New FAA Instructor’s Handbook!

The new FAA Aviation Instructor’s Handbook is finally available this week. A quick first pass reveals reorganization and updating with a laudable new focus on risk management (first chapter and a new chapter 10). Unfortunately, some ancient ideas from the 1970s persist – “Myth of Learning Styles” has long been discarded by educational researchers. And how “self-help guru” Ricki Linksman and her “Superlinks” got into a serious government textbook is a good question to ask – the power of internet fame and fortune?

But here it is, please take a look and see what you think. “Student” becomes “learner” and the “cockpit” becomes “flightdeck.” I suggested a change to “aviation educator” several times but this went nowhere. Is the rest eyewash or valuable? Please post your comments. Certainly some new terms and concepts for all new prospective CFIs studying for the FOI this fall (not on tests until September).

New FAA Aviation Instructor’s Handbook

A few times through this will make you want to get free and FLY! I have been busy helping with a few annuals on some old Champion products (hopefully both flying again soon!) Stay safe, have fun.


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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

8 thoughts on “New FAA Instructor’s Handbook!”

  1. What is the purpose of changing “student” to “learner”? I find “learner pilot” particularly stupid sounding, but apart from my personal feelings, and even where the switch doesn’t sound goofy, just what could the purpose possibly be? Likewise, why would you have recommended “aviation educator”? I’m really very curious! Thank you!

    1. To many people (especially if it is not our personal “label”) there is no meaningful distinction in these words (it is indeed subtle). To some people, and the FAA is obviously in this group, “student” can be a bit demeaning and fails to recognize that these people learning as professionals at the top of their fields. “Student” can imply a beginner in life whereas our “raw material” in aviation often is an adult who just knows nothing about aviation. They are “learning aviation” and hence “learner” (not a rank beginner in life as perhaps implied by “student?)”

      Similarly, SAFE has always used “educator” because the meaning encompasses the entire person. We “educate” the entire individual across their entire spectrum of capabilities; physically and psychologically. To learn to fly safely, you must become a whole new person and think differently, not just acquire an “add-on package of skills.” An “instructor” teaches just a set of skills; e.g. tennis or shooting? This may not affect and modify their view of life and their approach to professionalism and excellence.

      By the same token, some CFIs refer to the people they teach as “clients” which to me implies too much control on their part. Certainly, they write the checks but they should not control the relationship or standards. Especially in aviation, “the customer is always right” can get you in trouble fast. The CFI sets the standards and controls the learning environment.

      1. For the student/learner part, good grief, folks. Once upon a time, being a student for one’s entire life, of all sorts of subjects, was something to aspire to. That we think “student” is derogatory now says a lot about our current, very ignorant and arrogant society. People can learn about anything with any amount of formality or informality (e.g., by watching free videos online), whereas being a student implies that you’re learning it in a more formal way. Also, “learner” often implies a degree of passivity (like when the AIH talks about fast learners or slow learners; they aren’t that way on purpose, actively). A student is typically enrolled in a school or course. Learner pilots (though I would prefer to at least use “learning” here) should be students.

        The part about instructor/educator is more interesting at least. I’m not sure I agree with the concept that the “learner” has to become a whole new person (besides, they’re apparently at the top of their field already, and I would hope they already have a good handle on professionalism and excellence; do they lose that in the process and have to relearn it?). They aren’t being reborn in Christ Jesus when they study aviation. On the other hand, if I take your train of thought and picture an instructor instructing as someone pointing to this and that with a stick and saying “do this, do that,” instructor does seem a bit limited for aviation applications since so much is required mentally and not just physically. Your argument here is good, and I’m just being a tad nitpicky regarding the philosophical implications. I see what you’re saying.

        All in all, I disagree with the change from student, but I like your suggestion to change to educator. Not that my opinion matters in any way whatsoever. I’m not an aviator of any kind but a proofreader, proofreading about aviation, wondering why, with so many errors in so many FAA publications, they’ve chosen to “fix” something that definitely didn’t need fixing and is, in my opinion, a major step backward as far as good English goes. My suspicions about the reason for the change have at least been confirmed! Thanks very much for explaining it all for me so I can make my edits (or stop myself from making them) with an idea of the purpose behind the text!

  2. Thank you for your fascinating viewpoint on all this. I suspected your focus was more grammatical than the usual “PC Police” objection. The AIH from the 1970s which I learned from (the infamous “blue book”) really *was* all behaviorism and at the level of “good dog, bad dog.” (Most of the FAA guidance came from the military’s “Civilian Pilot Training” course materials) I am not sure if grammar drives change or is a reaction to changes, but it all is in constant flux.

  3. Good instincts, as I’m absolutely anything but the PC police.

    Ah, I see! I wasn’t far off imagining the instructor had a stick then? Haha! They used to beat you with that or a rolled up newspaper to teach you things? Yeah, I guess newfangled “educators” are moving everyone in a better direction then.

    “I am not sure if grammar drives change or is a reaction to changes” >> It is definitely both, and it’s occasionally a struggle to be a person who loves linguistics. I accept that language constantly evolves, and that’s amazing and wonderful to study. On the other hand, I hate the way (to me) it deteriorates as people forget various words, and it’s my job to make things follow the “rules,” even though I know the rules are totally made up and constantly changing. As far as aviation goes, I just try not to accidentally screw up what I’m working on since I have zero technical knowledge. Since I have taken several courses in education and more in English, though, this AIH situation really piqued my interest.

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