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CFI Tips


Remembering what to brief

I don't use the "official" lesson plans as shown in the Aviation Instructor's Handbook, but over 55 years as a flight instructor I made a modification that works for me for any maneuver or flights I've done. It has worked for 4,300 hours of aerobatic instruction, as well as all the other instruction I have given. After reading this you may want to modify it to better fit your situation.

Pedper stands for the first letters of the memory jogs for a flight lesson briefing and debriefing. It is pronounced "ped-per."

P--Preparation (ground). Is the student ready for this maneuver, or series of maneuvers? Are you ready? If I haven't taught (for instance) aileron rolls for a couple of weeks, and that's what the lesson consists of, I review and read about that subject the night before.

I also take time to think about the lesson and in what order the information should be presented. (What about making sure the right airplane is available and taking a look at the weather forecast?)

The part about the student's being ready is important. Should you teach aileron rolls to a six-hour student? (But that is the subject of another article.)

Too many instructors show up for a dual flight with the full preflight discussion being, "What did we do last Tuesday? Turns around a point? OK, we'll do turns around a point today. Let's go."

And the postflight briefing (in total) is, "You need more practice on turns around the point. Meet me here next Monday."

The point is that both the student and the flight instructor need to be prepared for that flight.

E--Explanation (ground). So, this is done on the ground. There are too many cases of the instructor not giving a good explanation (or any at all) and then flying with the student. The explanation, done in a quiet place with a chalkboard or other aids available, should consist of at least the following:

  • What is the maneuver (or maneuvers) we're going to cover in this flight? Turns around a point consist of flying the airplane around a fixed object on the ground (do not use cows or automobiles that may move off), showing how we must not only fly a circle of constant radius and altitude about a reference, but also explaining that we'll be crabbing at points of the circle (as we did in the rectangular course we flew in the previous lesson).
  • Why are we doing this maneuver? It is the next step up from the rectangular course and S-turns across the road. You'll be correcting for the wind in a turn without definite boundary lines (rectangular course) or a road (S-turns). It will help your traffic pattern and make you feel more comfortable maneuvering (circling) at a low altitude. It also could be used in search-and-rescue efforts.
  • How? We will enter at a fairly low but safe altitude (600 to 1,000 feet agl--we'll pick our constant altitude between those limits) and make our first couple of circles to the left, since this is a side-by-side trainer and you are in the left seat. Later we'll do them to the right. This maneuver will be coordinated, and as you remember from the rectangular course and S-turns, the angle of bank is proportional to the groundspeed. Greater speed, greater bank.
  • Where? Sometimes the question may be added as to "where" will the turns around the point be done.

D--Demonstration (airborne). As is generally the case, demonstrations must be kept to a minimum, particularly in flights where there are such things as stalls, spins, or aerobatics. Demonstrations may have to be done again after the student has had a chance to practice, but initially the airplane should be turned over to the student, even if the instructor is having a great time flying the airplane. In some cases, too much demonstration may cause the student to lose enthusiasm (and lunch).

P--Practice (airborne). The student should be allowed to practice the maneuver but should feel free to ask for another demonstration if needed, or the instructor may decide that another demonstration is warranted. Watch for fatigue or queasiness.

E--Evaluation (airborne). After each maneuver, quietly organize your thoughts before a review. In other words, before saying anything, organize your thoughts about that particular maneuver.

Sarcasm or shouting at the student is never called for. In teaching aerobatics I sometimes have to make an effort to speak calmly even though the student has introduced a maneuver I've never seen or heard of before. This always confirms what I learned when I first started teaching aerobatics in 1949: Surplus altitude is a great thing to have.

R--Review (airborne). Once you've organized your thoughts then review that particular maneuver (turns around the point, here) or part of that maneuver as necessary. Keep looking around as you review, so there's no midair to report (or review with the NTSB).

Once on the ground with the airplane secured, go to a quiet classroom or other area for the postflight discussion. This should consist of an evaluation and review of the entire flight or the parts of it you feel necessary, beginning with the preflight check, starting the engine, taxi, takeoff, climb, the maneuver(s), return, landing, taxi in and shutdown, and securing of the airplane. Do this in order; if a part was good, say so and move on. Schedule reading and set up a time for the next lesson.

Encourage when you can and be sure the student knows you are very interested in his or her progress.

William K. Kershner has been a flight instructor since 1949. He is the author of several books, including Student Pilot Flight Manual, Advanced Pilot's Flight Manual, Instrument Flight Manual, Flight Instructor's Manual, and Logging Flight Time. A specialist in spin entry and recovery, he teaches aerobatics in Sewanee, Tennessee. Visit his Web site.

By William K. Kershner

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