By Barbara Harper and Howard Deevers
In the late 1970's and early 1980's the FAA published a monthly “Flight Instruction Bulletin” and mailed it to all CFIs. It was designed to pass along new and relevant information and review old and forgotten information important to instructors.
Mail has been replaced with e-mail Bulletins. You can print out these Bulletins, but we doubt that very many CFI's do that. Does that mean that the information is lost or perhaps, not even read by the CFI's? Of course, there was no way to guarantee that a CFI would even read a Bulletin sent through the mail. Some of us do have binders full of those “Flight Instructor Bulletins,” and find them refreshing to read from time to time.
Just like getting your Private Pilot Certificate, the DPE says, “Here is your license to learn.” The CFI Certificate is also a “license to learn.” Your home computer can be a window to a vast amount of information on just about any subject in aviation. Are instructors more likely to read information sent by the FAA now that it is online? We don't really know, but our best guess is that those Bulletins are just another part of the mail in the box. Some will read it, some will not.
The conscientious flight instructor remembers the tremendous burden accepted when they agree to discharge the duties of a CFI. Before signing their name to any endorsement or flight test recommendation, the CFI must adhere to serious standards. Also, a flight lesson must be in 3 parts: preflight briefing, instruction, and post flight debriefing.
Many prospective pilots do not understand that a flying lesson has 3 parts. Most want a one hour flying lesson, and “see ya next week.” Most want to do ground school online, but the only way to be sure they have actually studied is to ask questions. We believe that online ground schools are a great way to learn, but we must test that.
After reading accident reports, we see that there have been several gear-up accidents with General Aviation aircraft, even with a CFI on board, some doing initial check outs. When we read about such incidents, we have to wonder how does that happen? Ultimately, the CFI must take responsibility for that incident.
Instructing in complex, technically advanced, or high-performance aircraft can be a very busy time, and possibly the CFI should develop a checklist and use it. The FAA provides us with a checklist for the basics of instructing, called “The Airman Certification Standards” (ACS). If you follow the ACS you will cover all of the tasks, skills, and risks that need to be mastered for the applicant. For advanced ratings and type specific aircraft ratings, much of the instructing is left to discretion of the instructor, although checklists do exist for the aircraft.
Some suggestions for a personal checklist might include:
GUMPS - for landings that might prevent a gear up landing
Pre-Flight inspections that include fuel and oil quantity for that flight
Weather briefing - there are so many ways to get weather now that it should not be missed
Does the PIC (not the CFI) give a safety briefing before each flight?
Visual collision avoidance by all on board
Every CFI should habitually observe regulations, safety precautions, and always be courteous. Ask questions as you fly without distracting the applicant.
I knew a flight instructor in Pittsburgh that would not break the rules, but would see just how close he could come to the edge of breaking the rule. That kind of instructing does not produce the safest pilots.
Remember that Safety is everyone’s business, and the CFI must lead the way. Here in Arizona we have many Safety programs offered free by your ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION, and the FAA Wings programs. Check the website for times and locations, and don't forget to “Bring your wing man.”