I attended a couple of meetings this week – one put on by the FAASTeam and one a local EAA Chapter pancake breakfast. Both included things I thought you might be interested in hearing.

FAASTeam, in case you haven’t seen the term before, is the FAA Safety Team. they have a website at where they list scheduled seminars, host the AMT and Wings programs, host online courses and provide information for pilots, instructors and mechanics. It’s well worth the time to check it out.

CFI Workshop1926 tram workshop.

The FAASTeam hosted a CFI workshop, one of their quarterly series of workshop meetings that have been scheduled the two years. The local FSDO has two more modules scheduled and then the program will be terminated – a victim of budget cuts I imagine. This particular module topic was GPS and teaching in TAA. The briefings were informative, but the value of the meeting to me came with presentations by the three DPEs in attendance.

Each of the DPEs had a few minutes to talk about some of the things that they have seen administering evaluations in the local area. The question that kept coming into my mind was: Who is teaching these students?

On a PPL evaluation in a TAA the applicant did a good job until they were climbing out after take-off. At that point the applicant put his head inside the cockpit and started working on the electronics without looking back outside. The climb rate reduced and the plane accelerated – directly at a mountain. The DPE waited as long as he felt he safely could, then directed the applicant to look out the window, turn away from the high terrain – and fly back to the airport for a full-stop landing. I just read a couple of the AOPA CFI-to-CFI newsletters and one presentation slide came to mind: Cockpit Distractions can be deadly – fly the airplane, not the panel.

Another applicant failed the instrument check ride for failing to insure that the course/glideslope indicator was displaying the selected ILS navigation source  rather than displaying GPS information. And then failed the recheck for doing exactly the same thing. Why is this not something that you check on your approach briefing?

More than one instrument applicant failed for descending on the approach before passing the published descent point on a segment of the approach. In training the applicant had flown approaches over and over at the same airport and had been vectored to the final final approach course intercept inside the descent point every time. This would result in the need to descend as soon as the course was intercepted in order to arrive at the minimum altitude for the approach before reaching the missed approach point. This time traffic at the airport was light and the radar vectors resulted in an intercept about 8 miles from the airport. The applicant, void of situational awareness,  pulled the power off and started down as soon as he intercepted the final approach course – and aimed right at a small mountain between his position and the airport. This is rote learning at it’s most dangerous.

Another applicant flew the instrument approach in his high performance single at about 140 knots – with the landing gear up. When asked about the approach he stated that he had never landed out of an instrument approach – they had always done missed approaches to set up for the next approach.

Another never set up his instrument panel for the published missed approach – he had always received radar vectors after terminating the approach at the missed approach point.

While we’re on the subject of missed approaches, one of the DPEs said he could virtually assure a confused, inconsistent result when he would direct a missed approach at a point anywhere in the instrument approach procedure  other than at the missed approach point.

I’ve only included the check ride failure modes that really struck me. I really hope these were in the minority and that most applicants received comprehensive, professional instruction.

Maybe we should change the certificate name to Instructor of Flight rather than Flight Instructor. It seems we need some way to place more emphasis on the Instruction part of the certificate rather than the Flight part. CFI’s have to first be teachers – it just happens that the course that they are teaching is Flight. As instructors, CFIs  have to teach the students the basics of the particular course and then progress to the advanced segments – which is real-world flying at that certificate level. Of course, that means that the instructor has to have real-world experience.

Teaching maneuvers at the rote level so that on a good day the applicant can meet the minimum requirements for the rating is not doing students any favors and is certainly not preparing the student to fly in our current airspace system.

What do you think?


7 responses to “A CFI Workshop”

  1. Cedarglen Avatar

    I read your post twice, just to make sure I had it right. I did and it frightens me, especially when IFR students are making the errors that you cite. Situational awareness, inside, outside and between the ears at all times. The excuses that suggest rote or ‘motor memory’ learning are the most frightening. As one with many years of teaching experience, if I can teach thet student how to think and process information, the facts and details follow in due course. I make them think for themselves and teach on a path that requires synthization at every turn. It is not about reguritating a few facts, but how one uses those details to achieve the desired outcome. For the candidates who failed their exams, I sincerely hop that they understand why they failed. Apparently, at least one did not, having failed a repeat exam and for the same reason. Ouch! A great post and thanks for sharing the details.

  2. Tracy Avatar

    I agree. I was totally astounded at the comments the DPEs were making. They were relating the problem areas that they had seen in the past quarter. As long as the CFI position is the entry level for the professional pilot track and the ‘easiest’ way to build time we will continue to have inexperienced pilots teaching the way that they have been taught.

  3. Cedarglen Avatar

    Tracy, I could not agree more. And I think you got it exactly right when mentioning the flood of low time CFI’s trying to build hours.
    I am not a pilot. I was, once upon a time, with 600+ hours. I have not been current for >30 years. During my training, I had two instructors. Both were local friends – and who just happened to be very senior fliers for NWA. The first did not lke the ground schooling that I had been given, so he re-did it himself. (Since he was also the father of my then girlfriend, I paid *very* close attention. He re-did the ground portion and taught me through the PPL. He handed me off to someone else for IRF training. No, I did not marry his daughter (And glad hat I did not!), but we remained close friends until he passed a couple of years ago. For every lesson, theory or functional, I knew what was expected, he demonstrated and then I did it. If a goofed it up, we recycled right there and did it again and again and again. If the ground routines were not right, we repeated them until they were. To his credit as an instructor (and I suppose to my credit as a student) when I had about 150 hours, he allowd his daughter to fly with me – in his airplane. In the end, I’m glad that I did not marry her. I;m not going there…

  4. Tracy Avatar

    And that is what an experienced pilot who is a CFI can bring to the table… the knowledge of what you really need to know and how well you need to know it to stay alive in real-world flying… not how to to fly the maneuvers that are required for the checkride in the local pattern.

    It sounds like you had a great instructor!


  5. Cedarglen Avatar

    Yes, YES and More YES. We are pn the same page. And, my primary instructor was one of best teachers that I’ve ever encountered. Even though I chose to not marry his daughter (won’t go there) he remain a dear friend for decades. Frankly, I was far more fond of him than of the daughter , but for very different reasons. Regards,

  6. TracyS Avatar

    Fascinating story, thank you. Here I am, an Instrument rated pilot with 230 hours studying for my Commercial ticket, on the way to becoming a CFI. Oh, by the way, I’m 52 years old. I’m completely sick & tired of the poor levels of instruction being passed off as ‘adequate’; I’m tired of young, inexperienced CFI’s who can’t teach and see me as a means to thier ‘end’ (a professional pilot job) and not as my success as an end of itself. Luckily, I was smart enough to see what was going on, traveled 300 miles to Buffalo NY for first-class training, and finally feel like I’ve received the BEST training to continue forward and be a damn good instructor. I feel so very sorry for young people that enter our world of aviation and get pushed out by unprofessional instructors forever soured on the joys of flight.
    I wish I had the answers for success, but I don’t. The outlook is dismal.

  7. Tracy Avatar

    I’ve heard your story over and over again. Maybe we need to make holding an ATP certificate a requirement for the CFI certificate. That would at least mean that the instructor had more than a couple of hundred hours more than the student – and likely had actually flown out of the local area or in actual IFR weather conditions.
    Just curious, since you mentioned Buffalo. Did you go train at Bob Miller’s school? I know he is advocating higher flight time minimums for even the Private certificate. I think the current time requirements are fine – if you have a knowledgeable, experienced and professional instructor.