There’s a lot more to learning to fly than spending time in an airplane, and an airplane makes a lousy and expensive classroom.
When an airline or corporate pilot attends his annual recurrency training, there are always preflight and postflight briefings for both simulator and flight sessions, usually in a classroom. Lesson plans are posted and study materials are provided prior to the scheduled session, making for a more efficient and cooperative method. Operators appreciate this professional service as it saves them thousands of dollars in actual simulator and flight time, and it enables their pilots to learn more in-depth technical knowledge of aircraft systems and dynamics.
Should a student pilot student expect a lower level of professionalism?
Helping your students stretch their education funds to get them through their training is as much your responsibility as theirs. Just going out and revving up the ole Hobbs meter is irresponsible if your CFIs haven’t provided a comprehensive plan for teaching that student how to be an aviator.
Before climbing into the airplane, the student should have a clear idea of where he is going and why, what the CFI is going to review with him, what new lessons he will be learning, and what he was expected to have studied in preparation for the new lessons. If these things are discussed only after the Hobbs meter is running, then you’ve done a disservice to the student.
One way to encourage your CFIs to conduct briefings is by reducing ground instruction rates. If the instructor’s flight time rate is $50 per hour consider dropping it to $40 per hour for ground instruction. The student will feel the school is giving him a discount, and he and the instructor will have additional motivation to conduct a thorough briefing.
Postflight briefing should be treated in the same fashion. Reviewing what a student learned, pointing out what he needs to work on and study, and making a plan for the next lesson is all billable ground time. Instructing the student on how to prepare for the next lesson, discussing where he would like to go, and critiquing his newly acquired skills will ensure he returns equipped with questions to be answered, maneuvers to be clarified, and terminology to be explained at the next preflight briefing.
Does this sound like you’re giving up money? Actually, it’s laying the groundwork for you to stop giving away your time and for your student to understand that your CFI’s time and knowledge is money. Instead of hanging out in the hallway or out on the ramp simply chatting about the lesson, create a culture where the CFIs use a dedicated briefing area and write down the start/end times of the briefing and what is discussed.
Establishing ground instruction rates from the outset of training will motivate students to take more independent steps in their own training process. The more time they spend reviewing and reading about flight planning, the less billable ground time needed for preflight, postflight, and cross-country planning reviews by the instructor.
Over the course of their training, charging students for ground instruction could save them thousands of dollars while still providing the school with more billable time. Invariably, the student’s educational outcome will be a more positive one; the relationship between the school, the CFI, and the student will be professional; and the student will realize and appreciate the benefits of having a solid and measurable foundation of knowledge and procedure.