Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Do As I Say: And As I Do

Because CFIs are so influential, they must operate under strict ethics. You, the CFI, are godlike in the eyes of the new pilot. Whatever you say, he or she takes as the gospel according to Wilbur and Orville. Therefore, you must choose your words carefully, certain that the student may act upon even your most casual utterance.

If you, the sky god, extol the virtues of a certain high-performance retractable single in the presence of your 15-hour solo student, that student may assume that is the perfect aircraft, indeed the only aircraft worthy of his or her consideration. Thus, many low-time pilots end up with more airplane than they can handle. Do ethics dictate that you steer the low-time student toward a basic, fixed-gear single as a first aircraft? I think the answer is an emphatic yes.

I have seen more neophyte pilots lured into too much aircraft by CFIs than by salespeople. (I am proud of the fact that during my aircraft sales career I never¿to my knowledge¿sold an aircraft in which my customer was killed. It cost me a few sales over the years, but it was decidedly worth it.)

Have you ever, within earshot of a student, bragged about flying over gross weight? I¿ve heard CFIs do that. I have, in fact, seen CFIs fly over gross with students. Is that unethical? Certainly. In effect, the CFI is telling the student, ¿I know what the regs say, but it¿s not really true.¿ When the CFI says, ¿If you can shut the doors, the Skylane will tote it,¿ the student may well try it.

Even stories about getting caught in thunderstorms should be avoided. You and I know that you are exaggerating; you didn¿t actually fly through a full-scale thunderstorm, but does the new pilot know it? Will she try it?

How about stories of landing with two gallons of fuel? Do you really want your student to consider that acceptable? If the instructor¿who knows everything¿does that, doesn¿t that mean it¿s OK? What about when you take the student on a cross-country and he sees that you don¿t plot a course, figure wind, and calculate fuel requirements? What is your student to think?

The most important things you teach are attitudes and standards. It¿s hard to teach one thing and demonstrate another. One of my aviation gurus was the late, great Talmadge Barber¿charter pilot, chief pilot, and general master of the skies. Someone once asked Talmadge¿in the lobby of the FBO¿how much over gross it was safe to fly an Aztec. Talmadge looked at the fellow as if he was crazy, and said, ¿Not one damned pound.¿ No way was a student going to hear Talmadge condone flying over gross.

Remember, students hang on your every word and deed. Be careful.

By Ralph Hood

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