Sunday, October 5, 2008


The flight instructor is the cornerstone of aviation safety. The FAA has adopted an operational training concept that places the full responsibility for student training on the authorized flight instructor. In this role, the instructor assumes the total responsibility for training the student pilot in all the knowledge areas and skills necessary to operate safely and competently as a certificated pilot in the National Airspace System. This training will include airmanship skills, pilot judgment and decision making, and accepted good operating practices.

An FAA certificated flight instructor has to meet broad flying experience requirements, pass rigid knowledge and practical tests, and demonstrate the ability to apply recommended teaching techniques before being certificated. In addition, the flight instructor’s certificate must be renewed every 24 months by showing continued success in training pilots, or by satisfactorily completing a flight instructor’s refresher course or a practical test designed to upgrade aeronautical knowledge, pilot proficiency, and teaching techniques.

A pilot training program is dependent on the quality of the ground and flight instruction the student pilot receives. A good flight instructor will have a thorough understanding of the learning process, knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching, and the ability to communicate effectively with the student pilot.

A good flight instructor will use a syllabus and insist on correct techniques and procedures from the beginning of training so that the student will develop proper habit patterns. The syllabus should embody the “building block” method of instruction, in which the student progresses from the known to the unknown. The course of instruction should be laid out so that each new maneuver embodies the principles involved in the performance of those previously undertaken. Consequently, through each new subject introduced, the student not only learns a new principle or technique, but broadens his/her application of those previously learned and has his/her deficiencies in the previous maneuvers emphasized and made obvious.

The flying habits of the flight instructor, both during flight instruction and as observed by students when conducting other pilot operations, have a vital effect on safety. Students consider their flight instructor to be a paragon of flying proficiency whose flying habits they, consciously or unconsciously, attempt to imitate. For this reason, a good flight instructor will meticulously observe the safety practices taught the students. Additionally, a good flight instructor will carefully observe all regulations and recognized safety practices during all flight operations.

Generally, the student pilot who enrolls in a pilot training program is prepared to commit considerable time, effort, and expense in pursuit of a pilot certificate. The student may tend to judge the effectiveness of the flight instructor, and the overall success of the pilot training program, solely in terms of being able to pass the requisite FAA practical test. A good flight instructor, however, will be able to communicate to the student that evaluation through practical tests is a mere sampling of pilot ability that is compressed into a short period of time. The flight instructor’s role, however, is to train the “total” pilot.

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