Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Good business and good teaching

One complements the other

The most profitable sale is the sale made when you keep a current customer.

That's because it costs money to find and attract a new customer. It costs much less to keep an existing customer.

Certainly the CFI, whether self-employed or working for a flight school, has a vested interest in the profits of the company. Profits are important. It is more fun to work for a profitable flight school, and safer. Profits provide job security, new equipment, and better maintenance.

Two friends who are student pilots came to me recently with stories from their training. Each had experienced a perceived emergency while flying with a CFI. I say "perceived" emergency because in each case the danger was mostly in the eyes of the student. Perception is the better part of reality, however, and both students were scared at the time.

But there was a big difference in the outcome. One of the students was considering quitting flying. He (one of these students was female, one male-I am calling them both "he" for simplicity) was afraid that he did not "have what it takes" to learn to fly. The other student told me what he had learned and how he would avoid the problem in the future.

The emergency in each case was the type of thing that happens to every student. It may well have happened to you during your own primary training. Yet it shook one of those two students to his very core. I can remember that same feeling myself. After a silly blunder as a student, I wondered if I had "the right stuff." That term hadn't yet been invented, but you know what I mean. I thought perhaps I should quit.

One of the students was considering never flying again. The other was still enthusiastic and planning to fly for decades to come.

The difference in the attitudes was the difference in the CFIs involved.

One CFI chewed out the student and then let it lie. The other CFI met with his student over a cup of coffee for a debriefing about the incident. They discussed what was done wrong initially, how it was handled after the mistake was made, how it could have been avoided in the first place, and what was done right. What was learned? Then the CFI pointed out that in spite of the goof, there was no accident. Nobody died. No aircraft was destroyed. Part of the system saved aircraft and crew. Most important, the CFI pointed out that such mistakes can happen in training, and that is why such care is taken to get it right in the long run.

One student was scared to death and ready to drop out, the other positive and pleased with what he had learned. The CFI made the difference. The distinction is clear from a profit standpoint, but forget profit for a moment. Which CFI did the better job of teaching? Which student learned more? Those answers are obvious, too. It is surprising how often good business and good teaching go hand in hand.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for more than 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.

By Ralph Hood

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