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The Coin Toss - The Instructor’s Cardinal Sin

Posted 8 years 64 days ago ago by Admin



We’ve all been there. Flying with our student during the test prep phase of the training lifecycle, confirming what we set out to do so many hours before. That is, to present the FAA a qualified, proficient pilot applicant who is capable of exceeding all test standards set before them. You’ve done this many times before; it’s just a walk in the park. So you walk through your FAA exam checklist to verify nothing has been missed:

Training records complete?       

Logbook endorsements complete?   

FAA Examiner scheduled?       

Complete confidence your student is ready to take this checkride? Well … not so much.

During test prep, you notice that the student isn’t consistent with each maneuver or task you present. Although your student’s flying is OK, there’s this little voice in your ear and a knot in your gut that’s making you uncomfortable: They’re just not ready for this checkride! Then your student completes a picture-perfect autorotation and you ignore what you believed to be true just a few moments earlier.

It would appear that determining whether an applicant is ready to take a checkride—or not—would be simple, but many factors outside of flight training tend to influence this decision. A major factor that may compromise an instructor’s decision is that flight training is a pay-to-play profession. Financial constraints on the student often appear near the end of a flight training program, with each training hour being scrutinized against the funds remaining for the cause.

Another factor is that flight school leadership places pressure on an instructor to meet minimum training times of a contract student, or not exceed the quoted hours (cost) of a training program. No matter what the catalyst of pressure on the instructor: Compromise has no place in the determination of proficiency of a pilot applicant.   

In all reality, the determination that a person isn’t ready to perform the duties of pilot-in-command of an aircraft is a lifesaving decision. Each passenger that would entrust their safety to a pilot you train is doing so based on their belief that YOU the instructor had their best interest in mind. Any compromise that you make accepting less than proficient skillsets may be a death sentence to an unknowing passenger. A safe pilot is a proficient pilot. A pilot that is not proficient has only luck on their side.  

Instructional compromise, no matter what drives the decision, perpetuates mediocrity within our pilot ranks. With each compromise you make, the level of performance you require from your student to meet your determination of acceptable performance will begin to decrease. Eventually, you’ll reach a place in your instructional career where the words “they’re good enough” will be used. Unfortunately, that would be the proverbial coin toss—and a serious error in judgement.

So be honest and be fair, but most of all: Never carry a coin while teaching.