Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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You're In the Driver's Seat!

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, January, 2007
CFIDarren Newsletter, December 27, 2011
Smarter Student Series: Researching Flight Schools | Managing Your CFI | Annoying Students | You're in the Driver's Seat! | Why People Quit Flying | Being a Better Aviation Consumer | You Get What You Pay For | Performance Anxiety |

We're in a consumer society filled with self-designed 'needs' and feed-me, make it easy mentality.  We want the shortcuts, the easy path of minimal pain, so we can focus on our own wants.  This has students finding the easy path to a rating and instructors who seek out easy examiners to pump their students through checkrides without scratching too deeply.  We're creating a generation of pilots who fail to learn basic airmanship.  They know just enough to get by and that puts unqualified people in the sky above all of us.  That is certainly a discontinuity between the standards required and the training provided.

Here's a glaring example of what I'm talking about.  A colleague in California reports that his helicopter student doesn't want any ground training (at $50/hour).  The student is expecting to solo soon and will surely not pass his pre-solo exam.  The student is already complaining that the doesn't have to take the pre-solo exam because its an add-on rating to his airplane private pilot he earned 20 years ago.  He didn't attend the $300 ground school at the airport, he hasn't read anything, and couldn't pass an exam on the required pre-solo aeronautical knowledge so his answer is "I'm exempt."  Instead of complying with the spirit and intent of the regulation, lets see if we can take a shortcut.
You gotta be kidding me!  The CFI should terminate the student immediately.  If the CFI lets the student slide on the pre-solo aeronautical knowledge requirement, the CFI's certificates are on the line.  Sooner or later that student will ball up the helicopter and only the magical wizard of torque will save him from his just fate.  It begins innocently enough doesn't it?

Here's an example from Jeff, an instructor from Georgia who reports that he took on a new student from another instructor.  The old instructor and student report that all the requirements have been met and is ready for a checkride immediately.  The student told Jeff, "All I need is those 3 hours to get the signoff for the checkride."   After a few hours of training in his 2005 Cirrus, it became obvious the student would never pass a checkride with the old-timer examiner in the area.  Jeff reports that the student couldn't even identify a VOR by morse code let alone fly a VOR approach without a graphical map showing him how to do it.  Clearly, following a single needle CDI wasn't taught yet he'll need it on his checkride.  The student was real ticked off when Jeff wouldn't sign him off immediately.  I say good for you Jeff, never sell out to a lower standard just because a student is pressuring you.  And I don't blame you, I wouldn't want the failed checkride on my instructor record either.

Remember, when the student flies into the mountain, there will be a thorough examination of the pilot and his training.  The FAA is depending on the CFI to ensure that certificated pilots are qualified to operate aircraft over the heads of the unsuspecting public.  As the gateway to aviation safety, the CFI holds all the responsibility to train to the standards and then some.

Advice for the Student: Make it Happen, Make it Right

Whatever your method of ground training... whether it be DVD-based or a class taken at the local airport, you'll need to meet the standards of the PTS.  You'll never be able to use the excuse that your instructor didn't teach something to you because you're fully aware of the PTS for your rating.  As the informed consumer, you drive the process of your training.  Your own follow-up is the key to your success, more so than anything an instructor could ever do for you.  As such, you are responsible for obtaining the proper resources to help you meet those standards.  Want the easy way?  Enlist the help of your instructor to find the right materials and learning experiences to get you up to checkride quality.

Whatever your method of flight training, you'll be expected to perform the various tasks from the PTS properly.  That's not only on the day of your rating but all the days of your flying career.  You'll be expected to stay current and get additional training to ensure you meet the standards for as long as you hold the pilot certificate.  Or ground yourself.

If you screw up, you'll die and you'll kill others in the process.  I can't put it any more politely than that.  Are you searching for the cheap deal?  Are you searching for the quickie shortcut?  Are you looking to do the minimum to get by?  Then you'll get exactly what you're looking for and then some.

For Further Reading

Things Your Flight Instructor Worries About
CFI Liability
Characteristics of Successful Pilots
The Right Amount of Ground Training, Machado
Managing Your CFI
Are you really ready for the instrument rating?
Part 1: About Checkrides
Part 2: Are You Really Ready For the Checkride?
Basic IFR Skills in the Automation Age
You Get What You Pay For

What You Said

Date:  Tuesday, 27 December, 2011 11:12        From:  Sam D
Amen. Weak initial training along with minimal recurrent training requirements (only required to do any training every two years), are probably the greatest contributors to our high GA accident rate. I've seen pilots get tail wheel endorsements, then be told not to fly a TW without a CFI (one such pilot proceeded to go out and total a J-3). What is the point of the tail wheel endorsement if you are not good enough to act as PIC? I've heard from MEIs who run "quickie" MEL course that their graduates should normally not fly as PIC until they build up experience... yet the new certificate does not contain such a limitation. Heck, most insurance companies will not touch a MEL pilot with less than 20 hours ME, yet we will sign them off for a check ride with less than 5 hours???  I have lost business because I refuse to cut corners, but I sleep well at night. The question I ask myself before someone takes a check ride is, "Do I feel comfortable with this person taking my child around the pattern?" The answer should be yes.

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