I recently participated in a webinar with Russ Still and Nate Tennant from Gold Seal Ground Schools focusing on preparation for check rides, specifically the easier “low hanging fruit.” In the overwhelming push to prepare for a test, applicants often miss the simplest things. This webinar was great fun plus an opportunity to share valuable resources with our membership and the general public.  We will have more livestream videos coming for you in the near future. During these livestream events send your questions and input: #askgoldseal

Scenarios are Essential

Since we can’t physically transport an applicant to all the places and conditions they will encounter in their future piloting experience, during training (and testing) we have to simulate experiences with scenarios. Scenarios are a critical tool that you must train with and expect to see continuously during every evaluation. Because when a flight test is complete, one thing we have to absolutely *know* for sure; this pilot can handle or at least figure out all these situations. Also that our future pilot will have enough judgment, knowledge and integrity to know their limits and say “no” until they acquire more experience to handle advanced situations. We probably only train and test probably a minor percentage of what you will ultimately experience as a pilot. But unfortunately every failure in the real world will be an aircraft accident. In testing, the trick is extrapolating from a very small time and distance sample to all possible future flight challenges (in a couple hours).

Teaching PIC a Step at a Time…

A critical pilot skill for every flight (and pilot evaluation) is demonstrating “pilot in command” authority. A pilot flying absolutely has to “own it” in a very literal sense. If an applicant on a test is continually unsure and timidly asking permission for every operation, they have not adequately internalized this important quality. They are still tied to the apron strings of their CFI. How to foster this transformation from “student” to “person in charge” in training is difficult and requires “incremental mastery;” You cannot will this into being and it will not happen in a day.

To build “pilot in command authority” in students during my teaching, I continuously hand over each proficiently demonstrated operation to the student. As soon as they have a solid command of take-off, climb and turn, these areas are delegated entirely to their control. They will “solo to the practice area” (with no help) by lesson 3.  I make this very clear in the briefing and in the cockpit; all decisions and aircraft control are entirely their responsibility! In this way the student essentially takes over complete authority for the aircraft in a series of incremental steps. This  gives a huge motivational boost to your student throughout training; they see and feel the progress. And when the crosswind is too much or an operation is in question, I rely on the student’s judgment to say so and ask for assistance; we all need to learn our limits. Once mastery in normal operations is assured it is obviously essential to challenge our students with many creative “abnormals and emergencies” (more on the sadistic CFI later 🙂

Unfortunately, when I ran a flight school I discovered most CFIs subconsciously teach dependence on the “sage in the right seat.” Teaching the “student” to rely and depend too much on the CFI is a big mistake that will forever cripple the future pilot. Much like parenting, it is essential in flight training to continuously foster independence and allow small mistakes for clients to figure out and overcome on their own (or with minor guidance). In this manner they will be come confident masters of their aviation world. Too much micro-managing and help by the CFI results in a timid and dependent pilot. The old saw of “teaching them to fish” and not just supplying dinner applies here. Dependency is very clear during a flight test and your student will probably not be a successful candidate that day. And any mistakes during initial training are incredibly durable and difficult to overcome. Get it right in those first 50 hours!

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

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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