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Friday, June 8, 2012


I've been flying more as an instructor than as a private pilot this past two months.  Partly it has been because my Bonanza wasn't back (it is now), and partly because my new primary student, "D2" is anxious to advance, so we have been flying a good deal.

D2 owns his own airplane, a Cessna 172.  That permits us to fly whenever the conditions (and schedules) allow.  When he came to me, D2 had about 30 hours with 2 other instructors, and had basic aircraft control down.  He'd done take offs, steep turns, stalls, slow flight and some instrument "blind" flying, but was frustrated that neither of his previous instructors had taught him how to land.  Since I know both of those guys, I think I can understand why.

D2 is a perfectionist.  His airplane is pristine, inside and out.  It takes him 30 minutes to pre-flight his airplane, and afterwards he is still wiping it down as I leave.  I don't do anything to discourage his "anal" behavior, I'd far rather see that than the slap-dash pre-flights and flying that I've seen from some others.  I just try to arrive 20 minutes after he does, so that I can do my own double check and help push the airplane outside.  His instructors were both similar people (they might be where he learned to inspect every rivet), and I can imagine them thinking something like "that turn wasn't quite coordinated we need to make that perfect before working in the pattern".  My view is that he needs to be able to fly to private pilot standards by the time he takes his test, and with more practice which will come from flying more, those last few mistakes will go away.

I don't think that means I'm willing to accept more "sloppiness" - before he can have his test scheduled he will have to be flying to standards - I'll give him a simulated test and if he fails a task, we'll work on the parts that need work before handing him over to a DE.  But I am willing to accept that a 50 hour student can't fly to the level to perfection that a 500 hour pilot can.

So we have been going round and round, up and down at all of the local airports, towered and uncontrolled.  He can now do a complete pattern, and if the winds are not too strong, can land without help every time.  But if there's a little summer bumpiness, it seems to throw him off, and we haven't tackled crosswinds yet beyond a quick (and not very good) demonstration by me.  And he needs to be able to make all the radio calls himself, because once he solos, I won't be there to make them for him.

But we are getting close.  Just needs those radio calls, and a nice smooth morning with little wind, and he can make his first solo.  That will help his confidence tremendously, and we can build on it from there.

1 comment:

Chad said...

I think your instructing style is bang on the money. Kudos to you!

I've known too many instructors, and flight schools as a whole, that demand CPL and higher standards from PPL students. I think its partly an ego thing for the instructors/flight schools - they want bragging rights for having the most highly trained students I guess.

But the reality is when progression is slow the students get frusterated, and either just quit or end up doing worse because they get discouraged and think they don't have what it takes.

My instructors always told me a PPL is a "license to learn". Get the basics down, learn to know when conditions are safe for your skill level, and the rest can come later.