I recently participated in a webinar with Russ Still and Nate Tennant from Gold Seal Ground Schools focusing on preparation for check rides, specifically the easier “low hanging fruit”. In the overwhelming push to prepare, applicants often miss simple things when preparing for a flight test. This webinar was great fun plus an opportunity to share valuable resources with our membership and the general public. We will have more livestream videos coming for you in the near future. During these livestream events send your questions and input: #askgoldseal
It’s important to remember, even at the private pilot level, a pilot certificate is a *huge* privilege; valid for for the rest of your life, anywhere on the globe, day night! And at higher levels, you can pilot a complex, multi-engined plane in the clouds with paying customers. All this comes after probably training relatively briefly in a very small geographic area; during pretty good weather with usually only one flight instructor. (The instrument training does not even have to be in the clouds!) Looking at the flight evaluation in a broader lens, in essence an applicant for a every certificate or rating, is demonstrating to an experienced pilot (DPE or inspector) that they will fly safely within the limits of their new certificate. This requires the three-legged school of pilot competence: skill, knowledge and judgment.
Scenarios are Essential
You can see why scenarios are a critical tool and you should both train with this method and expect to see many during every evaluation. In training and testing, we just can’t physically transport an applicant all the places and conditions they will encounter in their future piloting experience…so we have to simulate this with scenarios. And when we are done, one thing we have to absolutely *know* for sure; they can handle or at least figure out all these situations or that they have enough judgment, knowledge and integrity to say “no” until they acquire more experience to handle those advanced situations. As examiners, we must only approve safe and competent pilots, every failure in the real world will be an aircraft accident. In testing, the trick is extrapolating from a very small time and distance sample to all possible future flight challenges.
Teaching PIC a Step at a Time…
A critical pilot skill for every flight (and pilot evaluation) is demonstrating “pilot in command” authority. A pilot flying absolutely has to “own it” in a very literal sense. If an applicant on a test is continually unsure and timidly asking permission for every operation, they have not adequately internalized this important quality. They are still tied to the apron strings of their CFI. How to foster this transformation in training from “student” to “person in charge” is difficult and requires “incremental mastery;” it will not happen in a day.
To engender “pilot in command authority” in my teaching, I continuously hand over each new operations to the student. When they demonstrate a safe and consistent take-off, climb and turn, these areas are delegated entirely to their control. They “solo to the practice area” (with no help) by lesson 3. I make this very clear in the briefing and in the cockpit; decisions and aircraft control entirely their responsibility! We can tweak and tune details later to improve. In this way the student essentially takes over entire authority for the aircraft in a series of small steps. This also gives a huge motivational boost throughout training. When the crosswind is too much or the operation is in question, I rely on the student’s judgment to say so and ask for assistance, we all need to learn our limits. Once mastery in normal operations is assured it is obviously essential to challenge our students with many creative “abnormals and emergencies” (more on the sadistic CFI later 🙂
Unfortunately, when I ran a flight school I discovered most CFIs subconsciously teach dependence on the “sage in the right seat.” Teaching the “student” to rely and depend too much on the CFI is a big mistake that will forever cripple the future pilot. Much like parenting, it is essential in flight training to continuously foster independence and allow small mistakes for clients to figure out and overcome on their own (or with minor guidance). In this manner they will be come confident masters of their aviation world. Too much micro-managing and help by the CFI results in a timid and dependent pilot. The old saw of “teaching them to fish” and not just supplying dinner applies here. Dependency is very clear during a flight test and your student will probably not be a successful candidate that day. And any mistakes during initial training are incredibly durable and difficult to overcome. Get it right in those first 50 hours!
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