Wouldn’t it be great if you could just pay some flat fee and become a safe and competent pilot in 10 or 14 days like those “quick courses” promise? This would be almost like putting money in a snack machine and getting the desired treat in an instant. And similarly, how amazing it would be if you could retain a high level of pilot proficiency without ever training again? So sorry, but neither of these promises are true. I will confess that in some cases it is possible to obtain those coveted FAA certificates that represent these skills, though unfortunately often through dubious methods. But even aside from some shady operations, if you could pass and fly with minimal training and testing standards, you would certainly not be a safe and competent pilot until you had added some necessary experience. I remember one student coming into our flight school because the place where he just passed would not rent him an airplane!
The incremental loss of skill and knowledge with the passage of time is also an unfortunate psychological fact. If you do not continue to train and practice your skills obtained as a pilot, you will lose your proficiency and become less confident and safe in the air. “Use it or lose it” is how the human operating system works for complex skills. These are just proven findings from human psychology and educational theory. Pilots operate in a challenging and changeable world that requires continual activity and review. Every professional pilot heads back to the simulator or flies a check flight every six months for that very same reason.
Safe flying requires much more than a simple set of primary rote skills (monkey see, monkey do) to be safe. Pilots must build (and retain) deep learning and multi-level strategies to fly on both good days and bad. It requires physical competencies but also mental planning and coping strategies. To learn aviation well and be safe in the air, correct habits (sometimes contrary to our natural human instincts) must be learned and remain fluidly available. It is also necessary to catalog a full spectrum of experiences to draw upon when encountering challenges. All this simply cannot be taught (and especially not retained for fluid recall) in a “quickie course.” And it can’t be retained without currency.
Fortunately, the thrill and excitement of flight training (and recurrent flying) are inherently motivating if taught correctly. In every flight there is a natural boost and also the satisfaction of incremental mastery. This excitement usually carries pilots through the (not so quick) flight training process. In this respect, pilots are different from the mass of humanity in their ability to delay gratification and accept with patience the necessary building process. It takes time and effort to learn aviation well (and to maintain it). Successful pilots come to understand and value this process, but students need to be taught this lesson.
To be successful as a effective flight educator, it is critical to remember well your own personal challenges during initial flight training. The learning process can have serious plateaus and disappointments for your students as well. Promising easy success is clearly dishonest and harmful to the long-term learning process. A CFI must possess empathy and compassion for their struggling clients and work to motivate them through the rough patches, enjoying the learning process together! Ultimately, there is much greater satisfaction in completing a thorough pilot training process and knowing you are safe and competent; enjoy the journey!
Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!