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Where Did They Learn That?

Posted 9 years 351 days ago ago by Randy Rowles

In an effort to find common ground with an applicant and relax them prior to a checkride, I often talk about their background, interests, and why they chose to fly helicopters. As a long-time designated pilot examiner (DPE), I like to remind myself of the     passion  and  desire  that  drives many of our young aviators to share our craft. Many begin their passionate journey as a far-reaching dream. Participating with them as they endeavor to reach their desired goals is quite fulfilling and rewarding.

I’ve noticed that these conversations with applicants and other young aviators have changed over the past few years. They have evolved a more concerned, and sometimes cynical, response regarding the direction of their desired career path. Their perception of the helicopter industry is often filled with negativity and uncertainty. Where did they learn this? How are such emotions developed at such an early point in a career?

The student aviator is simply a product of their instructional environment. They live and breathe each moment spent with their god-like instructors while attempting to emulate them as they are taught ‘the way to do things.’ In some cases, the student’s perception of the industry, specific companies, and even fellow aviators is simply a mirror image of their instructor’s beliefs. However, many other sources may contribute to and support negative perceptions. Helicopter industry magazine articles, blogs, and even web-based forums often facilitate such emotions. Much like food that gets tainted from preparation in a dirty kitchen, the outward appearance may not generate any concern. Yet, the poison lurks, and with each bite the unknowing victim’s path to an eventual realization is set.


Even institutions of higher-level learning in our industry, such as Part 135 training, are not immune to such negative behavior. Anyone having sat through annual training will have encountered an instructor offering less than positive opinions of the company and industry they represent. That this behavior does not support a positive learning environment is easy to grasp; the negative effect of this behavior is immeasurable. Instructors engaging in  such  behavior  are  cancerous  to  the  safety  culture  of  an organization. This negativity detracts from the instructional         integrity and quality of the learning environment, robbing the   student of the opportunity to grasp new concepts, procedures, and other intended curricula.


Healthy discussions with our students on the issues that affect our industry are very appropriate and should occur. Guiding such discussions so that a positive, constructive takeaway is achieved should be the instructor’s goal. Using every opportunity to impart knowledge, skill, and experience is the instructor’s responsibility, and these opportunities are not limited to the stick and rudder skills of our craft. Intellectual and emotional subjects that weave through the fabric of our careers may invoke passionate debates. It is in those moments that the instructor must remember …

YOU are where they learned that!

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.