My first few months as a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) have been extremely challenging yet rewarding. They say that each certificate you gain is a license to learn at the next level and that has certainly been true for the instructor certificate. When my instrument instructor heard on Facebook that I was now instructions he said, “Awe, now the real learning begins!” Yes Tony you are correct.
I’ve been challenged to not only know each minute detail of aerodynamics, maneuvers, and aircraft systems among a variety of other subjects, but be able to relay it in both concept and action. Knowing it for testing purposes to answer written questions or construct a verbal answer found acceptable by a DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) is one thing. Not easy but doable. However, relaying the same knowledge and skills to a new student is an entirely different task!
Then there is the ability to juggle handfuls of students, some you see once a week, some 3 times a week, some every third week. All at different points in a syllabus which you are yourself trying to become familiar with and figure out how to apply your knowledge to within the limits of your teaching style and ability. And that’s just in the classroom. When in flight you have to know what should be happening, when it should be happening, and anticipate what the student should be doing, is doing, or is possibly going to do or thinking of doing; and be able to step in within a fraction of a second to correct if the likely outcome would be undesirable. As a CFI you want so badly not to grab the controls, you try to influence the student to learn through verbal cues, demonstration, and instruction allowing them to experience both the failure and successes of their control inputs and choices.
In other areas of my life things are fairly well organized and scheduled; I’m pretty much along for the ride. Not so in flight instructing. Some days I go from student to student from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. and have to keep on schedule. Get in the classroom, teach a subject or brief a flight, get the plane in the air and the lesson finished and be back on the ground parked in time to debrief, sign logbooks, and meet the next student. Though I admit some days flight lesson appointments are more like doctors appointments than a flight schedule. Times are rough, 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there….. you know what I mean. I have a much deeper appreciation for my past flight instructors; oh the grief I must have put them through, I apologize.
I have to admit some days I come home both mentally and physically exhausted; though I am starting to adapt and become accustomed to the process. I think over time you figure out how to present a given subject or flight task and adapt it to the student, how they learn, where they are in the leaning process. It then becomes easier to present the same material or tasks to other students.
Initially I thought due my schedule at my full time job that I would be doing mostly one off appointments, filling in when a student’s normal instructor was not available. Or providing discovery flights; a flight you take just to see what flying in a small training aircraft is like and to see if it is something you wish to pursue. Or Flight Reviews which are a regulatory requirement every 24 months for pilots to get a little additional training, kind of like what most employers call continuing education. However I soon found myself taking on several primary students working towards their private pilot certificate. Some of these students are individuals I provided discovery flights for in the preceding weeks or months. To see them come back and peruse a pilot certificate is both energizing and rewarding. Yay, I didn’t scare them too bad! Oh and also doing one off appointments, discovery fights, and flight reviews. It’s been busy but I keep telling myself that as summer turns into fall and then winter, the weather will limit available training days and people will become too busy with school, college, and extra circular activities to continue keeping me this busy…. Waiting, we will see, surely…..
Another surprise is the variety of people pursing pilot certificates, from all ages and backgrounds.
Oh and maybe I shouldn’t have been caught a bit off guard but its weird having military pilots and high hour pilots with thousands of hours in single, multi, fixed, and rotorcraft come to me for training and logbook endorsements; but that’s a subject for another post.
Keep flying and helping the Hounds