Safety Publications/Articles

Still a Lot to Learn

I hope you enjoy the "Instructor Report" section of AOPA Flight Training magazine as much as I do. Yes, I read this section (and the entire magazine) from beginning to end, every month. Even though I've been in the aviation business for nearly 30 years, I'm amazed at how much I learn from Flight Training's class of highly skilled writers. Even if I'm reading about a topic that I'm intimately familiar with, there's still a lot to learn. For instance, I'm always interested in the way in which a writer presents a topic. I'm intrigued by the words he or she uses or doesn't use. I'm also interested in why a writer thinks a topic is important. As an instructor, these are the insights that allow me to better present information in new and novel ways.

So, even if you have a zillion hours of flight time and can recite any aviation tome from memory, you'll still profit by reading between the lines. Don't just read for content-read for structure. If you like how something is said, steal it. Use it. Make it your own. It's OK to have a little larceny in your blood when collecting ideas to help you to teach more efficiently. Of course, give credit where credit is due; but remember that these articles are intended to help you to become a better teacher. Make the most of them.

From The Right Seat

Top Gun Instructing for CFIs

Sometimes it helps to think about things in a slightly offbeat way. For instance, I think of flight instruction as the act of providing experience. As instructors, we orchestrate the sights, sounds, and sensations necessary for our students to learn.

Yet, philosophy teaches that experience is not what happens to you; it's what you think about what happens to you. In other words, experience has meaning and value only after it's interpreted. And that is what good instructors do best. They help their students to make sense of the events that happen to them.

For instance, suppose your student makes a steep turn and experiences an increase in load factor. That event is likely to generate a few "ohhs!" and "ahhhs!" But it's not likely to have much meaning by itself. Suppose, on the other hand, you point out that anytime your student feels as if he weighs more, then the airplane is more likely to stall. Now that's experience. It means something to your student because you helped him to interpret it properly. The lack of interpretation often explains why a pilot can have 10,000 hours of honest experience while another pilot has one hour of experience 10,000 times.

If you'd like proof that the proper interpretation of experience can radically alter your student's behavior, consider this. During the Vietnam war, the United States was losing airmen at a frightening rate. Something had to be done. Someone noticed that fighter pilots returning from at least five combat missions had a 90-percent chance of returning from all future missions. These pilots somehow achieved the minimum experience necessary to fly combat with a high degree of proficiency. The problem was how to get nonexperienced pilots to return from at least five combat missions. The answer: Give them their first five missions under controlled conditions. We created the Top Gun school of air combat (and fancy flying) to do just that.

Top Gun instructors are extremely effective because they provide both experience and the opportunity to interpret it. If you've ever listened to a Top Gun instructor's pre- and post-flight combat briefings, you know what I mean. Interpretation is everything. As general aviation instructors, we are wise to follow Top Gun's lead.

Think about helping your students to interpret the events that they experience. Explain to them why the sights, sounds, and sensations that they've felt are important. Don't make the mistake of assuming that mere exposure to an event implies learning has occurred.

By Rod Machado

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