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Aviation Instructors Handbook | Chapter 8

Students look to aviation instructors as authorities in their respective areas. It is important that aviation instructors not only know how to teach, but they also need to project a knowledgeable and professional image. In addition, aviation instructors are on the front lines of efforts to improve the safety record of the industry. This chapter addresses the scope of responsibilities for aviation instructors and enumerates methods they can use to enhance their professional image and conduct.


The job of an aviation instructor, or any instructor, is to teach. Previous chapters have discussed how people learn, the teaching process, and teaching methods. As indicated, the learning process can be made easier by helping students learn, providing adequate instruction, demanding adequate standards of performance, and emphasizing the positive. [figure 8-1]


Learning should be an enjoyable experience. By making each lesson a pleasurable experience for the student, the instructor can maintain a high level of student motivation. This does not mean the instructor must make things easy for the student or sacrifice standards of performance to please the student. The student will experience satisfaction from doing a good job or from successfully meeting the challenge of a difficult task.

The idea that people must be led to learning by making it easy is a fallacy. People are not always attracted to something simply because it is pleasant and effortless. Though they might initially be drawn to less difficult tasks, they ultimately devote more effort to activities that bring rewards, such as self-enhancement and personal satisfaction. People want to feel capable; they are proud of the successful achievement of difficult goals.

Learning should be interesting. Knowing the objective of each period of instruction gives meaning and interest to the student as well as the instructor. Not knowing the objective of the lesson often leads to confusion, disinterest, and uneasiness on the part of the student.

Learning to fly should provide students with an opportunity for exploration and experimentation. As part of this, students should be allowed time to explore and evaluate the various elements of each lesson. This encourages them to discover their own capabilities and it helps build self-confidence. Since students learn at different rates and in different ways, it usually is necessary to adjust presentations for some students.

Learning to fly should be a habit-building period during which students devote their attention, memory, and judgment to the development of correct habit patterns. Any objective other than to learn the right way is likely to make students impatient. The instructor should keep the students focused on good habits both by example and by a logical presentation of learning tasks.

Because aviation instructors have full responsibility for all phases of required training, they must be clear regarding the objectives. For ground and flight training, the objectives reflect the knowledge and skill required to train safe pilots who can complete the knowledge and practical tests for the appropriate certificate or rating. In the case of the flight student studying for the practical test, the objectives will come from the practical test standards (PTS) for the desired certificate or rating. Maintenance students will likewise be facing objectives aligned with the knowledge tests and the Oral and Practical. After the objectives have been established, the sequence of training, teaching methods, and related activities must be organized to best achieve them.

To accomplish these objectives, instructors need to take specific actions. The following measures should result in a positive and efficient learning experience.

  • Devise a plan of action.


  • Create a positive student-instructor relationship.


  • Present information and guidance effectively.


  • Transfer responsibility to the student as learning occurs.


  • Evaluate student learning and thereby measure teaching effectiveness.


As noted in the list, the instructor must devise a plan of action, and present information and guidance effectively. Knowing the objectives is one part of accomplishing these tasks and knowing the student is the other. For example, the plan of action for a lesson on reciprocating engines for maintenance students would be different for a student transitioning from automotive maintenance than it would for a student with no maintenance background. In theory, the transitioning student would have less need for basic information. The best way to confirm this is with a pretest. Until the students are tested, the instructor does not know for sure where each student stands in relation to the objectives. A pretest is a criterion-referenced test constructed to measure the knowledge and skills that are necessary to begin the course. Pretests also may be used to determine the student’s current level of knowledge and skill in relation to the material that will be presented in the course.

The pretest measures whether or not the student has the prerequisite knowledge and skills necessary to proceed with the course of instruction. Examples of skills that might be required of a student pilot would be knowledge of basic math, understanding the English language, and having certain spatial skills to understand maps and the relationship of maps to the earth. A pretest can expose deficiencies in these and other areas. The instructor could then base the plan of action accordingly. In the extreme, it might be necessary for the prospective student to get more training or education before beginning flight training.

The second part of a pretest is measuring the level of knowledge or skill the student has in relation to the material that is going to be taught. Typically, one or two questions for each of the key knowledge areas or skills in the course are included. The instructor will then be able to identify how much the student knows and tailor the instruction accordingly. Knowing where a student is at the beginning helps the instructor present the information and offer guidance more effectively.

Helping the student learn does not mean that the instructor has the responsibility for performing learning tasks which students need to do for themselves. This is not effective instruction. The best instructors provide information, guidance, and opportunity for student learning, and support the student’s motivation while they are in a learning situation.


The flight instructor should attempt to carefully and correctly analyze the student’s personality, thinking, and ability. No two students are alike, and the same methods of instruction cannot be equally effective for each student. The instructor must talk with a student at some length to learn about the student’s background, interests, temperament, and way of thinking. The instructor’s methods also may change as the student advances through successive stages of training.

An instructor who has not correctly analyzed a student may soon find that the instruction is not producing the desired results. For example, this could mean that the instructor has analyzed a student as a slow thinker, who is actually a quick thinker but is hesitant to act. Such a student may fail to act at the proper time due to lack of self-confidence, even though the situation is correctly understood. In this case, instruction would obviously be directed toward developing student self-confidence, rather than drill on flight fundamentals. In another case, too much criticism may completely subdue a timid person, whereas brisk instruction may force a more diligent application to the learning task. A slow student requires instructional methods that combine tact, keen perception, and delicate handling. If such a student receives too much help and encouragement, a feeling of incompetence may develop.

A student whose slow progress is due to discouragement and a lack of confidence should be assigned sub-goals that can be attained more easily than the normal learning goals. For this purpose, complex lessons can be separated into elements, and each element practiced until an acceptable performance is achieved before the whole maneuver or operation is attempted. As an example, instruction in S-turns may begin with consideration for headings only. Elements of altitude control, drift correction, and coordination can be introduced one at a time. As the student gains confidence and ability, goals should be increased in difficulty until progress is normal.

Students who are fast learners can also create problems for the instructor. Because they make few mistakes, they may assume that the correction of errors is unimportant. Such overconfidence may soon result in faulty performance. For such students, the instructor should constantly raise the standard of performance for each lesson, demanding greater effort. Individuals learn when they are aware of their errors. Students who are permitted to complete every flight lesson without corrections and guidance will not retain what they have practiced as well as those students who have their attention constantly directed to an analysis of their performance. On the other hand, deficiencies should not be invented solely for the students’ benefit because unfair criticism immediately destroys their confidence in the instructor.

The demands on an instructor to serve as a practical psychologist are much greater than is generally realized. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, an instructor can meet this responsibility through a careful analysis of the students and through a continuing deep interest in them.


Flight instructors must continuously evaluate their own effectiveness and the standard of learning and performance achieved by their students. The desire to maintain pleasant personal relationships with the students must not cause the acceptance of a slow rate of learning or substandard flight performance. It is a fallacy to believe that accepting lower standards to please a student will produce a genuine improvement in the student-instructor relationship. An earnest student does not resent reasonable standards that are fairly and consistently applied.

Instructors fail to provide competent instruction when they permit their students to get by with a substandard performance, or without learning thoroughly some item of knowledge pertinent to safe piloting. More importantly, such deficiencies may in themselves allow hazardous inadequacies in student performance later on.


Aviation instructors have a tremendous influence on their students’ perception of aviation. The way instructors conduct themselves, the attitudes they display, and the manner in which they develop their instruction all contribute to the formation of either positive or negative impressions by their students. The success of an aviation instructor depends, in large measure, on the ability to present instruction so that students develop a positive image of aviation. [figure 8-2]

Chapter 1 emphasized that a negative self-concept inhibits the perceptual process, that fear adversely affects the students’ perceptions, that the feeling of being threatened limits the ability to perceive, and that negative motivation is not as effective as positive motivation. Merely knowing about these factors is not enough. Instructors must be able to detect these factors in their students and strive to prevent negative feelings from becoming part of the instructional process.

Consider how the following scenario for the first lesson might impress a new student pilot without previous experience in aviation:

  • An exhaustive indoctrination in preflight procedures with emphasis on the extreme precautions which must be taken before every flight because “. . . mechanical failures in flight are often disastrous.”


  • Instruction in the extreme care which must be taken in taxiing an airplane, because “. . . if you go too fast, it’s likely to get away from you.”


  • A series of stalls, because “. . . this is how so many people lose their lives in airplanes.”


  • A series of simulated forced landings, because “. . . one should always be prepared to cope with an engine failure.”


These are a series of new experiences that might make the new student wonder whether or not learning to fly is a good idea. The stall series may even cause the student to become airsick. In contrast, consider a first flight lesson in which the preflight inspection is presented to familiarize the student with the airplane and its components, and the flight consists of a perfectly normal flight to a nearby airport and return. Following the flight, the instructor can call the student’s attention to the ease with which the trip was made in comparison with other modes of transportation, and the fact that no critical incidents were encountered or expected.

This by no means proposes that preflight inspections, stalls, and emergency procedures should be omitted from training. It only illustrates the positive approach in which the student is not overwhelmed with the critical possibilities of aviation before having an opportunity to see its potential and pleasurable features. The introduction of emergency procedures after the student has developed an acquaintance with normal operations is not so likely to be discouraging and frightening, or to inhibit learning by the imposition of fear.

There is nothing in aviation that demands that students must suffer as part of their instruction. This has often been the case because of overemphasis on negative motivation and explanations. Every reasonable effort should be made to ensure that instruction is given under the most favorable conditions.

Although most student pilots have been exposed to air travel in one form or another, they may not have flown in light, training aircraft. Consequently, students may experience unfamiliar noises, vibrations, eerie sensations due to G-forces, or a woozy feeling in the stomach. To be effective, instructors cannot ignore the existence of these negative factors, nor should they ridicule students who are adversely affected by them. These negative sensations can usually be overcome by understanding and positive instruction.

When emphasizing to a student that a particular procedure must be accomplished in a certain manner, an instructor might be tempted to point out the consequences of doing it differently. The instructor may even tell the student that to do it otherwise is to flirt with disaster or to suffer serious consequences. Justifications such as these may be very convenient, and the instructor may consider the negative approach necessary to ensure that the point is committed to memory. However, the final test must be whether the stated reasons contribute to the learning situation.

Most new instructors tend to adopt those teaching methods used by their own instructors. These methods may or may not have been good. The fact that one has learned under one system of instruction does not mean that this is necessarily the best way it can be done, regardless of the respect one retains for the ability of their original instructor. Some students learn in spite of their instruction, rather than because of it. Emphasize the positive because positive instruction results in positive learning.


All aviation instructors shoulder an enormous responsibility because their students will ultimately be flying and servicing or repairing aircraft. Flight instructors have some additional responsibilities including the responsibility of evaluating student pilots and making a determination of when they are ready to solo. Other flight instructor responsibilities are based on Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61, and advisory circulars (ACs). [figure 8-3]


Evaluation is one of the most important elements of instruction. In flight instruction, the instructor initially determines that the student understands the procedure or maneuver. Then the instructor demonstrates the maneuver, allows the student to practice the maneuver under direction, and finally evaluates student accomplishment by observing the performance.

Evaluation of demonstrated ability during flight instruction must be based upon established standards of performance, suitably modified to apply to the student’s experience and stage of development as a pilot. The evaluation must consider the student’s mastery of the elements involved in the maneuver, rather than merely the overall performance.

Demonstrations of performance directly apply to the qualification of student pilots for solo and solo cross-country privileges. Also associated with pilot skill evaluations during flight training are the stage checks conducted in FAA-approved school courses and the practical tests for pilot certificates and ratings.

In evaluating student demonstrations of piloting ability, it is important for the flight instructor to keep the student informed of progress. This may be done as each procedure or maneuver is completed or summarized during postflight critiques. When explaining errors in performance, instructors should point out the elements in which the deficiencies are believed to have originated and, if possible, suggest appropriate corrective measures.

Correction of student errors should not include the practice of taking the controls away from students immediately when a mistake is made. Safety permitting, it is frequently better to let students progress part of the way into the mistake and find their own way out. It is difficult for students to learn to do a maneuver properly if they seldom have the opportunity to correct an error. On the other hand, students may perform a procedure or maneuver correctly and not fully understand the principles and objectives involved. When the instructor suspects this, students should be required to vary the performance of the maneuver slightly, combine it with other operations, or apply the same elements to the performance of other maneuvers. Students who do not understand the principles involved will probably not be able to do this successfully.


Flight instructors have the responsibility to provide guidance and restraint with respect to the solo operations of their students. This is by far the most important flight instructor responsibility because the instructor is the only person in a position to make the determination that a student is ready for solo operations. Before endorsing a student for solo flight, the instructor should require the student to demonstrate consistent ability to perform all of the fundamental maneuvers. The student should also be capable of handling ordinary problems that might occur, such as traffic pattern congestion, change in active runway, or unexpected crosswinds. The instructor must remain in control of the situation. By requiring the first solo flight to consist of landings to a full stop, the instructor has the opportunity to stop the flight if unexpected conditions or poor performance warrant such action.


Provision is made on the airman certificate or rating application form for the written recommendation of the flight instructor who has prepared the applicant for the practical test involved. Signing this recommendation imposes a serious responsibility on the flight instructor. A flight instructor who makes a practical test recommendation for an applicant seeking a certificate or rating should require the applicant to thoroughly demonstrate the knowledge and skill level required for that certificate or rating. This demonstration should in no instance be less than the complete procedure prescribed in the applicable practical test standards (PTS).

A practical test recommendation based on anything less risks the presentation of an applicant who may be unprepared for some part of the actual practical test. In such an event, the flight instructor is logically held accountable for a deficient instructional performance. This risk is especially great in signing recommendations for applicants who have not been trained by the instructor involved. 14 CFR parts 61 and 141 require a minimum of three hours of flight training preparation within 60 days preceding the date of the test for a recreational, private, or commercial certificate. The same training requirement applies to the instrument rating. The instructor signing the endorsement is required to have conducted the training in the applicable areas of operation stated in the regulations and the PTS, and certify that the person is prepared for the required practical test. In most cases, the conscientious instructor will have little doubt concerning the applicant’s readiness for the practical test.

FAA inspectors and designated pilot examiners rely on flight instructor recommendations as evidence of qualification for certification, and proof that a review has been given of the subject areas found to be deficient on the appropriate knowledge test. Recommendations also provide assurance that the applicant has had a thorough briefing on the practical test standards and the associated knowledge areas, maneuvers, and procedures. If the flight instructor has trained and prepared the applicant competently, the applicant should have no problem passing the practical test.


The authority and responsibility for endorsing student pilot certificates and logbooks for solo and solo cross-country flight privileges are granted in 14 CFR part 61. These endorsements are further explained in AC 61-65, Certification: Pilots and Flight Instructors. Failure to ensure that a student pilot meets the requirements of regulations prior to making endorsements allowing solo flight is a serious deficiency in performance for which an instructor is held accountable. Providing a solo endorsement for a student pilot who is not fully prepared to accept the responsibility for solo flight operations also is a breach of faith with the student.

Flight instructors also have the responsibility to make logbook endorsements for pilots who are already certificated. Included are additional endorsements for recreational, private, commercial, and instrument-rated pilots as well as flight instructors. Typical examples include endorsements for flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks, and the additional training required for high performance, high altitude, and tailwheel aircraft. Completion of prerequisites for a practical test is another instructor task that must be documented properly. Examples of all common endorsements can be found in the current issue of AC 61-65, Appendix 1. This appendix also includes references to 14 CFR part 61 for more details concerning the requirements that must be met to qualify for each respective endorsement. The examples shown contain the essential elements of each endorsement, but it is not necessary for all endorsements to be worded exactly as those in the AC. For example, changes to regulatory requirements may affect the wording, or the instructor may customize the endorsement for any special circumstances of the student. Any time a flight instructor gives ground or flight training, a logbook entry is required. [figure 8-4]

14 CFR part 61 also requires that the instructor maintain a record in a logbook or some separate document that includes information on the type of endorsement, the name of the person receiving the endorsement, and the date of the endorsement. For a knowledge or practical test endorsement, the record must include the kind of test, the date, and the results. Records of endorsements must be maintained for at least three years.

FAA FORM 8710-1

After ensuring that an applicant for a certificate is prepared for the test and has met all the knowledge, proficiency, and experience requirements, it is advisable for the flight instructor to assist the applicant in filling out FAA Form 8710-1, Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. The instructor’s certification that the applicant is ready to take the test is on the reverse of the form, but the applicant will likely need the assistance of the instructor in filling out the front.

FAA Form 8710-1 comes with instructions attached for completing it. The example shown is for a private pilot applicant who received training under 14 CFR part 61. This is only an example, since the form is periodically revised to reflect changes in the applicable rules and regulations. If the current form is a later edition than shown here, the instructions must be read very carefully to ensure all areas of the form are filled out correctly. The example shown is annotated with additional guidance to clarify or reinforce certain areas that are frequently found incomplete by the FAA during the certification process. [figure 8-5]


Flight instructors often provide required training and endorsements for certificated pilots. AC 61-98,

Currency and Additional Qualification Requirements for Certificated Pilots, contains information to assist the instructor in providing training/endorsements for flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks, and transitions to other makes and models of aircraft. Included in the AC is general guidance in each of these areas, references to other related documents, and sample training plans that are pertinent to this type of training.


The conduct of flight reviews for certificated pilots is not only a responsibility of the flight instructor, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to expand on the instructor’s professional services. The flight review is intended to be an industry-managed, FAA-monitored currency program. The flight instructor must remember that the flight review is not a test or a check ride, but an instructional service designed to assess a pilot’s knowledge and skills. As stated in 14 CFR part 61, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft unless a flight review has been accomplished within the preceding 24 calendar months.

Effective pilot refresher training must be based on specific objectives and standards. The objectives should

include a thorough checkout appropriate to the pilot certificate and aircraft ratings held, and the standards should be at least those required for the issuance of that pilot certificate. Before beginning any training, the pilot and the instructor should agree fully on these objectives and standards, and, as training progresses, the pilot should be kept appraised of progress toward achieving those goals.

AC 61-98, Chapter 1, provides guidance for conducting the flight review. Appendix 1 is a sample flight review plan and checklist. Appendix 2 is a sample list of flight review knowledge, maneuvers, and procedures. It contains recommended procedures and standards for general pilot refresher courses. At the conclusion of a successful flight review, the logbook of the pilot should be endorsed. [figure 8-6]


Instrument rated pilots who have not met instrument currency requirements in the preceding six months or for six months thereafter are required by 14 CFR part 61 to pass an instrument proficiency check in order to regain their instrument flying privileges.

AC 61-98 contains guidance for the conduct of an instrument proficiency check, including a sample plan of action and checklist. When conducting an instrument proficiency check, the flight instructor should use the Instrument Rating Practical Test Standards as the primary reference for specific maneuvers and any associated tolerances. A pilot taking an instrument proficiency check should be expected to meet the criteria of the specific tasks selected in the Instrument Rating Practical Test Standards.

The flight instructor must hold aircraft and instrument ratings on his or her instructor certificate appropriate to the aircraft being flown. Part or all of the check may be conducted in a flight training device or flight simulator that meets 14 CFR section 141.41 requirements. The FAA FSDO having jurisdiction over the area where the device is used must specifically approve each flight training device or flight simulator. If planning to use a flight training device or flight simulator to conduct all or part of an instrument proficiency check, instructors should contact the local FSDO to verify the approval status of the device.


Certificated pilots look to flight instructors for aircraft checkouts and transition training including high performance airplanes, tailwheel airplanes, and aircraft capable of flight at high altitudes. The flight instructor who checks out and certifies the competency of a pilot in an aircraft for which a type rating is not required by regulations is accepting a major responsibility for the safety of future passengers. Many newer light airplanes are comparable in performance and complexity to transport airplanes. For these, the flight instructor’s checkout should be at least as thorough as an official type rating practical test.

AC 61-98 provides a list of requirements for transitioning to other makes and models of aircraft along with a sample training plan. This AC also lists other publications that can be helpful in conducting checkouts. All checkouts should be conducted to the performance standards required by the appropriate practical test standards for the pilot certificate.

For the conduct of an aircraft checkout, it is essential that the flight instructor be fully qualified in the aircraft to be used and be thoroughly familiar with its operating procedures, approved flight manual, and operating limitations. An instructor who does not meet the recent flight experience prescribed by regulations for the aircraft concerned should not attempt to check out another pilot.

For the benefit of the pilot concerned, and for the instructor’s protection in the case of later questions, the flight instructor should record in the pilot’s logbook the exact extent of any checkout conducted. This can be done most easily by reference to the appropriate PTS.

In the event the instructor finds a pilot’s performance to be insufficient to allow sign off, the pilot should be thoroughly debriefed on all problem areas, and further instruction scheduled. In some cases, a referral to another instructor may be appropriate.


Professional flight instructors know the importance of maintaining knowledge and skill both as instructors and as pilots. Only by keeping themselves at top proficiency can they be true professionals. The flight instructor is at the leading edge of the aviation industry’s efforts to improve aviation safety through additional training. One of the ways the FAA attempts to improve proficiency is through the requirement for having a flight review within the past 24 months. Another method of encouraging pilot proficiency is through provisions of AC 61-91, Pilot Proficiency Award Program.

The objective of the program is to provide pilots with the opportunity to establish and participate in a personal recurrent training program. It is open to all pilots holding a recreational pilot certificate or higher and a current medical certificate when required. Pilots of qualified ultralight vehicles are also eligible. For airplanes, the program requires three hours of flight training which includes one hour directed toward basic airplane control and mastery of the airplane; one hour devoted to patterns, approaches, and landings; and one hour of instrument training either in an airplane, approved flight training device, or flight simulator. The program also requires attending at least one sanctioned aviation safety seminar, or industry-conducted recurrent training program. AC 61-91 contains requirements for other categories/classes of aircraft, as well as additional detailed requirements for all aircraft.

Incentives to participate include distinctive pins and certificates of completion for Phases I through X. A certificate is awarded for Phases XI through XX. Work toward another phase can begin as soon as one phase is completed, but 12 months must pass between completion of one phase and application for the award of the next phase. Another incentive to participate is that the completion of a phase substitutes for the flight review and restarts the 24-month clock.

Flight instructors may also participate in the program. By giving instruction leading to phase completion for three pilots (nine hours of instruction) and attendance at a safety seminar or clinic, an instructor can earn Phases I through III. Phases IV through XX are each earned by completion of an evaluation or proficiency flight with a designated examiner or FAA inspector and attendance at a safety seminar or clinic.

Flight instructors can substantially improve their own proficiency and that of their students and other pilots by participating and encouraging participation in the Pilot Proficiency Award Program. When an instructor has conducted the appropriate training toward the completion of a phase, a logbook endorsement is required. [figure 8-7]


The aviation instructor is the central figure in aviation training and is responsible for all phases of required training. The instructor must be fully qualified as an aviation professional, either as a pilot or aircraft maintenance technician; however, the instructor’s ability must go far beyond this if the requirements of professionalism are to be met. Although the word “professionalism” is widely used, it is rarely defined. In fact, no single definition can encompass all of the qualifications and considerations that must be present before true professionalism can exist.

Though not all inclusive, the following list gives some major considerations and qualifications that should be included in the definition of professionalism.

  • Professionalism exists only when a service is performed for someone, or for the common good.


  • Professionalism is achieved only after extended training and preparation.


  • True performance as a professional is based on study and research.


  • Professionals must be able to reason logically and accurately.


  • Professionalism requires the ability to make good judgmental decisions. Professionals cannot limit their actions and decisions to standard patterns and practices.


  • Professionalism demands a code of ethics. Professionals must be true to themselves and to those they service. Anything less than a sincere performance is quickly detected, and immediately destroys their effectiveness.


Aviaton instructors should carefully consider this list. Failing to meet these qualities may result in poor performance by the instructor and students. Preparation and performance as an instructor with these qualities constantly in mind will command recognition as a professional in aviation instruction. Professionalism includes an instructor’s public image.


The professional instructor should be straightforward and honest. Attempting to hide some inadequacy behind a smokescreen of unrelated instruction will make it impossible for the instructor to command the respect and full attention of a student. Teaching an aviation student is based upon acceptance of the instructor as a competent, qualified teacher and an expert pilot or aircraft maintenance technician. Any facade of instructor pretentiousness, whether it is real or mistakenly assumed by the student, will immediately cause the student to lose confidence in the instructor and learning will be adversely affected.


With regard to students, the instructor must accept them as they are, including all their faults and problems. The student is a person who wants to learn, and the instructor is a person who is available to help in the learning process. Beginning with this understanding, the professional relationship of the instructor with the student should be based on a mutual acknowledgement that the student and the instructor are important to each other, and that both are working toward the same objective.

Under no circumstance should the instructor do anything which implies degrading the student. Acceptance, rather than ridicule, and support rather than reproof will encourage learning. Students must be treated with respect, regardless of whether the student is quick to learn or is slow and apprehensive. Criticizing a student who does not learn rapidly is similar to a doctor reprimanding a patient who does not get well as rapidly as predicted.


Personal appearance has an important effect on the professional image of the instructor. Today’s aviation customers expect their instructors to be neat, clean, and appropriately dressed. Since the instructor is engaged in a learning situation, the attire worn should be appropriate to a professional status. [figure 8-8]

Personal habits have a significant effect on the professional image. The exercise of common courtesy is perhaps the most important of these. An instructor who is rude, thoughtless, and inattentive cannot hold the respect of students, regardless of ability as a pilot or aviation maintenance technician. Personal cleanliness is important to aviation instruction. Frequently, an instructor and a student work in close proximity, and even little annoyances such as body odor or bad breath can cause serious distractions from learning the tasks at hand.


The attitude and behavior of the instructor can contribute much to a professional image. The instructor should avoid erratic movements, distracting speech habits, and capricious changes in mood. The professional image requires development of a calm, thoughtful, and disciplined, but not somber, demeanor.

The instructor should avoid any tendency toward frequently countermanding directions, reacting differently to similar or identical errors at different times, demanding unreasonable performance or progress, or criticizing a student unfairly. A forbidding or overbearing manner is as much to be avoided as is an air of flippancy. Effective instruction is best conducted in a calm, pleasant, thoughtful approach that puts the student at ease. The instructor must constantly portray competence in the subject matter and genuine interest in the student’s well being.


The safety practices emphasized by instructors have a long lasting effect on students. Generally, students consider their instructor to be a model of perfection whose habits they attempt to imitate, whether consciously or unconsciously. The instructor’s advocacy and description of safety practices mean little to a student if the instructor does not demonstrate them consistently.

For this reason, instructors must meticulously observe the safety practices being taught to students. A good example is the use of a checklist before takeoff. If a student pilot sees the flight instructor start an airplane and take off without referring to a checklist, no amount of instruction in the use of a checklist will convince that student to faithfully use one when solo flight operations begin.

To maintain a professional image, a flight instructor must carefully observe all regulations and recognized safety practices during all flight operations. An instructor who is observed to fly with apparent disregard for loading limitations or weather minimums creates an image of irresponsibility that many hours of scrupulous flight instruction can never correct. Habitual observance of regulations, safety precautions, and the precepts of courtesy will enhance the instructor’s image of professionalism. Moreover, such habits make the instructor more effective by encouraging students to develop similar habits.

The flight instructor must go beyond the requirements of developing technically proficient students who are knowledgeable in the areas of their equipment, flight procedures, and maneuvers. The flight instructor must not only teach students to know their own and their equipment’s limitations, but must also teach them to be guided by those limitations. The flight instructor must make a strenuous effort to develop good judgment on the part of the students.

The aircraft maintenance instructor must similarly make the maintenance technician student aware of the consequences of safety in the work place. If a maintenance student observes the instructor violating safety practices such as not wearing safety glasses around hazardous equipment, the student will likely not be conscientious about using safety equipment when the instructor is not around.


In aviation instruction, as in other professional activities, the use of profanity and obscene language leads to distrust or, at best, to a lack of complete confidence in the instructor. To many people, such language is actually objectionable to the point of being painful. The professional instructor must speak normally, without inhibitions, and develop the ability to speak positively and descriptively without excesses of language.

The beginning aviation student is being introduced to new concepts and experiences and encountering new terms and phrases that are often confusing. Words such as “traffic,” “stall,” “elevator,” and “lift” are familiar, but are given entirely new meanings. Coined words, such as VORTAC, UNICOM, and PIREP cause further difficulty. Phrases such as “clear the area,” “monitor ATIS,” or “lower the pitch attitude” are completely incomprehensible. The language is new and strange, but the words are a part of aviation and beginning students need to learn the common terms. Normally, they are eager to learn and will quickly adopt the terminology as part of their vocabulary. At the beginning of the student’s training, and before each lesson during early instruction, the instructor should carefully define the terms and phrases that will be used during the lesson. The instructor should then be careful to limit instruction to those terms and phrases, unless the exact meaning and intent of any new expression are explained immediately.

Student errors and confusion can also result from using many of the colloquial expressions of aviation. These expressions are the result of the glamorous past of aviation and often are not understood even by long time aviators. Jargon such as “. . . throw the cobs to it,” or “. . . firewall it,” should be avoided. A phrase such as “. . . advance the power,” would be preferable, since it has wider acceptance and understanding. In all cases, terminology should be explained to the student before it is used during instruction.


Professional aviation instructors must never become complacent or satisfied with their own qualifications and abilities. They should be constantly alert for ways to improve their qualifications, effectiveness, and the services they provide to students. Flight instructors are considered authorities on aeronautical matters and are the experts to whom many pilots refer questions concerning regulations, requirements, and new operating techniques. Likewise, aviation maintenance instructors are considered by maintenance students and other maintenance technicians to be a source of up-to-date information. They have the opportunity and responsibility of introducing new procedures and techniques to their students and other aviation professionals with whom they come in contact. Specific suggestions for self-improvement are discussed in Chapter 11.


Minimizing student frustrations in the classroom, shop, or during flight training, is a basic instructor responsibility. By following some basic rules, instructors can reduce student frustrations and create a learning environment that will encourage rather than discourage learning. [figure 8-9]

Motivate Students—More can be gained from wanting to learn than from being forced to learn. All too often students do not realize how a particular lesson or course can help them reach an important goal. When they can see the benefits or purpose of a lesson or course, their enjoyment and their efforts will increase.

Keep Students Informed—Students feel insecure when they do not know what is expected of them or what is going to happen to them. Instructors can minimize feelings of insecurity by telling students what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. Instructors should keep students informed in various ways, including giving them an overview of the course, keeping them posted on their progress, and giving them adequate notice of examinations, assignments, or other requirements.

Approach Students As Individuals—When instructors limit their thinking to the whole group without considering the individuals who make up that group, their efforts are directed at an average personality which really fits no one. Each group has its own personality that stems from the characteristics and interactions of its members. However, each individual within the group has a personality that is unique and that should be constantly considered.

Give Credit When Due—When students do something extremely well, they normally expect their abilities and efforts to be noticed. Otherwise, they may become frustrated. Praise or credit from the instructor is usually ample reward and provides an incentive to do even better. Praise pays dividends in student effort and achievement when deserved, but when given too freely, it becomes valueless.

Criticize Constructively—Although it is important to give praise and credit when deserved, it is equally important to identify mistakes and failures. It does not help to tell students that they have made errors and not provide explanations. If a student has made an earnest effort but is told that the work is unsatisfactory, with no other explanation, frustration occurs. Errors cannot be corrected if they are not identified, and if they are not identified, they will probably be perpetuated through faulty practice. On the other hand, if the student is briefed on the errors and is told how to correct them, progress can be made.

Be Consistent—Students want to please their instructor. This is the same desire that influences much of the behavior of subordinates toward their superiors in industry and business. Naturally, students have a keen interest in knowing what is required to please the instructor. If the same thing is acceptable one day and unacceptable the next, the student becomes confused. The instructor’s philosophy and actions must be consistent.

Admit Errors—No one, including the students, expects an instructor to be perfect. The instructor can win the respect of students by honestly acknowledging mistakes. If the instructor tries to cover up or bluff, the students will be quick to sense it. Such behavior tends to destroy student confidence. If in doubt about some point, the instructor should admit it to the students.


This chapter has identified a number of areas necessary to maintain a professional appearance, demeanor, and attitude. In addition, the instructor has a number of responsibilities to the student, the public, and the FAA. Other areas aviation instructors should be deeply involved with include accident prevention and judgment training. Experience has shown that most accidents are the result of a chain of events. These events can be a mistake, but can also be a simple oversight, lack of awareness, or lack of a sense of urgency. The study of human factors in accidents is being taught throughout the aviation industry in an effort to understand why accidents occur and how training can prevent them. Concentration of this effort is in the area of how people make mistakes as a result of fatigue, stress, complacency, personal conflict, fear, or confusion. Human factors training also addresses the development of good judgment through the study of how and why people react to internal and external influences.

Flight instructors must incorporate aeronautical decision making (ADM) and judgment training into their instruction. This is a systematic approach to risk assessment and stress management in aviation. It shows how personal attitudes can influence decision making and how those attitudes can be modified to enhance safety in the cockpit. A number of FAA and industry references are available which provide instructors with methods for teaching ADM techniques and skills as a part of flight instruction. Aeronautical decision making and judgment training will be discussed more fully in Chapter 9.