Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

Safety Publications/Articles

Experience counts

In his or her own way, every experienced flight instructor develops a pretty heady philosophy about how the world of aviation works. Spend a few thousand hours teaching others to fly and you learn about aviation's trapdoors--and how to avoid them.

Unfortunately, many primary students see an instructor's experience and skill merely as something mechanical that allows him or her to make an airplane do precisely as commanded. What they don't see are the decision-making ruminations occurring below the calm exterior of the person in the right seat. That's why it's important to share with your students as much about your thought processes as possible during the normal course of training.

For instance, when arriving at an airport for landing, a student may think that your entire focus is on ensuring a correct pattern entry at pattern altitude. What he doesn't see is your attention to the departure area of the runway as you quickly scout for an emergency landing site in case one becomes necessary after takeoff. He doesn't see how you watch for other traffic with your ears as you listen for--and then spatially locate--other traffic in the pattern. He doesn't see how your midair collision alert level increases when you learn that a faster airplane is following you on the downwind leg. These are just a few of the many things your student many never learn unless you articulate them during the training process.

In the postflight briefing, offer your students insights on your decision-making strategy. Let them know there's more to flying an airplane than stick-and-rudder skills. It's a sure way to help them make better decisions.

By Rod Machado

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