Great Expectations

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
"United hired gentlemen with the expectation of training them to become pilots, Northwest hired pilots hoping to train them to become gentlemen. To date, despite their best efforts, neither carrier can be considered successful." - Ed Thompson

I would certainly hope that if both my student and I laid out expectations we wanted the other party to meet, we would certainly do so.  The biggest component is professionalism, on both sides. Promptness, appearance, and demeanor are critical factors of professionalism which I expect my student to respect and the student to think the same of me. Preparedness is another part of expectations on both sides. I want my student at a lesson ready to learn, with the right equipment available. In return they can expect me to be available when the lesson is supposed to begin, with a plan of what we are supposed to accomplish for a lesson that day.
     Other expectations I have for my students is that they have some knowledge of what is going to be done for the lesson. In other words, proper study habits and be able to complete assignments in a timely manner. If necessary, a brief review and suggestions for studying will be covered. Also, I expect students to notify me if something comes up that prevents a lesson from being accomplished as schedule. It does me no good to show up and find out the student is sick at home, with no prior notice.
     What a student can expect out of me is several things. First, if required, I will do what I can to meet with the student outside of scheduled times to review topics. Additionally, I will also submit feedback and grading promptly. Finally, getting the student through whatever they are working in as rapidly as possible will be a priority. With these expectations, it should be smooth and enjoyable flying.

A New Student with Old Knowledge

Monday, April 5, 2010
"There are some flight instructors where the student is important, and there are some instructors where the instructor is important. Pick carefully." - Unknown

A new student from another instructor is already going to possess some skills and understanding, so I would like to know where they are at to pick up where the old instructor left off. First is taking a glance at their folder of recorded lessons and such. I would look for completed lessons (and up to what point), notes on those lessons, endorsements, briefings, and logged instruction. Any discrepancies would lead me back to the previous instructor to inquire why or how an error occurred. Speaking of previous instruction, some questions to ask the other instructor is what the student's attitude is like, their motivation and study habits, and what troubles if any happened during training. Briefly reviewing the student's strengths and weakness also help. After gathering this knowledge I would compare it to what the student says after asking them similar questions. If the student disagrees about their strength and weaknesses for example, I would take that into consideration and combine both sources to give the student the best learning environment possible. To determine where the student is at and where you should begin with them, I would do some ground and flight lessons. Ground would be a couple hours and based off of their dossier and previous instruction, quiz them on subjects they should already know. Flight lessons are similar, with review of maneuvers they should have done already. If all goes well I can take the next step and push the student closer to getting their rating/certificate.

Be One with the Landings

Monday, March 15, 2010
"Takeoff's are optional. Landings are mandatory." - Unknown

Getting off the ground is easy, it's getting back to it that can be the tricky part. There are various methods to get a student to improve their landings, you just have to find which one works. Before that, you probably need to diagnose what's causing their problem in the first place. Is it something they're not seeing? A technique they should know, but don't? Or is it something more complex? Whatever it is, once that is resolved there is a better chance of fixing and improving their landings. For me, I would start asking about what they see from short final to touchdown. It's possible, for instance, that they're not looking where they should be to correctly gauge when to flare and roll. If that's not the case. follow them on the controls. They may not be using enough trim, or improper aileron/rudder input. If that's not the root cause, try a different locale. If the same problem persists, I would consult another instructor and probably send the student with another instructor to get a different perspective and fresh insights. During this time I wouldn't alarm the student to abnormal progress, but rather make the effort that something like this is a normal part of training, everyone plateaus at some point. After a few review flights, I would definitely note something is not right, and notify my superior(s) about the possible issue. If this unfortunately persists past the point of several hours/reviews (each case is different, but let's assume 5 hobb hours in this instance or several dozen landing attempts) and the student fails a stage check based on the landings may be a time for "the talk". What I'm referring to is that perhaps they should pursue a different career in aviation or another field. Of course, landing problems would not be the sole cause for this discussion. If other issues have arisen (defense mechanisms, disinterest, a change in behavior since the student started) in conjunction with the landing problems, then it would be a good idea to talk about other options instead of flying. I would consider myself extremely fortunate (and lucky) if I never had to have such a talk with a student.