Weaker Moments as a Flight Instructor

You’re fired!!

Those words have never been said to me but in a roundabout way, I’ve said them. Not to an employee either. To a student.

Not my strongest moment.

We’ve all had our frustrating students. The ones that won’t study. The ones that show up late (so habitually that you can show up late and actually appear to have been on time!). The ones that just don’t seem to get it – not flying, not ever.

5 years after I was handed that temporary certificate – that license to teach someone else – and I still feel like I’m the student.

I sat there in that debriefing room staring at my frustrated student. With all his wrinkles, gray hairs, and past military experience and here he was looking to me – a 25 year old instructor “whippersnapper” – for wisdom, for advice, for knowledge, for feedback. I didn’t have any more to give. He was frustrated, I was frustrated.

12Our relationship had begun roughly a year earlier. I took him over after he was dissatisfied with a previous instructor. After nearly 70 hours he finally soloed and promptly headed off to Florida for the winter.

He was back now, only with him he now had a Sport Pilot License. All we had to do was check him out in the airplane. For the life of me though, I could not get him to land the plane safely – consistently. He had his random one or two good ones, and as soon as I thought “he’s good to go”, he pulled something out of nowhere.

Overshooting the runway. Undershooting the runway. Side-loading. Flaring high. Flaring late. Not flaring. Blasting down final at 90 knots. Blasting down final at 90 knots 500 feet too high. If there was something we didn’t do it was making it to the moon.

The key here is that it wasn’t his fault. Hence my frustration. He felt it was his fault. Hence his frustration. I felt like I had exhausted all possibilities, so finally, I told him to finish up with another instructor.

I hate not seeing things through. I’ve had students I’ve sent to another instructor for a couple lessons to iron out some un-ironable kinks, but never completely dumped a student.

Moral of the story? There’s still so much for ME to learn. There’s still so much for YOU to learn. Should I have fired him? Maybe, maybe not. But it was all I could do, with what was available to me, to help him progress at the time.

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE TO LEARN – AND IT WILL USUALLY, IF NOT ALWAYS BE LEARNED IN OUR WEAKER MOMENTS.

So live up to those moments. Don’t let them fester but don’t forget them either.

But who am I to say it…you probably already knew it! Have you fired a student? What was one of your weaker moments and what did you learn from it?

Time for Change

A lot has happened this past year.

I lost my medical. AGAIN.

My husband and I bought a house. FIRST TIME!

We had a baby. THE FIRST!

We’re learning all the ins and outs of owning a 60-year-old home. ONGOING.

We’re dealing with job insecurity. COMES-WITH-THE-AIRLINE PILOT-TERRITORY.

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It has been a heck of year, stressful would be to say the least. But I’m not here to complain. I’ve decided this blog needs a little bit more. I’ve found it hard to stay motivated to write through it all. I was writing the other night when I realized I was missing something. I think I’m missing the personal aspect. What good am I doing writing something when you know NOTHING of the person writing it?

The best student-instructor relationships I’ve had (both as a student and as an instructor) have also been the ones that were meaningful on a personal level. I knew more about them, they knew more about me. We didn’t have to be close friends, but having a better understanding of each other is always beneficial. It’s easier to teach someone when you know how they tick, what motivates them, what they are struggling through RIGHT NOW, what can they handle. The same goes in reverse. It’s easier to respect someone, for example your instructor, when you know where they’ve been, where they’re going, where they want to be.

Any thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?

Up in the Air

Student – Instructor Relationships: Ones That Soar

One of my students earned their Private Pilot License today, making me so proud! He texted me this evening, it went something like “thank you for all your help, I was well prepared and owe it all to you.” Wow. It’s great to get a thank you and feel appreciated but really as an instructor we are only part of the equation.

To students:

  • Work hard and know that it wasn’t just your teacher that led to your success.
  • Your hard work and dedication is what will ultimately lead to success in your endeavors. No amount of pure instruction will lead to it. Read what you’re asked to read, study what you’re asked to study, and pay attention!
  • If you don’t care, your teacher probably won’t either.
  • Be thankful for a great teacher.

To instructors:

  • Know your shtuff (…and yes I meant shtuff), no person ever knows EVERYTHING.
  • Provide the tools for your students. Go the “extra mile”, I say go two. Or ten. Or one-hundred. Make your job a labor of endurance: just when it looks like you’re reaching the finish line, push a little harder.
  • Give your students all you can, they won’t care if you don’t.
  • Be grateful for a good student.

I will be the first to admit I am nowhere near perfect. Heck I probably don’t even pass as average (if that could be measured) and I think many instructors often lose sight of the real picture: We are students. I’m not the one who always thinks myself a student. I have to have those nudges that push me along or remind me who I really am so my pride can take a step back. This leads to my last (little) blurb: Please thank one another – it really does feel good! It’s always refreshing as an instructor to receive a thank you, and it helps us “keep at it”. It feels great as a student to know that your instructor appreciates the time and work you put into accomplishing something, anything! Plus, it inspired this post!

So let your relationship soar! 🙂

Do you have any stories of a great student or instructor? What made the difference? I’d love to update the two lists above to help others and I’d love to hear it because it helps me improve too!

To our studies,

Up in the Air

To Fly or Not To Fly: The Benefits

To fly or not to fly? If you’re me, that’s no question at all. I’d fly a plane until the wings fell off…of course, hopefully I’d have a parachute on and a prayer in mind, I’d also have to do it where no FAA guy would find out, and of course I’d have to either have enough fuel on board or refueled many, many, many………many times, in the air. But on to the entire point of this….

You’ve heard of aviation, pilots, airlines, air travel and such. You probably know a pilot, maybe a family member, friend, or neighbor. Maybe you’ve been interested in planes since you were little. Maybe you’ve been interested in flying. Maybe you’ve never had an interest in either or perhaps in something else… You might be thinking flying is too expensive for you, it’s an expensive hobby with not much to show in the end. Maybe not. Maybe your family doesn’t support the idea, maybe you don’t support the idea.

Believe it or not, these are extremely common situations, and I see it nearly every day. I was working just the other day and overheard a conversation on very similar topics (yes, I was eaves-dropping, but sometimes you can’t help it in a quiet building, so shhh…). A man who hangars his airplane at the airport, took some acquaintances flying. From the looks of it, they were not close friends, they were friendly with each other of course, but the only reason he seemed to have taken them flying was to show them how much fun it was and to be open to them. At the end of their flight they began talking about both the expenses and the conveniences of flying. It hit home for me. This man did a great job of being realistic about it all, remaining enthusiastic and encouraging the whole time.

What does it all boil down to? It boils down to worth. What is flying worth to you? Do you care if you spend and don’t receive anything back but the intangible, or are you the type that weighs the costs and benefits – looking for what you will get in return?

For example:

You need to drive somewhere that will take you six hours in a car. In a plane, say a Piper Warrior or Cessna 172 , you can get there in maybe two and a half hours. Not looking at anything else, is this worth it to you?

Lets look at a time table. You have a lunch meeting (business or pleasure, you pick) that will last perhaps 2 hours. You’re meeting everyone at 11:30am. In a car, you will need to leave at…hopefully 5:30am…planning on no traffic. Okay, so you make it on time, and everything is wrapped up by 1:30pm. You say your goodbyes, and after filling up on gas you’re on your way again by 2pm. With no traffic , and no stops, you’ll be getting hope around 8pm. Long day? I know I would hit the hay after that…but then again, I’m not a morning person. In a plane you might plan on being at the airport by 7:30 (to be safe) and taking off by 8:30am, giving you half an hour to get from the airport you’re arriving at (11:00am arrival) to wherever you need to be. Again lunch is up by 1:30pm and you’re on your way to the airport by 2:00pm. You take off by 3:00pm (being conservative) and arrive at your home airport by 5:30 pm. No sooner than you land, you’re greeted by your wife or husband when you walk in the door at 6:00pm. Dinner is on the table, and you’re hungry! Eat up, then go relax. If you’re me, you’d enjoy that – maybe get in a good movie before you’re off to bed, because after all, you didn’t get up before the sun.

Let’s quickly look at finances…Assume you own your airplane, I have never owned an airplane, and don’t deal with maintenance and insurance, so that would be something you would have to do your own homework on for now. This is what I do know: My car, if I’m not driving like a maniac, gets about thirty miles per gallon. Lets assume that six hour trip is 360 miles and I drive sixty miles per hour the entire time…that’s using twelve gallons of gas one way, and twenty-four gallons round trip. At $3 a gallon, that’s $72. I can usually lean out a Piper Warrior to burn six gallons per hour. On a two and a half hour trip that’s fifteen gallons. At roughly $4.75 per gallon, round $71.25 up to $72, and it’s the exact same fuel cost.

What is time worth to you? If time doesn’t matter, how about the fun? What is the enjoyment worth? What is it worth to your family to see you home for dinner? Is it worth maintenance and insurance? You may have another reason to fly, that I haven’t thought of just yet. Whatever your reason, think about it – what you come up with may surprise you (or I could be wrong…I admit I sometimes am, okay, I can’t admit that but you get my point…I think)! 🙂

Happy flying, and see you next time.

Up in the Air

Originally Written: April 29, 2010

Love of Sunsets…and Ducks!

Ducks out on patrol! 🙂

Okay, I love sunsets! Probably because I’m wide awake for them compared to the opposite time of day!

So, is it just me or is there something in the water in the second photo? I didn’t notice until I got home and looked… 🙂 Weird.

To many sunsets,

Up in the Air

First time flying experiences are always the best! This is flying from the perspective of fresh eyes! 🙂

theThinkingArnold

I had the privilege of flying yesterday morning over the city I currently live in, Santa Barbara. And this has been possible thanks to my good friend Julien Lecomte, who just had his license.

After a night of bad sleep, I got up at 6 AM, packed my photo gear and drove to the Santa Barbara airport, where he was waiting for me. After sneaking in the airport (you just open a small door with a card and you are in. I wish you could do that at LAX too!), we prepared the airplane (especially me), filled it with fuel and took off. By the way, don’t go to refill you car at the airport, it’s more expensive…

It was an amazing experience that everybody should try at least once in their life. Plus, I always wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid, and even if I…

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