Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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The Instructor Knows All

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most From Your Flight Training, Oct, 2008
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Getting the Facts:  Spreading Myths | The Instructor Knows All

Early last year I wrote an article called, Spreading Myths.   This article is the follow-up.  If you haven't read the previous article, I'd recommend it.  Attending aviation conventions, CFI refresher courses and running this website has been a great opportunity for me to talk to and meet many pilots and Flight Instructors.  The readers of this website have not been shy to use the contact forms on this website to ask questions and I'm grateful for every email.  I've talked to hundreds of new instructors and sometimes I've been very impressed by the solid knowledge base that many of these instructors possess.  The next generation of instructors are pretty sharp and come out of the chute with fantastic skills.  I've also met instructors that I've been less than impressed with.  For example:
  • Pitot tubes are also static ports.
  • Don't forget to call departing the pattern from upwind after takeoff.
  • When you call ground, there's no need to say "taxi" when requesting taxi instructions.
I've heard all these things from Certificated Flight Instructors.  The average innocent might take these morsels of myth to heart and file it into their knowledge bank and consider it gospel. 

The Instructor Doesn't Know It All

The first thing I'd like to point out, the instructor doesn't know it all.  In fact, a good instructor will admit they don't know everything and then suggest looking up the answer together.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Some student pilots have written to me that they're a little put-off by an instructor who says that.  My answer is that your CFI really doesn't know it all so please don't discourage behaviors that lead you both to the right answers.

I guess this problem really begins with the motivation of the student.  Some pilots expect to be spoon fed everything and some are willing to gather the information they need to pass written & oral exams.  The easy road is to just expect your CFI to spoon feed you, and at $50/hour, I'd think most CFIs would be happy to do it. The most expensive way to get all your flight training is to get all your information spoon fed to you, myths & all. 

Obviously, I'd recommend against this method of learning.  I'm not out to cut the income of my fellow Flight Instructors, but really, wouldn't you rather pay less?  Now-a-days you can get video instruction, ground schools from your local community college, and even network with fellow students to maximize your learning. 

Instructor On A Pedestal

To become a Certificated Flight Instructor, there's a tremendous amount of effort required.  Almost limitless and unending learning and reading are required.  For sure, you can expect and depend on your Flight Instructor to know a lot of things.  But even with that, I can guarantee you that every Flight Instructor completes his training with more than a few missing bits of information. I know that when I received my Flight Instructor certificate, I didn't know everything I needed to teach.  I'd argue that there are still things I need to learn.  A good CFI (like a good pilot) is always learning, growing, and searching for the latest information and best practices.

I want to caution all students to be careful about putting their instructor on a pedestal. The best way to get your education is self direction instead of relying upon the sage on the stage.  So, instead of accepting that there's no need to say "taxi" when requesting taxi instructions, look in your reference materials for the answer.  With PDF versions of everything, it's easy to search for the terms.  You'd find the answer to this specific question is in the AIM 4-3-15.  Regarding departing the pattern from upwind, you'd find that AIM 4-3-1 clearly states that when you take off, you're on the departure leg, not upwind.

A good source of the official publications that affect you (student pilot or CFI) is located at the FAA website.  Many of the links to those source documents you need are listed in my download section.

I'd be interested to hear from you about your experiences.  As students, what strange things have your Flight Instructors told you that didn't turn out to be true?  As Flight Instructors, have you ever told something to a student that you later learn was wrong?  Both situations happen everyday so there's nothing to be shy about. 

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