July 2, 2014
It seems every aviation site and magazine continues to discuss how Flight Training is broken. Travis Ammon of Simple Flight wrote an interesting post, "Lets Quit the Blame Game" earlier this year about how the industry needs to stop focusing on the blame for flight training woes and instead find solutions. I tend to be a glass half full kind of guy and could not agree more with Ammon. Instead of looking at what is wrong, let's look for what is right in aviation and use that to improve training and services within private aviation. Sure you can find sub-par flight training out there, in fact it may be the norm. But, there is also great training available for pilots of all levels in various forms: Instructors, peer training and online training. It is with that idea that I plan to publish a series of posts showcasing flight training at its best.
Pilots and students need to take responsibility for seeking out the type of training that will work best for them and walking away from inferior training options. I don't think enough students think about the option of firing a flight instructor or flight school if they are not receiving training that fits their needs.
I recently published an AOPA Pilot bio on Al Waterloo, a CFI who is doing it right and exemplifies flight training at its best. Waterloo adapts his training to each student based on their interests and needs. Before sharing the cockpit with a student he asks a simple question "What do you want to get out of aviation?" He uses the conversation that is sparked from that conversation to tailor his training. In the article I referenced a student of his, Jim Stone, who had yet to solo after 48 hours of instruction from various instructors. Prior to Waterloo's first lesson with Stone he asked his trademark question and used that learning to help devise a training curriculum that would help the student get over the current speed bump in his training. See the excerpt below from the May 2014 AOPA Pilot:
Turns out Stone did not have aviation career aspirations, but instead had visions of taking scenic flights along the Chicago lakefront with his wife. Waterloo suggested that Stone bring his wife on their next lesson, an evening flight in early July.
Waterloo timed it so the lesson ended with them coasting along the Lake Michigan shoreline as a flurry of fireworks erupted, giving Stone and his wife a new perspective on the Fourth of July--one reserved for aviators. While Stone and his wife enjoyed the show, Waterloo tuned the radio to O'Hare Approach and told his student that before capping off an already special flight, they were going to make a stop at O'Hare--giving Stone his first Class B airspace experience.
After that flight, Stone's interest in flying was re-energized and he could better envision the dream he was trying to realize. Just eight days later, Stone soloed and a few months later fulfilled his goal of more than 60 years to become a certificated pilot.
Al focused on what the student was trying to get out of aviation and used that to engage and inspire the student and built a fire in him to achieve this goal he had been pursuing for so long. Aviation needs more instructors with this kind of focus on helping students achieve their personal aviation goals.
Over the course of the next few months I plan to write a series of posts sharing examples of flight training at its best. Stay Tuned!