Verbalizing for Better Pilot Orals (and CFI Presentations)!

Many very smart people show up poorly during oral evaluations – or presentations. They have lots of good knowlege and ideas, they just can’t organize and deliver them. Practicing verbalization overcomes nervousness and also reveals flaws in mental organization and understanding. Talking your ideas out loud is critical.

Ideas always seem to make sense “inside your head,” but translate poorly when verbalized. We have all had this experience. Consequently, actual oral presentation becomes an essential learning tool that must be practiced. Start in private, then practice with others. Ear buds have made talking to yourself socially acceptable  (no one will ever know :). Verbalization objectifies our internal sense-making and exposes your ideas to some “social sunlight.” And simultaneous with any verbalization, our inner critic hears, reforms and redirects these ideas even as they are issued. Every speaker has a pre-formed idea of how this painting should appear, but when you get out the actual coloring box, the results are very different; “that didn’t come out right…” Practice, practice.

Another skill for success in a pilot oral (and in future safe flying) is successfully “chair-flying” every proposed/planned scenario. This requires “surprising yourself” with a lot of “what-ifs” that any good examiner will also present during an evaluation. “You are 4500ft over this highway and the visibility drops (or the alternator fails) what are immediate action items and follow-on plans to resolve this situation in the safest manner?” Your imaginative and diagnostic skills, developed for a flight test oral, are also critical pilot tools for future safe piloting. This again deploys the “stoic mindset” mentioned in other blogs. If we visualize “rainbows and unicorns” for every flight, we are woefully unprepared for the actual world of flight where “stuff happens!” Any experienced pilot has to accurately run a “pre-mortem” on all the potential risks to be fully prepared for safe flight (or their pilot oral). Practice that, and have fun out there.

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Author: David St. George

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

6 thoughts on “Verbalizing for Better Pilot Orals (and CFI Presentations)!”

  1. My students have all heard the recommendation to get the ASA Oral Prep guide, stand in front of a mirror and answer the questions. Teach your tongue to say the words. Just tell your family ahead of time so they don’t think you’ve completely gone mad.

  2. Believe it or not this is one of the most difficult assets to acquire for the new CFI. After all the flying has been done it’s the ability to verbalize and “teach” where the CFI either succeeds or fails.
    It’s one thing to understand something yourself and quite another when you sit down and attempt to explain it to someone else, ESPECIALLY when that “someone else” comes to you with a much lower level of knowledge on the subject matter.
    Make no mistake, it is HERE where the real skill lies when it comes down to being a good flight instructor.
    You can be the best stick and rudder pilot on the planet and have college degrees to spare in your bio but if you can’t explain something to someone ON THEIR LEVEL of ability to understand it you have failed as a flight instructor.

    A wonderful exercise that I have recommended to every CFI I have ever trained is this.
    Pick out a member of your family or a close friend; someone with absolutely no prior knowledge of aviation and ask them to help you with an experiment. Tell them you want to “explain” something to them and after that has been done you would like them to “explain it back” to you as though they were attempting to teach it to you. Put this out there as a “fun exercise”.
    Now sit down in a relaxed manner with this person and proceed to explain to them “What makes an airplane fly”. Take your time and base the way you explain this on a level you believe is the best to achieve your goal.
    When you are done, wait a day or so then sit down with your “student” once more and ask them to explain to you “what makes an airplane fly”.
    What transpires during this exchange and what you observe afterward is a perfect indicator of your ability to convey information.
    Naturally this experiment is a double edged sword. There is as well as your ability to “teach” a factor involving your “student’s ability to absorb and comprehend. But after finishing this “exercise” you should come away with a fairly good idea of just how good YOU are as an instructor and what if any changes and improvements you need to make in order for you to be a better instructor.
    Trust me…….this is a great exercise and a learning experience for you if you desire to be a serious flight instructor.
    This is just a sample of what is possible on the learning curve to becoming a good CFI. Use your imagination. Believe me, imagination is one of the most valuable tools you will ever use as a flight instructor.

    1. They did an exercise like this when I trained at OKC to be a DPE. “Describe to someone with absolutely no knowledge” how to put on and zip a jacket or lace and tie your shoes. If done properly (if the subject is good and “properly knows nothing”) there is an amazing amount of detail and careful explanation required.

      1. The ability to communicate clearly and to a different level than your own is why the Naval Test Pilot School, dealing with the best sticks and minds in the Navy, offers a course in creative writing to the pilots enrolled there………or they used to anyway. I haven’t checked in a long time. The test pilot fills out the data card; but the engineer on the ground has to understand it.

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