What You Don't KnowLast year I talked with a woman who ran a flight school in New Jersey. She confessed that her biggest difficulty was finding CFIs. In fact, her school had 85 students waiting for training. A few years ago, the idea of a flight instructor shortage was mildly comforting given the once abundant supply of CFIs. It's not comforting anymore. Now it's a serious problem. Some FBOs have closed because they were unable to find flight instructors.
To make it worse, at many schools the most experienced instructors seldom see primary students. Instead, they attend to pilots seeking advanced ratings. In one of the great ironies of aviation, the least-experienced CFIs teach the least-experienced students.
Does this mean the new CFI isn't a capable teacher? Not at all. I've known many effective low-time CFIs. If they shared one common trait, it was intellectual honesty regarding their limited experience. They didn't pretend to know what they didn't know; yet they were highly motivated to learn.
This is where the "Instructor Report" can help. It contains the insights of instructors with thousands of hours of experience. Richard Hiner, Bruce Landsberg, Dan Namowitz, and others are your resources. Study their words. They can help you be- come a more effective instructor.
Blowing In The Wind
Most new pilots don't do well in the wind. Unless they have been trained in perennially windy places, the exposure is limited, and frequently the focus is to finish the private certificate as quickly as possible. Many consider the wind a nuisance during primary training, particularly when it goes above 15 knots. However, landing mishaps are testimony to inadequate skills.
I had a great opportunity to fly with a new pilot earlier this winter when the winds were gusting to 30 kt. There are all sorts of distractions in these conditions. While taxiing, the flight controls will bang against the stops unless they are held. It's always comforting when there is at least one other "fool" in the pattern because it validates your decision to fly. It also provides for entertaining takeoffs and arrivals. Sometimes, there are even a few good landings. Either way, we are all judges as well as participants.
On this day, airmets were out for occasional moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet. The hills just to the west of the airport provided enough orographic swirl to bump our Piper Archer solidly during the climb. It was a time to read the clouds and discuss how to cross a ridge when coming at it from the leeward side. A 45-degree angled approach can counter a strong downdraft. Then the turn away toward lower ground need only be about 70 degrees rather than a complete 180. Two thousand feet above the ridge level should be considered the minimum altitude, and local knowledge helps.
Our destination was a small towered airport on the other side of the ridge, which is usually bustling with weekend traffic. The place was deserted. We practiced communications and surface and airborne operations. Two runways, no traffic, no waiting - what a deal! The pilot was used to landing on a narrower, shorter runway, so there was a tendency to flare high. This was coupled with extra airspeed. Sure, an extra 5 kt on a windy day is recommended (half the gust factor is the official formula), but we had at least 10 kt or more. Some of that was caused by nervousness about the controllability in the wind, but I'll bet that the greatly reduced ground speed on final was working into his subconscious.
As a result, we were leveling high, floating, and then settling rapidly. His reaction was to pull the nose up quickly as we settled. Not totally wrong, but also a good way to stall while still four feet up. There were a few solid arrivals. We discussed getting the speed right and perhaps controlling the arrival with a bit of power. There was not much crosswind but enough to require just a bit of sideslip. The gustiness made "sinkholes," usually not far from the end of the runway. Just about the time everything was set, the equation changed. Perfect training!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself while the pilot worked hard. As we bounced and gyrated through a half-dozen landings, his uneasiness began to go away. Mastery was still a long way off, but he began to see that flying in the wind could be fun.
Instructors, don't cross your legs or drape your arm across the left seat back, but be watchfully confident and invite a new private pilot out for some pattern work when the next cold front blasts through. It will be good for both of you. There's plenty of wind left before the summer doldrums set in.
By Bruce Landsberg