Training Pilots & Flight Instructors


Building Up vs. Tearing Down

An old pilot once asked me "Do you why they call it a cockpit?" I didn’t know, and his answer was that you had to be a little cocky to sit up there. What he was getting at was that good pilots have a strong self confidence paired with a generous helping of assertiveness.

To a fair extent I agree that those are two qualities that pilots need to have. I believe there are other important attributes to a good pilot as well.

So where do these qualities of assertiveness and self confidence come from? I think assertiveness comes after a person develops a strong self confidence, but It’s been my observation that some people have the confidence and don’t need any help, others have a short supply. As an instructor, you can help build your students self confidence in the way you conduct the all important critique.

When conducting critiques never tear the person down by telling them something was no good, or unacceptable, or a failure if it were a check ride. Instead start by highlighting their strong points, showing where they have made progress and then helping them to understand how to do the more difficult maneuvers better. Instead of tearing them apart, make a plan to help them get better.

Now there are some occasions where a student needs a wakeup call. Even in these situations it’s unacceptable to tear them down over the issue. Instead explain that it’s imperative that we work on perfecting a certain maneuver or scenario because the current performance places them in danger. This a better strategy than saying “you’re failing this maneuver and going to kill yourself if you don’t figure it out.” I mean really – who is going to respond well to that form of critique, that type of critique is why students quit.

So many pilots wonder why the general aviation business is so weak. Why are flight schools always going out of business? I believe one of the reasons is the manner in which instructors teach students. As instructors we need to remember that flying competes with boating for recreational dollars. People who come to the airport to learn to fly, want to do just that FLY. The didn’t agree to enlist in the Army and they don’t want a Drill Sergeant for a flight instructor. As a flight instructor it’s our job to ensure our students are well trained and safe. At the same time, if we want to keep our doors open we need to be better at the interpersonal relationships we have with our students.