Today I’d like to share my personal opinion about flight instructors. I came to the training base of my school when they did not have permanent staff, and I was flying with different instructors during my PPL.
At first I’d like to talk about some moments that I knew in theory, but did not always follow in practice. Especially considering the fact that I came from a zero level, and had to learn a lot.
The main point: be fully prepared before each flight. Videos, books, flight simulator – use as much as you can and as much as you have available time for. Mark blind spots and ask the instructor about them. But do not waste valuable flight time for that.
Know your syllabus in as much detail as possible. Know your weak points and problems. Ask about them if in doubt. Try to focus on weak points. Possibly it can be a bit easier to train with the only one instructor during the whole course, because he can track your progress, but remember: it is your license and your training. Nobody can track your progress better than you.
Some instructors make great briefings. Some do not. If the instructor does not formulate detailed flight exercises and goals, you must do it yourself before the flight. Do not introduce too many new factors (ideally no more than one new factor per flight). Syllabus helps in that very much. Again, know your syllabus.
Briefly ask about any flight control from the instructor’s side. Ask for details after landing. You should know the purpose of that and correct your wrong actions. Or at least understand what happens.
Action cam is desirable, because post-flight video analysis can help a lot: you can see a lot of problems which you did not see during a flight just because of a high workload.
It’s much better if the instructor is familiar with a training site: runway(s) characteristics, approaches, aerology, typical student problems in that place. I flew in non-mountainous terrain, and it is not so critical, but still important: instructors who know their home base very well are more effective.
So, instructors, according to my personal experience. They are great pilots: they all fly well. But that is not enough. A good instructor is not only a pilot, he is also a good teacher…
Instructor #1. I flew an introductory flight and some first exercises with him. Then some short cross-countries. He hardly speaks English and hardly speaks Russian (he is Czech). It matters. I need much more instruction, not just a flight time and gestures language. It is not the only problem though. He is very nervous. All controls are abrupt. Much more abrupt than necessary. Later I realized that I learned the same piloting manner: other instructors mentioned that, and I made my analysis (again, action cam helps a lot!). Anyway, be a little skeptical, your instructor is not perfect by all means. Of course I don’t say that you should correct him or try to argue, but you should ask if in doubt.
Actually he is a good pilot. But I don’t like him as an instructor. He prevents to make any mistakes even in a safe altitude. He correct everything in advance by himself. I would not like to train landings with him: I need my landings, hot his landings. As like all maneuvers (stalls, emergency landings etc.). Theory is good, but practice is necessary. I think that instructor should allow to do the maneuvers, and correct only if it is a safety problem.
And the worst thing that I cannot ask because of language barrier! I don’t speak Czech, he does not speak English. He can act as a safety pilot, but I am zero hour student, I need an instructor, not just a safety pilot!
With that instructor I had to correct everything fast and abruptly just because if I don’t do that he does that. From my opinion, too abruptly. I did not see other instructors acting like that.
Instructor #2. I flew some circuits and a couple of cross-countries. He speaks English, he almost does not touch the controls without necessity. He is mainly a helicopter pilot, and it seems that he builds his PIC hours. Even I can see that he needs much more experience as an instructor: he hardly remembers PPL syllabus and does not provide good briefings. He does not remember Vx, Vy, Va etc. for C150. He also highly focused on flight instruments instead of external references. He is a very good pilot, and his landings are also good. But he cannot explain what’s wrong with my flying, so, cannot properly explain what should I do to correct my problems. But he is highly motivated, and, again, he is a good pilot.
WIth him I made a habit to use checklists, pilotage and dead-reckoning. He is really good in it.
From my opinion, we made too much circuits. It is my fault too: I had to land earlier for discussion, not practice the same mistake. But it’s really hard to understand that you repeat the same mistake. Possibly for instructor too, I don’t know.
Instructor #3. We flew circuits, stalls, landings and cross-countries. Great English. He did not touch controls a lot. He is an airline pilot. At least I have briefings! Actually not so man words about that instructor: we made just a couple of flights, mainly cross-countries, he is good. I am good in cross-countries too. I am not so good in landings.
Instructor #4. The most experienced, he sees the problems and knows how to solve them. He knows and tells exact action sequences, flies real VFR (I think he can perfectly fly without instruments at all), he tells some hints. As I know, he has a lot of aerobatic hours. He feels the airplane. Unfortunately he is not a PPL instructor, he is a chief pilot.
Instructor #5. Very experienced, but not very motivated. For example, we flew about 15 circuits. Debriefing, and “you do it in a wrong way”. So why 15, why not 3? You definitely have enough experience to understand it after 3-4 circuits! You know your right way? Land, explain, fly again! What for we flew so much “in a wrong way”?
Instructor #6. He has a lot of glider hours. So, his piloting manner is a bit biased: at any moment he is always looking for a suitable field in case of engine failure, and approach is usually steeper that I used to (what if we lose the engine on the approach?). But by all other means he is good. He is a real instructor, he knows how to explain, and he possibly enjoys that. He allows me to correct the problems, or, if I do nothing (or I do not see the problem), he can point on that without touching the controls. It really helps.
Instructor #7. He has about 5000 flight hours. He is very experienced, and he is very calm. He knows how to explain, he knows what to do. I fly commercial program with him, so it is not about touching the controls. But I like to feel that he knows what to do even if something goes wrong. At the same time he is OK with flying in IMC, flying in B airspace and flying to different (possibly challenging) airports.
Possibly I will increase my list 🙂