Offer better training
Professionalism pays, and aviation training will require more professionalism in the future as aircraft and equipment become ever more varied and capable.
My first airplane ride was piloted by our next-door neighbor, Clarence Dubs, in his Piper Pacer. Mr. Dubs had a lot of experience, including more than 3,000 hours PIC time in the Pacer alone. We lived in coastal Georgia, and on more than one of our flights Mr. Dubs landed on an offshore island beach at low tide, joining several of his friends in other airplanes for net fishing in the ocean. This was fairly routine for them, and I grew up thinking that it was a perfectly normal thing to do. I didn’t find out until decades later that insurance companies frown upon that practice. It should be noted, however, that those pilots had definite rules and expertise for those flights, and mishaps were rare.
For all of his experience, Mr. Dubs did not have an instrument rating, and I believe that was true for most of his pilot friends. Most of the airplanes they flew were pretty basic. Radios and instruments were minimal. A power source for gyros was often a little venturi on the side of the airplane that forced air through a tube. The tube worked, of course, only at speed, so there was little opportunity to test it before flight. Speeds were low and engines small, so much flight was on the low and slow side. That kind of flying was, and is, beautiful and enjoyable, but did not encourage IFR flight. Flight instruction was simpler in those days.
A sea change
This all began to change as airplanes and equipment became more sophisticated. Navigation became easier, but at the same time required more training. CFIs had to grow with the equipment. As possibilities grew, pilots wanted the benefits that came with the new opportunities. Light twins became more popular, and the instrument rating became useful and desirable.
Somewhere along the way FlightSafety and other professional training organizations became popular with business flyers of truly sophisticated aircraft. Insurance companies wanted better training in such aircraft, and they got it. This trend continues today.
Interesting fact—these more professional schools tended to charge more and paid CFIs more. That remains true today. Most CFIs, of course, don’t work for FlightSafety, but you can learn and benefit from the professional way in which that organization operates.
A basic uniform—even if it is only slacks instead of blue jeans, and epaulets on a solid shirt—helps create a professional image at first contact. A businesslike attitude furthers the image. Being on time is of prime importance. One of the complaints I hear most often from students is that the CFI was late and/or unprepared for the lesson.
Best of all, watch the professional people with whom you come in contact. Learn from them. You probably can’t buy a BMW like your physician’s, but you can be on time and attentive to your students. Professionalism really does pay.
Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site .
By Ralph Hood