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Training Tip: An ace instructorTraining Tip: An ace instructor

Two student pilots who carpooled to the airport are getting ready to head for their respective flight schools. As one student is gathering up his gear, he is surprised to see the other changing from office footwear into a pair of tennis shoes.

Positive relationships between a CFI and student can add value both on and off the ramp. Photo by Mike Fizer.

“Sneakers?” the first student inquires.

“My flight instructor is an aerobatic pilot,” replies the other. “Shortly after I started flight lessons my CFI told me I might have a better feel for the rudder pedals if I wore these. It helps me.”

If a well-produced flight training course and a training aircraft that is easy to fly but still lets you learn from your mistakes are critical components of a quality flight training experience, a flight instructor who adds value beyond the sum of training’s parts is an asset to treasure.

A CFI can add value by dispensing tips from personal experience that may pay big dividends, and by projecting an unwaveringly sincere, upbeat demeanor regardless of whether a student pilot has just taken a major step forward or has encountered a setback.

The tip about wearing sneakers (not required when the ramp is snow-covered, the CFI said) is a case in point. The suggestion was made after a flight in which the student pilot had struggled to control the aircraft’s rotation around the yaw axis during practice of stall recoveries. Calmly and reassuringly, the flight instructor intervened to prevent the incipient spin from progressing. Later, when debriefing, the CFI offered the alternative-footwear suggestion—forestalling discouragement and replacing it with motivation to go up and try again.

All pilots can look back on their training, whether basic or advanced, and isolate the best from the least-best of what they experienced. Both make a lasting impression; often, on the positive side, it is an instructor’s sincere commitment to the student pilot, and to being an ace of a teacher, that is most remembered and best appreciated.

Rapport between student and instructor keeps the fun in the serious business of learning to fly, and may produce lifelong friendships. Years after a student pilot completed private pilot training, he asked his former instructor over coffee how the CFI had stayed so cool during some challenging sessions of crosswind landings.

“Instructors learn how to sweat only on one side,” the CFI quipped, adding, “You were doing fine.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Aviation Education Programs, Flight Instructor, Flight Training
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