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When simple becomes difficult

I recently asked a few FAA inspectors about the failures they've issued on flight instructor checkrides. My suspicion was that most CFI applicants probably do well explaining advanced topics, but they struggle with the simple ones. My hunch proved correct.

One FAA inspector said that she recently failed a CFI applicant because he was unable to teach straight-and-level flight. Apparently he couldn't muster a sufficiently simple and clear explanation about how to do this most basic of maneuvers. The applicant confessed that he hadn't given much thought to teaching such a basic maneuver. On the other hand, this applicant was undoubtedly poised to offer a finely tuned explanation of advanced flight maneuvers like chandelles or short-field landings.

Experience tells me that many CFI applicants have trouble explaining the simplest flight maneuvers. It's not that they don't know how to do these maneuvers. The difficulty most likely lies in the perception that because something is simple to do, it must be simple to explain. Not so.

The next time your instructor applicant believes that he or she is ready for the checkride, ask him or her to teach you the most basic concept and/or most basic flight maneuver you can imagine. Ask for a demonstration of how to teach someone to hold a heading. If you want a real eye-opener, ask for an explanation about why manifold pressure decreases when the throttle is closed and increases when the throttle is opened, but only does so when the engine is running. Well-prepared CFI applicants are adept at explaining both basic and advanced maneuvers.

By Rod Machado

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