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Thread: Flight Instructor Attitudes

  1. #1

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    Flight Instructor Attitudes

    One would think that a CFI whose job it is to train students would have an encouraging attitude toward students, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

    I found two examples recently that show the range a student might encounter.

    First, there is the CFI to whom many students don't measure up to his lofty image. From the May/June issue of FLYING ADVENTURES, an article by Gary Wiblin who is billed as "10,000 hour" instructor, and from the article, "Some people,,, should honestly not be allowed out in public unsupervised", and "someone who is quite literally a crash waiting to happen", and "advised him or her to find another hobby or profession", and "some people should not fly aircraft" and finally " It is my belief that we are not all equal." He goes on to write about airline pilots who "barely scraped through" until they "finally crash an aircraft filled with passengers". And I don't think it is just a matter of attitude, he seems to be working with different facts, since the major U S airlines have an excellent safety record over the recent years.
    Now I personally had never heard of CFI Wiblin when I read the article 4 years ago, and I still haven't heard of him. So about all I can be reasonably sure of from the article is that he is probably very impressed when he looks in the mirror each morning. The article does not give more details of his background or flying career.
    Anyway, I was struck by the negative tone of most of this article, and to me it shows the bottom end of what a student might encounter from a CFI.

    There is another side. A recent article on Paul Poberezny said that when he was a military instructor he tried to take some of the students that other instructors wanted to flunk and do a little extra to teach these guys, and that ALL of his students made it successfully through flight training.
    We need more people like Paul.
    It may take some looking, but students should be able to find a CFI who has a positive attitude toward teaching flying.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-04-2014 at 07:14 PM.

  2. #2
    lnuss's Avatar
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    I fully agree that a CFI needs to have a positive and encouraging attitude, and I've run into a couple such as you describe. but, a cautionary note: There are, indeed, a very few people who have no business in an airplane. Thankfully they are few. One was a friend of mine (many years ago) who, though he owned an Aztec, had control and judgement problems. I was pleased when he figured that out for himself (after plowing through a few parked airplanes on landing ). Another was a foreign student who, though holding a Private when I first flew with him, couldn't seem to even remember to call tower before entering an airport traffic area, among other problems. These (and others) were nice people, just unable to either keep their mind on their flying or unable to make even simple judgements that were consistently correct. And I'm not talking about folks with 10 or twenty hours -- Private tickets, some for years, or 60 plus hours of dual by multiple instructors, etc.

    Fortunately, though, most of the students I encountered over the years were a delight to fly with, and even some with whom I didn't like to fly were safe enough in an airplane (personality conflict), and did well with other instructors.

    Larry N.

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    Your topic is a bit more nuanced than you put out, and since we're in the Learning to Fly part of the site, I thought I'd butt in and add my two cents.

    I actually had two flight instructors, mostly due to attitude and demeanor of both of them.

    Both are competent instructors - let me be clear on that - with many successful students making it to check ride.

    My first instructor was a bit dour, saying very little and showing even less emotion. Some may like that sort of unflappable professionalism, but I really need feedback, particularly if I'm screwing something up and occasionally if I do something right. He was a lot younger than me, which isn't a slam - I hold nothing against youth - but one got the notion that he was building instructor time in order to move up the aviation food chain.

    Now that was my impression, which many would disagree with! I know a fellow that had him as an instructor and sang nothing but praises.

    I fired the guy after lesson two. At around 200 USD an hour (plane and instruction) I just didn't have time to build rapport and find a smooth working system of communications with him.

    My second instructor is a retired engineer that took up flight instruction as a way to add to retirement and pay for flying. He can be verbose, sarcastic, and blunt - including his attitude to Sport Pilots in general (though he trained me to my SP ticket!). We instantly hit it off; he is professional to a T, thorough and thoughtful in the syllabus and how to deviate from it to individual needs, but not afraid to be plain spoken about abilities (both ways - he told me I was being too narrow in my personal limits to wind based on demonstrated abilities and was right).

    Some folks think he's a bit too much - but he's never turned down a student or strung them along for more hours!

    The point is that the attitude of an instructor is bad for one person and great for another, so long as they have a passion to teach folks to pilot aircraft.

    As to the example provided in the initial post points to burnout. Or a really bad day. I remember one day where we had a guy come into the pattern the wrong way, another sat on the active and did a runup (which means I went around the pattern again - and yes, I had announced the whole way), and then muffed a landing to a near ground loop only to find someone parked a truck in front of the hangar when I called it quits. Had I written an article on my fellow pilots that day it wouldn't have been full of brotherly love.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  4. #4
    lnuss's Avatar
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    The point is that the attitude of an instructor is bad for one person and great for another, so long as they have a passion to teach folks to pilot aircraft.
    Very true. Personality conflicts are a way of life in the instructing business, and rarely reflects on the actual ability of either the student or the instructor -- they just have different ways of communicating and of doing things. Even many of the instructors who primarily are teaching to build time are still competent and professional, though a few bad apples may give bad impressions of the industry to some people.

    Larry N.

  5. #5

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    Being a good instructor is more than just a personality matter. For instance I am from Texas, I talk slowly and listen the same way. If I get someone from N Y who is rattling off gibberish as fast as they can,it might not work as well. I've found that when someone talks at max speed, they really aren't trying to communicate, and more likely are trying to do a sales job on you. We have 2 parachute jump ops near the airport and the pilots are required to make certain calls. They don't really care if anyone understands them, just to spew out the calls as fast as they can. They are bored and sound like it.
    Talking about basic flying is not that complex, not that many complicated phrases needed. No CFI needs to confuse or denigrate a student.
    It is not a matter of just being a competent pilot or having high standards. Some of the best instructors I have seem are the guys in Florida who do warbird checkouts. Imagine letting a complete stranger who you may have only flown with for an hour or so, land a T-6 or P-51 with you in the back seat. None of this taking 30 hours for a student to solo, these gusy are good pilots and good teachers and their attitude is that they can teach one to fly these planes and have a good time doing it, (just bring lot's of money).

  6. #6
    lnuss's Avatar
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    Being a good instructor is more than just a personality matter. For instance I am from Texas, I talk slowly and listen the same way.
    Certainly that's true, Bill, but the fact is that there are occasional personality conflicts in flight training, even with good instructors. Granted that most instructors can work fine with most people, but sometimes they just don't mesh. And it rarely has to do with the speed of speech. I've known of a couple of occasions when just a relatively heavy voice was enough to intimidate someone (more sensitive than most), just for example, even though the CFI's manner was mild -- just the sound of the voice. There are other situations, also.

    Larry N.

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    The point that I am trying to make, and maybe I haven't done it well is that the what often separates the good teacher, from the very poor one is that the good ones have and convey a positive attitude and by that I mean they have an air of confidence that they know how to teach and that they can certainly teach the student and that anyone( or at least most anyone) can learn to fly if they put the time and effort into it. The great teacher will not only know how to convey ideas and what areas to emphasize and what is easy or hard for students, but the great ones can even make it fun.
    Leaning to fly should and can be and is fun. it is not like childbirth where only the result is the reward. Can you imagine if there was an Ob/gyn doctor or nurse that gave each pregnant woman who came in a doom and gloom outlook and a negative attitude?
    Most any CFI can fly well enough and knows enough of the rules to teach a private student, that is not the sticking point.

    As a parallel of the wrong way to do things, when you go to the recruiter for the military they are going to give you the good points, like sense of duty or no degree needed or pension after a career. But when you get off the bus at basic training the first thing is some cretin skinhead type starts yelling at you about how bad you are. Not the way to get people on your team.
    Contrast this with being a top law school grad and getting hired by a top firm. While the work load may be heavy and they make expect high standards and there may be a lot of competition, the firm certianly doesn't start out by trying to denigrate the new guy.

    There are top football programs, like U Texas that has 4 national championships, and Alabama, where coach Saban is maybe the best, and while there is a lot of hard work and very high standards, nobody is there to tell the recruits that they can't do it. They are encouraged to rise higher and do their best.

    I mentioned the guys who teach people to fly T-6s and P-51s in Kissimmee, and they have pilots taking off and landing these planes with the cFI and none of this 30 hour to solo type stuff.
    The other best example of top CFIs is back when AOPA had Pinch Hitter courses with real flying, not just classroom and these instructors have students landings the plane by the 2nd day and many of these planes were retract Bonanzas and Mooneys, even one a Lear Jet and not just a 150 or 172.
    The AOPA guys had a "you can do this attitude" and guess what, the people can and did.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 04-28-2014 at 11:21 AM.

  8. #8
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    Just about anyone that knows a trade, skill, or profession can instruct. Yet very few know how to teach.

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    So True Infidel! I am a teacher by trade and a student Pilot in training with plans to get my CFI after. . I can say with all honesty that some of the issue I had at first, I have come up with a way to teach it better. For instance, taxi work. All aircraft operating on the ground are controlled through rudder pedals with ether differential breaking, or steerable nose wheel, or both.
    When I first taxied the plane on the tarmac I simply wanted to get a feel for what the effectiveness of the breaks and the radius of turn was like. My instructor thought I had lost my mind. I simply told him that this method of steering is completely foreign to a beginner and I felt it was important to know the characteristics of the aircraft's steering capability. Over the course of my training there have been several areas where I felt I could relate the procedure much better than my Instructor did by a simple demonstration and how one correlates the information being taught.

    There are many more points I could mention but one thing I will say is that a flight simulator of the X Plane type can certainly help students with certain maneuvers as pattern work, check lists and procedures in order to save money. Of course that is not what a C.F.I. wants to hear because they loose money by not charging them for the aircraft rental. However, X Plane allows me to practice my procedures for radio and navigation and planning.

    Not all Instructors are created equal.

    Safe and Happy Flying to all!
    Yellowhammer

  10. #10
    lnuss's Avatar
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    Of course that is not what a C.F.I. wants to hear because they loose money by not charging them for the aircraft rental.
    Don't paint with such a broad brush. Certainly there are those with that attitude, but there are others who do it as much for the enjoyment of helping someone into aviation as for the money, and in any case the aircraft rental, in most cases, benefits the flight school, not the individual CFI.

    Larry N.

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