The widely accepted mission statement “a good pilot is always learning” is essential for continued safety in aviation. “Accepting average” and settling for “good enough” are recipes for developing complacency and diminished skills. Accident analysis clearly implicates this corrosive attitude (and others) are common causal factors in many preventable accidents.  Dr. Bill Rhodes, a former Air Force Academy Instructor  provides scientific research and statistics on the critical role of “pilot attitude” in safety. Once we stop pursuing excellence, we lose our edge and start to diminish. The accumulation of hours and experience is often regarded as the sole criterion of honor and excellence in aviation. But unfortunately, piling up hours can easily result in  increased complacency thus diminishing safety. Unless we are actively and eagerly pursuing excellence on every flight we usually are developing “right seat rust” and complacency. As pilots, we are only as good as our last landing; there is no “safety inocculation” from historic hours (especially when we are just “talking a good show”)!

But as much as we CFIs preach “continual learning and training” to other pilots, it is, unfortunately, not commonly embraced by the “aviation physicians”! There is no magic badge in “CFI” that makes us immune to the inevitable slow decay. Entropy, the degeneration of complex systems into disorder, is the second law of thermodynamics in our universe and always at work. Continually embracing the “challenge of excellence” is the necessary antidote to maintain a sharp edge and continue to grow as a pilot and educator. “Right seat rust” is a sad reality in flying and it is occurs both in flying skills *and* educational methods. We must seek to continually improve and grow; it is too easy to stop pushing and accept the status quo once you have climbed the hill of aviation proficiency.

For me, the Master Instructor Program was essential to retaining motivatation and growth and also ultimately acquiring my Designated Pilot Examiner privilege.  The famous business coach Stephen R. Covey calls this “sharpening the saw.” After I had my original CFI, then “double I” and Gold Seal, I started with Joanne and Sandy Hill and became an early Master Instructor. Though I had no professional need (at the time), I acquired an MEI and also a multi-engine ATP. Over the years I have earned every fixed wing rating and CFI level. This not only keeps your flying sharp and builds new skills, it puts you in the student role again and helps prevent “right seat arrogance” so common in aviation. (my latest foray into 135 flying is a whole different story). We often hear from flight instructors in dialogue with students a version of “why can’t you get this?” It is way too easy to forget the anguish and struggle of learning. Compassion and empathy are essential tools for an effective instructor. It is way too easy to lose touch with the psychological anguish and struggle we all endured climbing the aviation ladder; get back to learning!

The Master Instructor Program is carefully constructed by professional educators to encourage growth. Though half of the required credits are an accounting of “what you have accomplished”, 1/4 of the required credits are “what I learned these last two years” and the last 1/4 is “aviation philanthropy” or giving back to aviation.  Amazingly of the estimated 106 thousand flight instructors, fewer than 800 aviation educators worldwide have achieved any level of master instructor accreditation. Maintaining and growing that “attitude of excellence” is essential to safety and Master Instructor accreditation will increase your earning and professional standing in the community. Pursue new learning and increased aviation excellence with a Master Instructor accreditation.

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!

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