Show Some RespectI ride the airlines a lot more than I want to, and my nonflying friends ask if the flights ever scare me. Heck, I'm scared every time I get on one. I'm not scared it will crash; I'm scared of something far worse. I'm scared I'll sit next to one of those talkative sorts who will rattle my ear all the way to California.
I always sit down, pull out the flight magazine, and stick my nose in it. Nobody will talk to you when you've got your nose stuck in a magazine. Once I got on a Delta flight, yanked out that magazine, and stuck my nose into it before I even looked at my seat partner. Then I found out I was sitting next to baseball great Hank Aaron. Y'all, I folded up that magazine, stuck it into the seat pocket, and turned to Hank Aaron, thinking I would learn a lot about baseball on the way to California. To my chagrin, Hank Aaron pulled out his magazine, stuck his nose in it, and kept it there.
I asked one question about baseball, and I can only say in all truthfulness that the legendary Hank Aaron snubbed me totally. Politely, but totally. He obviously did not want to talk about baseball. Recognizing a snub when I saw one (I have been snubbed by some of the best), I gave up and returned to my magazine. Then, a few minutes later, I remembered that Aaron owned several Arby's restaurants. Without thinking, I said, "You're in the fast food business, aren't you?" He talked to me freely and quite willingly for the rest of the trip.
Hank Aaron didn't want to talk about the old days but was quite happy talking about his current business. Most people are like that, and CFIs can use that to good advantage.
Many of your students - particularly older students - are successful in other fields. You can build credibility and mutual respect by recognizing their expertise from day one. There is perhaps no better way to "break the ice" and build rapport with new students than by asking what they do for a living, then asking questions. Recognizing the other person's value is the quickest way to get that person to recognize your value.
All too often, the flight student returns to childhood the minute he or she steps into a flight school. He may be a physician or successful businessperson. She may have a doctorate in nuclear fusion. No matter. At the airport, each may be made to feel like just another know-nothing student pilot.
Let's change that. Tell that woman the truth. Tell her you are impressed with that degree. Ask her about her work. Ask him what it's like to perform surgery - literally taking another person's life into his hands. Ask that business tycoon how he got where he is. Successful people are used to being looked up to. They have egos. Feed those egos a bit.
Try it. I bet you'll be amazed at the response. Many of them will tell you all about their careers, then return to what you're teaching with a new respect for you, their CFI. That surgeon may point out that you, as a pilot, also take lives into your hands. That woman may mention that she is just as impressed with your aviation education as you are with her doctorate.
Besides, don't you want to know what they do for a living? Aviation attracts people from many walks of life. Getting to know them is fascinating.
Don't Neglect Respect
Many years ago I watched a pilot drain his fuel sumps then toss the avgas onto the tarmac. What he didn't notice was the half-lit cigarette left there by another pilot. Poof! A little fire erupted then disappeared.
If it wasn't for his optic cords, the bugged-out eyes of this fuel-tossing pilot would have left their sockets. His vocabulary was reduced to one word: Wow! He must have thought, "This is sensitive fuel. I'd better be extra smooth on those landings."
As well as we prepare to handle the risks of flight, we're often unprepared for the risks of preflight. Yes, you can get hurt during the walkaround. While you may not ignite a fire, you might strain, poke, or bump yourself. Bruce Landsberg's piece titled "Industrial-Strength Preflight" will help you teach your students respect for the risks of the preflight.
Speaking of respect, while Rodney Dangerfield doesn't get much, your students should. That's why you must read Ralph Hood's story "Show Some Respect." Ralph shows how we can build rapport with students by acknowledging their nonaviation accomplishments.
Designated pilot examiners deserve respect, too. Read Dave Wilkerson's piece, "The Mirror Image," and you'll better understand what the FAA expects of its examiners and how you can prepare your students for the big day.
By Ralph Hood