Posted 8 years 12 days ago ago by Randy Rowles
Without reservation, I can say that I have found my passion in life. I love teaching the art of helicopter flight. I don’t know when, where, or why my passion for sharing my love for helicopters developed, I only know that I enjoy it. Equally enjoyable is serving the FAA as a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). Do all instructors share this passion? If not, what motivates instructors in their vital role within our industry?
The other side of the teaching process is the evaluation of the student. As a DPE, observing poor student performance directly caused by equally poor instruction occurs all too often. In many cases, the student has no idea their helicopter education was tainted by a semi-engaged flight instructor. To a number of flight instructors, success is measured by the amount of flight hours they log or how those hours will be credited in furtherance of their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) qualification. Looking at the student as a ‘necessary evil’ not only hurts the student’s education, but the industry as a whole.
A few months ago, I was asked to be a reference by a flight instructor seeking employment within another segment of the industry. My only connection to the instructor was through the students he had presented to me for FAA practical examinations. After a quick review of the exams I had conducted for his students, I noticed that nearly all had been successful on their first attempt. Additionally, a couple of instrument students stood out in my memory as ‘extraordinary’ in terms of instrument knowledge: a direct credit to this instructor. I agreed to provide the reference, however, I asked, “Why do you not want to teach anymore?” He answered, “I love teaching…I just want to experience more of what the industry has to offer. It will make me a better instructor.”
In stark contrast to the previous instructor, I had been working with a relatively new instructor at the same school. The first few students presented were less than stellar. During each evaluation, weaknesses were identified in both knowledge and flight proficiency at several differing pilot certificate levels. During the re-evaluation of one of the applicants, a review of IFR cross-country planning was required. The planning was incorrect and the applicant was found to be unsatisfactory. How did this happen? Didn’t the instructor review the applicants planning prior to signing the FAR 61.49 retest endorsement? During a healthy heart-to-heart discussion with the instructor, an eventual truth was realized. He said “Randy, I really hate instructing. I’m only doing it because I have no other choice.”
I don’t expect each and every instructor to share my passion for teaching. Still, as an industry, we must expect every instructor to provide their very best effort to cultivate each student they are tasked to teach. Flight school management must weed out those instructors that believe mediocrity is the standard, and that their own fulfillment to pilot stardom is only reached by having the title of “flight instructor.”
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.