Safety Publications/Articles

The notepad

When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers would mark down my demerits in detail so she could properly relate my peccadilloes to the authorities (my parents). During parent-teacher nights, she described and dissected my behavior in exquisite detail by referring to that notepad. Ouch! That pad was my nemesis, at least until I began flight instructing. That's when I started using it as a reminder of the little items (not peccadilloes) that I wanted to discuss during the post-flight briefing of my students.

To this day, I still use some form of notepad when training pilots. It's either a five-by-seven-inch notebook, a kneeboard, or a tablet accompanied by a ballpoint pen. I'll make quick comments on it during flight. Nothing lengthy, no prose, just reminders and memory cues. I simply can't rely on my memory to recall these things since cockpit distractions can inhibit long-term memory. On flights where I've forgotten my notepad, the post-flight briefings were always a little less detailed and thorough.

With notes, it is much easier to properly and thoroughly critique a student, and the student benefits from a more robust explanation. An added benefit is that students learn from you how important little details are, because you literally took note of them.

Of course, the secret to using a notepad during flight training is to explain its use to the student beforehand. If you suddenly pulled out your notebook and scribbled messages, your students might become a bit paranoid. This is especially true if you keep yelling out, "Ah, ha! I knew it." Do that one too many times and you might see your notebook exiting a window and landing before you do.

By Rod Machado

Back to the Index of Instructor Reports