Category Archives: Flight Instruction

Aviation as a Public Good / Socialism

There is this meme going around of a super rich guy updating a 747 with nearly obscene amenities. I say, hey, if you want to throw money around like that, and you don’t mind the headaches and wastafe, good for you… alas, another point of view is that spending with abandon is morally inferior and as such taxes need to be increased to at least put the brakes on doing so. The thing is, there is a much bigger issue at stake, and that is the issue of socialism / the public good vs a fee for service model as a means of funding.

The nations aviation infrastructure, a socialistic driven system, was built on other peoples money via some pretty high taxes over many decades… but in todays world, socialism is considered a grave evil, unlike the era of decades past, where it was also considered a grave evil, but with an exception carved out for govt funding of specific things for the public good. Alas, the public good model is getting slammed in a huge way today, and not without good reason. A couple big issues.

1, First, a few overly entitled wealthy individuals lobbied municipalities to build gold plated airports as a means of economic development. If said development activity came to light and was sustainable, ok, but far too often, its transient, leaving the local aviation community and taxpayers holding the bag for gold plating no one needs, often for decades. This often times puts aviation, which should be a public good in an evil place… which leads to…

2. No one wants to pay taxes anymore, even those who have built their enterprise often times with serious infrastructure support provided by uncle sam, at no, or very limited direct cost. The saying, I have mine, screw you rings very true in this. Many sacrifices were made by the greatest generation to get us to where we are today… and now that some have done very well, they no longer want to pay anywhere close to what the prior generations did to help them get there. There is a real push for fee for service, rather than socialism (ie aviation as a public good funded by fuel taxes as well as general revenue at the local, state, and fed levels as has been the case for many decades).

To add insult to injury Government has been complicit in this, throwing other peoples money around like it grows on trees… and being more than willing to gold plate things and/or offer govt guaranteed monopoly status for campaign donations.

As a pilot, a prior aviation business owner, and a user of Uncle Sams aviation services since the early 80’s, there is no way I could have accomplished anywhere near what I did had it not been for the aviation as a public good model. Such a model is one of the reasons why aviation is still somewhat viable in the US, as contrasted with much of the world which relies on the fee for service model.

Granted, one can argue that today’s world of global competition should obsolete the aviation as a public good model as its just too expensive. On the other hand, imagine what a few decades of fee for service could do to the substantial public investments we currently have… is trashing the investments of the greatest generation really worth the tax savings that might come about from doing so?

Would it not be better to surgically go in, and slash and burn the waste, the gold plating, and the monopolies? Such could save a boat load of money, and at the same time maintains very useful services… but this means campaign donors will squeal in a huge way.

I think some major squealing is a small price to pay, but then again I’m not running for office.

Blowing a Valve Over the Post Office

I was chatting with a fellow on twitter today who had a gear down problem, and made mention of the fact that sharing his experience could be a great learning tool for others. This got me thinking a bit, and I thought, wow, I should probably do the same… and with almost 30 years of flying I have quite a number of them, so here goes. (this is from 1985)

I knew the engine was slightly over TBO, but the compression figures were still looking good. We’d done a top overhaul about 350 hours previously, and were hoping to eek out another 200 or so, before tearing it done for a major overhaul in the fall. A student had come back in from a solo flight, and was crabbing about poor climb performance. Since the density altitude and humidity was pretty high that day, it would have been easy to leave it at that, but we decided it best to check things out before sending out the next student.

As such, I did a ground run up, and checked max rpm, and it was right on the money as far as history goes and such. There were no unusual noises, nor was there any roughness noticed at all. A pre-takeoff checklist also indicated no problems whatsoever.

I then proceeded to taxi out, and did a second pre-takeoff check at the pad, where everything checked out just fine. Tower clears me for immediate takeoff… there is a DC9 in position and hold on the intersecting runway. During the takeoff roll, everything seemed normal… acceleration was typical, as was the climb to about 100ft, and then things started to go south. My first thought was carb ice, being it was a humid day, and I’d often run into such before with this particular aircraft. Of course, by that time, I’d run out of runway, and was right on top of the post office… and upon hitting the carb heat, it was pretty obvious icing was not the problem this time.

Directly in front of me is a residential neighborhood with wires everywhere. To my left and somewhat behind is the remainder of the intersecting runway… too bad, the DC9 had already been cleared for takeoff, and no way was I going to risk a midair, to say nothing of wake turbulence. To my right and slightly behind, is a long street, with a fair amount of traffic, but no wires. Fortunately, since about day 2 of training, I could hear my primary instructor hollering in my ear, “you just lost your engine, where are you going to land”, so I at least knew before takeoff what my options were.

On a positive note, since the engine is still producing some power, I am still able to climb albeit exceedingly slowly. In addition, I’m also making a very shallow bank towards that road. I dont know when or if the engine is going to quit but I figure each foot of altitude gained is a positive. I also knew of a second option, namely that when the long road ended, if I continued the bank another 30 degrees, there was a second road without wires I could use.

As I rolled out of the bank over the road, at now an amazing 200 feet, I called up tower, and said I had engine trouble and needed to land asap. They saw I was in trouble, and cleared me to land any runway… sure, I’d like to use a runway too, but a road will do, turf would do even better, as long as its long and flat enough… but houses or wires would really suck. I also run through the emergency flow at this time to rule out any other problems.

Fortunately, I’m still climbing, and now I’ve changed my plan to the diagonal road without wires. It was looking to be a lot better choice than having to try and land between cars… and if I kept climbing, I might well be able to make it back to an intersecting runway. Then again, a road at a 30 degree angle, puts said intersecting runway at a near 120 degree turn… and no, I’d rather risk a near zero traffic road without wires, than a 120 degree steep turn at low altitude.

Decision time is now coming up again… the engine is still producing power, I’m at roughly 300 feet, and my ability to land on the road will be questionable shortly as it takes an abrupt right turn. On the other hand, at this point, even if the engine quits I can make the airport boundary, and put the plane down on turf even though it will make for an interesting crosswind landing.

Knowing that the airport boundary and turf is assured, I now start a shallow bank to line up with one of the runways. I leave the power setting alone, and continue to try and climb. In fact, I kept power on until I was assured of making the runway. The landing was uneventful, as was the taxi back to the hanger.

ImageI got in, and after shut down, including a shut down mag check, I pulled the prop through to confirm my suspicions. One cylinder had no compression… and based upon the air rushing through the exhaust system, I figured an exhaust value was toast. After pulling the heads off, it turned out the valve itself wasnt massacred like the one in this photo, but the poor valve seat was a goner in a huge way. It was interesting, when we did the major… short of mandatory replacements, and the heads, the rest of the components were well within spec. Its even more interesting that the top overhaul failed at a mere 350 hours, when it should have lasted close to twice that long.

So, what did I learn…

  1. Expedited takeoffs while a nicety can serve to massively limit ones options should one run into trouble. I was in the habit of accepting them automatically.
  2. Its critical to know ones airfield, and have a number of game plans in the event of trouble. Granted, scoping out the area for wires and suitable roads is not always possible. In such an occurrence, it is often best to take the first reasonable choice, rather than making a turn only to find out the 2nd option is loads worse than the first.
  3. Being I knew the glide ratio of my a/c with the power off, and the prop windmilling, I had a reasonably decent idea of how far I could travel subject to my altitude. It should also be noted, that once one is in ground effect, if the surface is flat, the glide ratio often substantially increases. On the other hand, there were multiple embankments, and drainage ditches, expecting to use ground effect would be a bad deal in this instance.
  4. In the back of my mind, I knew I was likely causing more damage to the engine, but figured better it, than the airframe, or worse me. Valve guides are dirt cheap compared to an ER visit, even back then.

The High Cost of Flight Training

Its interesting to note folks views on the cost of flight training. On the one hand, some hold the view that the cost will be high, and its ok if it goes higher, and its ok if the pilot population shrinks. Others hold to the view that aviation is too expensive, and that if the costs could be reigned in, the pilot population is likely to grow. Both points of view are correct, within the confines of their respective market demographic.

Most assuredly if Walmart entered the flight training arena, and made it possible for eighteen year olds with minimum wage jobs to once again earn a pilots certificate the pilot population would grow. Whenever something heads towards commodity status, everything, and anything is on the chopping block if it doesnt contribute to the bottom line. It may mean an exceedingly spartan flight school, 50 year old aircraft, and few if any amenities, unless such are free, or very close to being free. It may mean their may not be very many rental aircraft available for full weekend trips, as a/c utilization must be very high in order to keep the fixed costs to a minimum.

By the same token, if folks want the latest and greatest gold plated experiences, and can afford to pay whatever the going price is, they are a lot less concerned with price, than they are the experience provided. Its likely such folks would the values provided by the latest and greatest avionics, the newest airplanes, the highest tech wx terminals both in air and on the ground of great value. Obviously, such individuals are unlikely to find much value should they encounter a flight school decorated with 1950’s vintage furniture, paint that hasnt been touched since that era, and the scents of an equally vintage cigar chomping pilot population flying the hanger. in addition, such folks would likely find a minimum charge of 8 hours hobbs as a minimum full day rental fee anathama.

Ultimately the issue is this… there are a multitude of markets, and one size/approach doesnt fit all. The lower end market is one that no one seemingly wants to touch anymore… but it was where money was made years ago. Yes, the allure of gold plate is there, and it can be easier to make substantial cash if the market is large enough to demand such, and most business schools focus on that aspect. On the other hand, when one looks at the churn of Boutique retail vs Big Box discounters and compares it to aviation, it does make one wonder.

Approach-Avoidance Conflict and Flight Training

I was reading @SusanCain’s blog where she writes about approach-avoidance conflict in the public speaking arena, but also a bit more generally as concerns introverts. She presents a short quiz using the terms stop/go which can help folks understand themselves, and how such ties into their decision making process.

Taking this into the flight training arena, someone who scores high on both sections of the quiz looks to be an accident statistic in the making. Ie high scores within the go characteristic often lead to the FAA Hazardous Attitudes Scale factors of Anti-authority, Impulsiveness, Invulnerability, and Macho. High scores within the stop characterization, often lead to the factors of Resignation, and Worry/Anxiety.

In other words, high scores in both arenas would seemingly connect the links of an accident chain; get-home-itis, and impulsivity, often lead to trouble, only to be followed up by worry/anxiety/resignation which pretty much pounds a nail into ones coffin. Whats useful of course, is if a pilot is aware of such, they can be extra vigilant to keep one or more links out of the picture as part of their decision making process.

As we know, self evaluation of HAS factors is a tricky deal. Students don’t like the terms, and say, well gee, thats not how I am, and just blow it off as a bunch of FAA nonsense. The stop/go quiz, being so neutral, might help them think, hmmm, I could see myself slipping into that role/factor, rather than just merely self identifying.

One other statement in the public speaking post that I found of issue was the following:

5. Everyone has both a Stop System and a Go System. But many introverts seem to have extra-strength Stop systems that tend to act up as they contemplate doing scary things like speech-giving.

I’ve often noticed that folks who are more introverted often times have more of a challenge with stalls and or engine out practice, than the go-go-go types. The normal approach to such is to redirect their focus to the end goal, in some cases going so far as to go off syllabi for a bit to re-bolster motivation.

What I had not considered was how introversion / extroversion traits have the potential to link up with HAS. In part this is due to the fact that most hazardous attitude attributes usually don’t show up until much later in flight training. It’s also true, that as a CFI, I consider each and every student unique… One size fits all will invariably result in missing something critical, and one will get burned. On the other hand, bringing some of this to light early on, may well exercise the law of primacy, and get better, and more tailored decision making rolling from the get go, a very good thing indeed.

The Web is not a Panacea

While there is some truth in this statement…. “Most people that look for something on the Internet use search engines like Google or Yahoo. If your site is one of the first that pops up when they enter “flight instruction salt lake city,” for example, you’re more likely to have the person visit your website, and give you a call if they like what they see.” The same could be said years ago for naming yourself AAA flight instruction to be first in the phone book, or having a large phone book ad etc…

A form of marketing such as the above is better than just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, or someone to walk in the door… but only a tiny tiny bit better. Its the same deal with having a twitter or a facebook page, its just a tiny bit better than doing nothing, even though social media gurus likely would suggest otherwise.

Marketing takes work, short cuts dont cut it, no matter how new, or how well they are sold. Marketing also takes risk. Folks fail to see the risk of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, the door to open, the facebook to get commented, or to be retweeted. Sitting around is perhaps the biggest risk, and one of the biggest reason flight schools dont have students… and also why aviation is so darn expensive.

This is not to say a flight instructor should not be available at the flight school, nor that one shouldnt use social media, nor have an entry in the phone book… but that simply doing the absolute minimum possible, and going back to sitting around and expecting results doesnt work out too well. I’ll go a bit further and say one should not dilute their efforts too much either. I’ve seen twitter profiles with 50 tweets abandoned, facebook pages with a month of entries, and no more, and blogs with 5 entries from 2 years ago. Such ends up a lot like that 4″ 2 column yellow pages ad… Its better than nothing, but its not going to bring in a ton of new customers either.

Consistent effort over the long haul is the answer, albeit testing and followup to see what works is critical. Just as one would not run 5 years of tv ads if they dont bring in business, neither should one pursue other marketing approaches if they cost more in time and effort than the customers they bring in the door.

Shortcutting Study and Guess What Happens…

I came across the following article entitled To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test, and went egads, this is new ??? To me, one could pretty much take the experiment as presented and predict the outcome based upon the FOI. They outcomes observed are not mind blowing in the least, at least not from the point of view of a flight instructor.

Part of it no doubt, as we tend to keep ed psych at arms length, and even then, the ed psych we use tends to be anything but the latest and greatest. The other part is that our focus is to build safe pilots for life, and we tend to look at the standardized written, and even the flight and oral exams as necessary, but that they are far from the endall when it comes to our goals. Ie, no flight instructor in their right mind would be cool signing off on the 8710, if the prospective pilot were not safe, irrespective of how well they could present themselves when it came to said tests. That being said, lets roll through the experiment and see how it spins out from a flight instructors point of view.

The researchers engaged 200 college students in two experiments, assigning them to read several paragraphs about a scientific subject — how the digestive system works, for example, or the different types of vertebrate muscle tissue.

Ok, for our purposes, lets say the material is a POH or flight manual, and the focus will be on one system.

In the first experiment, the students were divided into four groups. One did nothing more than read the text for five minutes. Another studied the passage in four consecutive five-minute sessions.

Depending upon the student, a single read, or reading the material over and over again a few times may be beneficial. Then again, if this is their only exposure to the materials… the students retention a week later is likely to be about nill. Such is a short cut… it works for a bit, but it comes back with a vengeance later.

A third group engaged in “concept mapping,” in which, with the passage in front of them, they arranged information from the passage into a kind of diagram, writing details and ideas in hand-drawn bubbles and linking the bubbles in an organized way.

For some students this might be helpful to them. Note, the key fault here though… “with the passage in front of them”. Such a process might well help a student learn that a vacuum system includes a regulator, and a filter… they might even remember some of it a week later. In a lot of ways, this method is a short cut… its a whole lot easier to sort of wing ones way through things, than it for the student to go hard core and struggle through things closed book so to speak. (granted, some areas will prove troublesome to some students, and short cuts such as the above may be ok, until the student has more experience) Short cuts functioning like training wheels are not all bad, but they best be short lived, of they too will come back to bite later.

The final group took a “retrieval practice” test. Without the passage in front of them, they wrote what they remembered in a free-form essay for 10 minutes. Then they reread the passage and took another retrieval practice test.

Asking a student what happens when a vacuum filter starts to get plugged, or the difference between a dry and wet pump as a quick check before heading out to the airplane often serves to reinforce what they learned in their home study (and such an approach is about as closed book as one can get). Even more so, bringing up systems type issues through out flight training, reinforces what they are learning, and brings relevance to the materials. Such a process increases retention multifold in contrast with the other methods. A self directed students concept mapping, no matter how well done deal pales in comparison with in your face confrontation with a hypothetical system problem, or even better a real test of understanding with a failure in the sim.

A week later all four groups were given a short-answer test that assessed their ability to recall facts and draw logical conclusions based on the facts.

Yep… the practice retrieval approach proved better than the other approaches, just as the FOI would suggest it would. Reading, rereading, concept mapping ect are useful tools for learning… but experiencing a system issue which tests your understanding and ability to apply what you learned is another deal entirely. Implementing the struggle of an in your face event is really where its at education wise, all other aspects pale in comparison…. and failure early on is ok. Its fine to struggle, in a lot of ways, its even better to struggle than to think you understand when you really dont.

(In a lot of ways, such parallels my experience with pre-med organic chem students…. they flashcarded things to death, but had about zero understanding of the real principles involved. They did not want to struggle, and they needed the A’s, they needed the standardized tests… they really saw no need to understand what really was going on unlike a chem major intent on grad school.)

In fairness though, we cant very well approach every possible a/c system or other parts of aeronautical knowledge in such a fashion, especially at the PPL level, and thats ok, the certificate is a license to learn. What we do need to look out for though, is the student who does the weekend cram ground school and aces the test. We need to look out for the student who can parrot the systems manual left and right. Such students need some in your face experience time to really see if they understand and can apply their knowledge, not just parrot back “good” answers.

As flight instructors we need to continuously be evaluating, and encouraging our students learning, as well as giving them tools to help them learn. We may even advocate some short cuts to help a student through an area they are having trouble with… but we also need to be upfront that such is like a training wheel. It is not an end all.

Aviation Humor at Shorts Expense

Shorts, the box the airplane came in.

The biggest fear of every Shorts crew is crashing in a trailer park, as the wreckage would never be found.

The Shorts flies by vacuum (it’s so ugly that the air is repulsed and gets out of the way)

I gotta admit though… always thought the whole corrugated aluminum skin thing was kinda cool, almost retro like a trimotor.

Is this pilot training????

I was reading Bob Miller’s newsletter, and I about had a bird over inadequate training…. I am hoping this is an abnormality, but I fear it isnt. From Bob’s newsletter.

A CFI who recently graduated from a well-known four-year aviation college in the Northeast United States came into my office recently inquiring about a job as a flight instructor.

My first question, as in all such such interviews, was, “How much actual instrument time have you logged?”  Regrettably, the answer was predictable.

“Ah, I’d say less than one, maybe two hours,” replied the job candidate

The saddest part of this, is chances are this applicant was likely teaching others before applying to work for Bob. How on earth can anyone teach IFR, much less sign off on an 8710, without significant actual experience? Simulators are great, and todays are far beyond the Link Trainer of my bosses time and the ATC610 of my era, but they fall far short of the demands of real inflight calls and decision making. While I dont have my old log ready at hand, I do remember some actual IFR work, well before I even took my private checkride. If memory serves, I had over 5 hours actual at the time.

During my instrument training, actual played a big role too… we dealt with thunderstorms, approaches to minimums, icing, busy ATC, all in actual. I admit, it did add cost, and time, but it was well worth it. In less than an hour after passing my IFR checkride, I was in the soup for real on the way back home with confidence.

Granted, the airline focused procedural type training that apparently goes on in many 4 yr programs does make sense for what it does, even if shy on actual. It prepares the student for further training with an airline… provided, the airline actually does so. In reading the Colgan 3407 transcript, and finding out that with as many hours as the co-pilot had, that she had no icing experience was very concerning.

In many ways, the dues paying of old paid a multitude of benefits. Ie, a thousand hours single pilot IFR in a old freighter, flying all over the country in all seasons is a somewhat scary and very intense, albeit massive skill builder. The thing is, an aviation training program which only teaches to the minimum PTS levels and FAA requirements, no way no how preps students for such an activity, albeit the certificate does provide for such operations.

If we add in todays economic realities, and that airline traffic is likely to shrink to 1984 levels, the number of airline right seats are going to be hard to come by. Thus, far too many folks on that path will have to change gears…. Students are going to need real life, real challenge experience, if they are to prosper, much less survive outside the airline career world.

Secondly, with TAA such as the Cirrus, with its resounding call to be used in a multitude of arenas, not to provide ones students with other than simulated experiences is just going to push the accident rate higher and higher.

Otoh, there is no question, that an instrument rating makes for a safer VFR only pilot. The additional flight skills, as well as the decision making skills are of great value. I know back when the FAA drastically lowered the PIC time require for the instrument rating, one of the factors was to improve low time pilot safety. I think it was successful in that regard… The other factor, of course was how it impacted the safety of those who exercise the privileges of the certificate, which led towards a much needed, and greater focus on decision making, again, a successful endeavor. However, the shortened overall time period, often times precludes actual, much less seasonal variations, provided location allows for them, and that’s a real problem when it comes to the privileges granted by the certificate.

The solution… well there are some out there, but it requires the individual pilot to take responsibility.

  • For thunderstorm or icing experience… bite the bullet, and spend big $ for some time in an A/C certified for known icing, and with weather radar.
  • Inquire around, see if you can swing a deal on a repositioning flight, or dead heading with in the right seat, ideally with a gifted instructor serving as PIC in the left. Even if its not possible to log time, or manipulate the controls, the experienced gained of being in upfront in the soup, in the ice, and/or discussing radar returns is invaluable.
  • Bug your CFI, tell em you want actual, if the school doesnt want to train in actual, but has amazing instructors, and you want to stay with them, ask for a referral to an outfit that does for a few hours.
  • See about a major IFR x/c experience, such as offered by http://www.ifrwest.com Field Morey has been doing this for years.

As far as IFR competency and employment goes, I think what Austin Collin‘s has to say to potential new employees makes a ton of sense.

Every pilot must have a level of knowledge, skill and experience that would enable that pilot to cope — ALONE — safely and legally with any situation that is likely to occur while flying the line. Such situations include icing encounters, thunderstorms, approaches down to minimums at night in turbulent conditions, complex ATC clearances with last-minute changes, or various instrument and equipment failures. ….. If you are not already current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane, common sense dictates that you need to get current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane before you go out and apply for a job flying on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane! A doctor would certainly not go out and apply for a job with a hospital or a medical clinic if he was not already a competent physician. Likewise, a pilot should not seek aviation employment unless he possesses at least the minimal level of basic and general knowledge and skill to perform those functions and exercise the privileges of his certificates and ratings.

… SOLID, CONSISTENT SINGLE-PILOT INSTRUMENT/COMMERCIAL PILOT PROFICIENCY IN A COMPLEX, HIGH-PERFORMANCE, SINGLE-ENGINE AIRPLANE USING VOR AND NDB NAVIGATION WITH NO GPS AND NO AUTOPILOT!

Unless you plan to operate VFR only, or use your instrument certificate for enroute only, ie, from IAF to landing will be in solid VFR conditions, most training programs, if only to the PTS are pretty inadequate, and most certainly for employment without further training. To truly use your certificate, you need to demand more than the minimums prescribed by the FAA.

Aviation, the social leveling agent ?

Its funny looking back, how aviation tended to level out social demographics. The funniest I ever experienced was the dialog between a F100 A level exec and a auto mechanic. At the airport, both tended to wear biker attire, and flew similar airplanes, and often chat with one another. During the workweek, each had dramatically different roles…

One week, the F100 exec took his BMW in for some engine work. He never put 2+2 together that he knew the mechanic, nor did the mechanic the same. It was just business… Until the next weekend at the airport, when the mechanic was chatting about a car he worked on, and then a whole bunch of laughter ensured. The 2 guys did not recognize each other in their work attire, and just went about their business. At the airport, things added up, and they got a good chuckle out of the deal.

I remember the same as a young green behind the ears pilot flying parts here and there. I often would run into big wheels at any number of airport lounges during wait times, and we’d chat a bit. I had no idea who I would be talking to, short of the obviously attire they were wearing, or the jet they flew in on. Yet, the wisdom and the things I learnd from those fellows was always amazing, to say nothing of how much they would feel free to share with an interested youngster.

To some extent, this leveling thing seems to be somewhat history related. Years ago, I met a number Quiet Birdmen, and it blew my mind that these gurus of aviation held to such a level social playing field. It was the love of flying that brought folks together, whether it was a retired old guy in a 150, a airshow guy with a Stearman, or a 747 Captain, it made no difference, it was flying.

Today though, there does seem some disparity… and I’m not so sure why that is. Folks still love flying, but the starry eye teenager at the airport fence, or the grizzled old QB with a cigar perpetually flying the hanger have ceased to exist for the most part. I’m sure the sanitized sterile airport environment of today has some to do with it, but I’m leery to attribute causality. I’m thinking there has to be more… I think if it could be identified, and addressed, it might do more for aviation, that even the most expensive and dedicated marketing platform to generate interest.

What do you think?

On Checkride Signoffs

When I sign off on an 8710, I’m stating that the student has the required pilot skill, and the judgment necessary to safely exercise the privileges granted by the certificate/rating he is going to be tested for. The DPE, or FAA inspector, just serves as a small cross check to see if I’ve done my job correctly. Ie, they just do not have time to check over everything I’ve taught over the last few months or years… the required elements of the PTS (practical test standards) are not the end all, a pilot could pass said elements, and still be a danger to him/herself and others.

However… not all instructors see things this way. The text of 8710-11 only states: I have personally instructed the applicant, and consider this person ready to take the test.

Does this mean, every one of my students is an ace flyer; every private pilot could safely handle SLD icing, a broken throttle cable, a deer on the runway at Vr, a wheel bearing lockup, or being shot at etc… or every instrument student could safely fly an ILS approach to minimums, in TSRW, with an electrical failure, gear failure, a barfing passenger, and a loose dog in back… no. What it means is: the pilot applicant understands, the issuance of a certificate is a license to learn, and that while their initial skill levels are higher than the FAA minimums (I view the PTS as absolute  minimums), they will be lacking in judgment until they gain further experience, and they must replace personal judgment with other tools… ie PAVE ( personal pilot, aircract, environment, external factors ) is one of many etc.

For some… this means they end up being fair weather pilots, in well maintained aircraft, and rarely if ever venture much beyond 50 knots from home base, and never at night, and thats ok… they use judgment to limit what they encounter, and short of WINGS, BFR, or refresher training, higher skills dont get much of a workout. For others, it means going round the world once they have enough experience, and skill to do so, and their higher skill levels will be pushed as they train for such. The certificate/rating provides for a multitude of options, limited for the most part only by pilot judgment and skill.

And what about instructors who view their role as test prep only, and they just teach to the minimums? If their students are sharp, they will do fine. If their students are not so sharp… well, thats an issue. Either A, hopefully the DPE or FAA inspector will catch any problems, or B, the pilot will take it on his/her own to work on skill and judgment after they pass their checkride.

I do think there is a moral component in this… for some people, they just dont have, nor do they seem trainable in the judgment arena. It might be they need to be paired with another instructor, and sometimes, that has worked out well… things click, and while they may be a bit iffy for a bit, they end up doing just fine over time. For others, they just dont get it… and for such students, they need to be aware of this as soon as possible, so either A, they can wash out early, or B, take a good look at themselves, and see what they need to change before continuing.