Taking Flight: Exploring the Different Approaches of Flight Instructors

Today, I would like to share my personal opinion on flight instructors. When I started my PPL training, the training base was just established and did not have permanent staff, so I flew with different instructors.

Firstly, I want to discuss some aspects that I knew in theory but did not always follow in practice, especially since I started from a zero level and had a lot to learn.

The main point is to be fully prepared before each flight. Use all available resources such as videos, books, and flight simulators, dedicate as much time as you can. Mark your blind spots and ask your instructor about them, and avoid wasting valuable flight time for learning the stuff you can learn at home.

Know your syllabus in detail, and identify your weak points and problems. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor about them. Focus on your weak areas, and it may be easier to train with a single instructor who can track your progress across the entire program – I did not have a luxury of doing that. However, remember that your license and training are your responsibility, and no one can track your progress better than you.

Some instructors are great at giving briefings, while others are not. If your instructor does not provide detailed flight exercises and goals, it is up to you to do so before the flight. Remember, it is your money, and a messy flight lesson will cost you the same amount as a useful one. It is best to avoid introducing too many new factors at once, ideally no more than one new factor per flight. The syllabus can help a lot in this regard, so make sure you know it well.

Ask your instructor for details about any flight control issues that arise. After landing, you should ask questions to fully understand the purpose of each control and how to correct any errors you made. At the very least, you should strive to understand what happened during the flight.

If the instructor takes control at any moment during the flight, ask for a quick clarification of the issue after it is resolved and for further details after landing. Understanding your actions and potential danger will allow you to correct any mistakes you made and improve your skills for the future. The instructors takes control for a reason!

Using an action cam can be very helpful for post-flight video analysis. You may be able to identify issues that you didn’t notice during the flight due to the high workload. If you instructor permits using an action camera, then use it, and it is even better to analyze your performance with your instructor.

It is preferable for your instructor to be familiar with the training site, including the runway characteristics, approaches, local wind patterns, and typical student problems in that area. While this is especially important in mountainous terrain, it is still beneficial in non-mountainous areas. Instructors who are familiar with their home base are generally more effective.

So, based on my personal experience, flight instructors are great pilots who fly well. However, being a good pilot is not enough to be a good instructor. A good instructor should also possess teaching skills…

Instructor #1 was my first flight instructor, and I flew an introductory flight and some initial exercises with him, followed by some short cross-country flights. However, there were several issues with his instruction. Firstly, he hardly spoke English and Russian, which hindered effective communication. As an ab-initio student, I need much more than an air time and gestures language. Additionally, he was very nervous, which translated into overly abrupt control inputs, creating a less comfortable and efficient flying experience.

Furthermore, I realized that I had unconsciously adopted his piloting style, which was highlighted by other instructors during my subsequent lessons. Nevertheless, it is important to note that no instructor is perfect, and it is essential to approach their teachings with a slight degree of skepticism, but not too skeptical though – they are experienced pilots after all. I am definitely not suggesting that you should contradict or challenge your instructor, but it is beneficial to ask questions if you are unsure about any aspect of their instruction.

Despite his shortcomings, instructor #1 is a skilled pilot. However, I didn’t enjoy learning from him because he prevented me from making any mistakes, even at safe altitudes. He corrected everything in advance, which limited my learning and didn’t allow me to develop my own piloting skills. Initial air exercises were fine, but I wouldn’t appreciate practicing landings with him, as I needed the opportunity to learn and improve them. I hardly believe he could allow me to do anything by myself. I believe that instructors should permit students to attempt maneuvers and correct only if there is a safety concern.

And the worst part was that I was not able to get proper explanations for anything. The language barrier was an issue, as I didn’t speak Czech, and he had limited proficiency in English. He functioned more as a safety pilot, and as a zero-hour student, I needed a patient and skilled instructor.

With him, I had to react quickly and abruptly to his instructions; otherwise, he would take over control. However, I thought his corrections were too hasty, which made me uncomfortable. It could be my gross mistakes, of course, but I hadn’t seen any other instructors behave in such a manner.

Instructor #2. I flew some circuits and a couple of cross-countries with him. He speaks English well and hardly touches the controls unless necessary. He is mainly a helicopter pilot, and it seems like his primary goal is building his PIC hours. However, he needs more experience as an instructor because he hardly remembers the PPL syllabus and doesn’t provide good briefings.

He didn’t remember important values such as Vx, Vy, Va, etc. for C150. Additionally, he was highly focused on flight instruments instead of external references. He is a skilled pilot, and his landings are also good. However, he couldn’t explain what’s wrong with my flying, so he couldn’t properly instruct me on how to correct my mistakes.

Nevertheless, he was highly motivated, and he was really great at using checklists and procedures, pilotage, and dead-reckoning. I learned a lot from him in these areas.

In my opinion, we did too many circuits. It’s my fault too; I should have landed earlier for discussion instead of practicing the same mistake repeatedly. However, it’s challenging to realize when you’re making the same mistake. It’s possible that the instructor faced the same difficulty, but I am not sure.

Instructor #3 was great to work with. We flew circuits, stalls, landings, and cross-countries together, and he spoke excellent English. He did not interfere with the controls much during the flights, as he is an airline pilot and knows when to let the student pilot handle the aircraft. He provided detailed briefings before each flight, which was very helpful. Actually we only had a few flights together, mostly focusing on cross-countries, and I didn’t have any issues with cross-countries: my main problem at that moment was with landings.

Instructor #4. He was the most experienced among all the instructors I had by that time. He had a keen eye to identify issues and provides precise instructions. He flied truly visually in VFR flights, and I am convinced that he could fly the plane perfectly even without any instruments. He is generous with his tips and hints, and I have heard that he has a lot of experience in aerobatics. He had an innate sense of the airplane. Unfortunately, he was not a PPL instructor anymore, but a chief pilot.

Instructor #5 was very experienced, but not very motivated. For example, we flew about 15 circuits, and during the debriefing, he simply said “you did it in a wrong way”. I wonder why we had to do 15 circuits when it seems clear that he had enough experience to understand the problem after 3-4 circuits. It would have been more efficient to land, explain the issue, and try again. It’s frustrating to have flown so many “wrong” circuits without clear guidance on how to improve.

Instructor #6 was an experienced glider pilot, which influences his piloting style as he was always looking for a suitable field in case of engine failure, and we had steeper approaches than I used to, almost power-off ones (“what if we lose the engine now?”). However, he is a competent instructor who enjoys teaching and knows how to explain concepts well. He allowed me to correct any problems, and if I fail to notice them, he points them out without taking control. This really helps me improve my flying.

Instructor #7 was highly experienced with around 5000 flight hours and a calm demeanor. He excels in explaining and knows what actions to take in different situations. As I was undertaking a commercial program under his guidance, he didn’t need to frequently intervene with the controls. But it was comforting to know that he has the capability to handle any unexpected situations that might arise. Additionally, he is comfortable with flying in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), B airspace, and challenging airports.

Possibly I will update my list 🙂






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04/09/2017: My First Flight
04/25/2017: EASA PPL written exam (6 exams passed)
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06/03/2019: EASA ATPL theory (6/14)
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07/15/2019: FAA IR IPC
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