate power setting and leave it alone. (This is a setting that you know will allow the airplane to reach the runway.) While maintaining the desired airspeed, they should, once again, reduce power to flight idle only when they believe they can make a power-off glide to the runway. They can repeat this process as often as necessary to reach the runway. Of course, you shouldn't let them get dangerously low. If your students are too high, have them apply flaps or additional flaps as necessary to reach the desired touchdown point.

Power-off approaches help students learn something about estimating and maintaining a desired glidepath. So even if you favor making approaches with power, do your students a favor and give them a little practice with this modified power-off technique.

By Rod Machado

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports