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Caution...Flight Instructor On-board!

Posted 7 years 35 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

I am very happy to report that the accident rate for helicopters in the United States continue a downward trend. This should be the goal of each helicopter operator and pilot. However, the accidents we do have are not new, we just keep having the same accidents repeatedly. One such mission segment that has long stood out for having a higher than average accident rate is flight training. 

Flight training means that training, other than ground training, received from an authorized instructor in flight in an aircraft (Ref: 14 CFR Part 61.1). So anytime flight training occurs, an experienced pilot trained in the craft of providing safe, effective instruction is onboard. What then leads a seemingly predictable flight to become a higher than average statistic? 

Many say that flight training is inherently risky. The introduction of flight to the untrained person creates the opportunity for mistakes to occur. I would agree that the knowing and willing acceptance of transferring control of an aircraft to a non-trained person does present some risk, however the ability to mitigate risk is easily obtained. 

Instructional Intervention, which is the timely and accurate action of the flight instructor to safely recover the aircraft in these conditions is paramount to safe flight training. Each flight instructor must be keenly aware of their own limitations and abilities, and not allow a student to take the aircraft beyond their comfort zone.

Every flight instructor will grow in their role and expand their limitations and abilities through experience. This is a healthy method of professional growth. When paired with proper mentoring, a flight instructor’s experience is increased exponentially. The ability to gain insight from other instructor’s experiences is priceless, and makes the learning curve much safer. 

The greatest pitfall working against the flight instructor is boredom. The repeating tempo of flight training often drives the flight instructor to become complacent as instructional boredom sets in. It is imperative that flight instructors recognize and accept instructional boredom as a real threat to the safety of flight. Finding diversity when teaching (i.e. VFR, IFR, NVG, Night Cross-Country, External Load, Simulation, etc.) will provide a path to mental clarity many instructors so often need. Even with diversity in training, instructional boredom may occur.

To summarize…never let your next maneuver be dictated by Instructional Boredom!

What are your thoughts on instructional boredom and its effect on flight safety? 

About Randy:  Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  Randy is currently  Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.