Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Structured success

What works in training would sell it, too

My first job out of college was with Procter & Gamble, selling toothpaste, and the training was intense. I remember the trainer telling me that the hardest part of teaching a new salesman was trying to figure out how much he needed to know before you turned him loose. I wanted to know it all! A few years later my CFI was trying to decide if he had taught me enough to take the checkride for my private pilot certificate. Again, I wanted to know it all.

Since then, it has become all too obvious that we never know it all. The teacher must always make that all-important decision: Does the student know enough to move on to the next step?

Therein lies the importance of the structured training program. It is decided in advance what the student must learn before moving on to each next step. That doesn't eliminate the decision to be made by the teacher, but it does make it a simpler, better-informed decision.

My wife and I just spent a good part of a day trying to train a salesperson for a job that has no structured training program. This job is a new concept--an experiment. Frankly, I am worried lest I lead the trainee astray, that I try to train her too much or too little; that she won't be able to make enough money.

Lord, what I would give for a structured training program for her--a manual that would assure me that starting here and moving through to there would do the job. I'd give a lot for a set of lessons put together by real experts on the subject.

The funny thing is that I remember introducing some of those structured courses to CFIs back in the 1970s. They were not always welcome. Some of the old pros were convinced that no book, video, or set of lessons could teach flying as well as they.

Today, I think almost everybody agrees that structured training programs that include planned objectives at each step have been and are a great help to students, CFIs, and the industry.

Will we ever accept the idea that a planned, by-the-book sales effort for flight training could be equally beneficial? It makes so much sense that it's hard for me to see why there could be resistance to the concept. And yes, it could help safety. Desperate flight schools and desperate CFIs have a great incentive to keep--rather than flunk out--students who obviously shouldn't be flying. Schools with more students than they need can afford to be tougher on standards. Such programs do work. I have seen them work whenever, wherever, and by whomever they have been honestly tried. No exceptions.

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

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports