I’m curious about your experience with bad flight instructors and hope you’ll add to this blog with  your comments. Of course, most flight instructors do a fantastic job. I just can’t say that LOUD enough: Most flight instructors do a fantastic job! But unfortunately, not all do. And when they don’t, they cause a lot of damage to the flight training industry. So I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced a really bad flight instructor. Did this person scream a lot? Hit you with a sectional chart? Or a “whack” chart? Did he or she make calls and text friends while giving you dual? Call you a nasty name? Talk about you behind your back while standing in front of you? Overcharge you? Did this person drink or smoke while flying with you? Humiliate you? Berate you? Belittle you? Tell me about what he or she did or didn’t do. Spare no details.

The main reason I’m posting these initial responses to my query is to make sure that anyone interested in flight training recognize bad instructor behavior and then do something about it. Specifically, find another instructor. And, if at all possible, give the bad instructor some good feedback on how his or her behavior can rub an entire city the wrong way.

Then again, there’s an old Chinese saying that goes as follows: It’s better to spend three years looking for a good instructor than spend just three minutes with a bad one. This always sounds better when spoken by an old Chinese person, but you get the point, right?

Here are some responses to my query (unedited): 

Adam: First 5 or so flights he failed to notice I never touched the trim wheel once I set for take off for the entire flight. I had larger than normal control pressures because of never using trim. He also was so desperate for flight time he found any excuse to keep the Hobbs meter running like being overly courteous in letting other airplanes taxi, take off and land in front of us.

John: Okay, let’s start with going under the hood on my first lesson. I had no clue what vertigo was, and the CFI never told me. All he did was scream at me and tell my what a loser I was for not being able to hold my heading.

Chris:  I know a couple in Caldwell NJ that specialize in keeping as quiet as they can during dual training so you have to keep flying and flying in order to get the knowledge you need. They will only “release” you until they have milked you enough to be evident. Stuff like getting a BFR for them represent milking a sucker -like me apparently- for no less than 10 hrs until we are fed up and go to another place and get the damn BFR done in one day.

Jim: I had a younger CFI wen I was going through Multi Commercial. We were flying over congested area and that’s when he said, “My plane” and began doing barrel rolls in our Seminole. I took the aircraft back and told him I would throw his happy ass out of the airplane if he ever even attempted something so stupid. I was serious!

Jeffrey: I had one CFI try to teach me how to roll a Cessna 172 as a Primary Student. It was poorly executed and scared me into finding another instructor. The first instructor later had a gear-up landing in a twin and it freaked him out and he quit flying for many years until he recently reached out to me to see if I knew of any flying jobs. I couldn’t think of any I would recommend him for.

David: The only bad CFI I’ve had was the one who gave my first BFR back around 1978. He was a recent grad of an instructor mill. We got into the C-150 and I while running the checklist I noticed he had not put on his shoulder harness (this was before wearing them was mandatory). Thinking he was razzing me, I asked if he was going to put on the shoulder harness and he said “No”. Thinking he was still razzing me I asked him “Wait a minute, who’s the pilot in command here?” His response? “I am”. At this point I’d had enough and I told him “No you’re not. There’s nothing were going to do in this airplane that I am not qualified and current to do. Either you put on that shoulder harness, or I find myself a new instructor”. He put on the harness, we flew the review, he signed me off and I *never* flew with him again!

This is an open-ended blog that continues here!

Rod Machado is a professional aviation speaker who delights his listeners with upbeat and lively presentations. His unusual talent for simplifying the difficult and adding humor to make the lessons stick has made him a popular lecturer both in and out of aviation. Rod speaks on both aviation and non-aviation topics, including risk assessment, IFR charts, aviation weather, in-flight emergencies, and safety awareness. He has over 10,000 hours of flight experience earned the hard way—one CFI hour at a time.  He also holds degrees in aviation science and psychology. His blog has a special section with free tools created specifically for CFIs.

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About the author 

David St. George (Lifetime Member)

David St. George learned to fly at Flanders Valley Airport in 1970. Proving that everyone is eventually trainable, he became an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor for airplanes (single and multi, instrument, and glider) and serves the Rochester FSDO as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. In this capacity, he gives flight tests at any level from sport pilot to ATP and CFI. For 25 years David was East Hill Flying Club's 141 Chief Instructor and manager. David holds multi and single engine ATP pilot certificates, with pilot ratings for glider and seaplane and several jet type ratings. He recently earned his 13th renewal as a Master Instructor and owns an Aeronca Champ so he can build hours for that airline job! http://learnturbine.com

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