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Embracing the Tapestry of Learner Diversity in Flight Training


Embracing the Tapestry of Learner Diversity in Flight Training ~Guest Blogger Jason Schappert,

As flight instructors, we play a pivotal role in shaping the future of aviation by training a diverse group of aspiring pilots. Our training environment is enriched by learners from varied cultural backgrounds, language proficiencies, learning styles, and previous experiences. To ensure their success, we must embrace this tapestry of diversity and tailor our teaching approach accordingly. Let’s explore the top issues flight instructors must consider surrounding learner diversity and how we can foster an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

One of the fundamental aspects of addressing learner diversity is recognizing and respecting the cultural backgrounds of our learners. Understanding the nuances of different cultures helps us create an inclusive atmosphere that celebrates diversity rather than merely tolerating it. By doing so, we build mutual respect and understanding among learners, enhancing their learning experience.

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Train train train


Train train train ~Guest Blogger Randall Williams, CFII/MEI

Mentally we train emergencies so that we’re ready when they happen.

As an active multiengine instructor, I had signed off more than three dozen multiengine applicants by the time I had my first engine failure in a twin engine airplane.

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Ground School Avoidance Syndrome


Ground School Avoidance Syndrome~Guest Blogger Ean Sugarman, CFII

How many times have you had a student be excited to get in the aircraft and fly but when it comes to hitting the books, it's like trying to get a young child to tidy their room! For some students, it can be a slow going and tedious process complete with excuses ranging from, "I've been busy at work" or "It's hard to study at home", to "I'm not a good test taker, so it's hard for me to study"

As instructors we are taught that people learn differently, and when it comes to the written and theory side of what we teach, there can be challenges to overcome regarding a student's approach to ground school. It seems more often than not I've found it necessary to get creative with how I encourage my students to hit the books. My techniques usually start out as promises of insights and swift advancement (ex: once you understand this, your flying will improve) but typically can descend to pretend threats and silly bribes (ex: "If you don't take your written exam by X date, you have to buy lunch!") Of course various methods work better then others but genuine honest discussion about how important the ground school/written test is and how self study can drive down the cost of training as a whole tend to be great catalysts for action.

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Saving Lives, One Flight Hour At a Time


Saving Lives, One Flight Hour At a Time ~Guest Blogger Randall Williams, CFII/MEI

Last week I flew a training flight with an experienced student. He had more than 100 hours of flying time, and seemed very comfortable at his home airport in the plane that he usually flies.

We were on short final in the 180 hp Cessna 172, with flaps at 30°, engine power back for landing, and still about 500 feet above the threshold when tower called us to say “continue, expect late landing clearance.”

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More Right Rudder, But Quietly Please


More Right Rudder, But Quietly Please ~Guest Blogger Randall Williams, CFII/MEI

In an airplane training situation, more right rudder usually fixes things. But on my first lesson, I learned that HOW I tell a student to do that matters a whole lot.

I’m embarrassed about it, I have to admit. It was my fault. I’d been working with my first student for a dozen hours, and his landings still needed help. They were uncoordinated with excess speed, and as he bled the speed off and pulled the nose up, the airplane would yaw to the left invariably causing me to command “more right rudder” pretty frequently.

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Ask Why?


Ask Why? ~Guest Blogger Bob Meder NAFI Chairman Emeritus

One of the things I like to do when working with new CFI candidates is ask the question: "Why?" It's a technique I learned from someone at the St. Louis FSDO when I was starting out as a flight instructor. His technique was the same - always ask a variant of "why" or "show me where it says that." It's a great way of getting students to think through the problem and find the answer for themselves. Ultimately, it helps that person take ownership of material.

I bring this up, not because I have some thoughts about the specifics of flight instruction this week, but more about our role in aviation. Looking back on my life, I've been fortunate enough to have been on this planet for most of humanity's achievements in space, having been born a couple of years before Sputnik was launched. Because this past week encompassed the anniversaries of both the tragic Apollo 1 fire and Challenger accidents, I wound up watching a crowd-funded movie called "Fight for Space." Fight for Space makes the point that we made it to the moon with the Apollo program and have retrenched ever since. Although I don't fully agree with one of the film's commentators, Neil DeGrass Tyson as to the reasons for this, it is something that has dismayed me.

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Coming Out of the Helicopter Closet, Again


Coming Out of the Helicopter Closet, Again~Guest Blogger NAFI Director of Publications and Editor Beth Stanton

“It would be cool to be a helicopter pilot.”

13 years ago, this astonishing thought popped in my mind as I blinked open my eyes one fine September morning. I glanced around, mystified. Not only had I never been in a helicopter (or small airplane for that matter), I also never had the remotest inkling whatsoever to pilot any type of aircraft.

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True Colors


True Colors~Guest Blogger Capt. Brian Schiff

Years ago, I was performing a preflight inspection of the outside of an MD-80 on a cold, clear, windy winter morning. I took note of the shiny, silvery airliner reflecting, no, glistening in the sun. I had not yet become accustomed to the paintless aluminum livery of American Airline’s jets. I come from a legacy of looking at white airliners with red trim. As I looked up at the American Airlines logo I wondered if I ever would have the same pride that I felt when I saw the TWA logo. Not likely, I thought. My father was a TWA captain. I grew up around TWA airplanes. Plus I was still bitter about being furloughed as a result of the TWA-American Airlines merger.

airliner tailAs I approached the tail section I noticed that the brisk winter wind was blowing the rudder to one side. This revealed a section above the rudder that wouldn’t normally be exposed. What I observed gave me pause. It was a tiny section of red paint on the leading edge of the rudder—again not normally exposed but for mother nature kindly displacing the rudder to reveal a little bit of this airplane’s inner beauty and former self. The red paint is left over from when the airplane used to wear TWA’s colors. Immediately Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” song came to mind. And I heard that song in my mind for the rest of the pre-flight. This stirred up a hornet’s nest of emotions for me, but most prominent was pride. I’ve never been a big fan of the MD-80 because I flew Boeing and Lockheed for most of my flying career. Now—after sighting the red paint—I was more proud of this airplane than ever. It made the transition with me, and somehow took on a majestic stance. This little peek at the airplane’s true colors changed my outlook that day. I started out cold and bitter, and then I became proud with song in my step. I don’t know what was more prominent—the upturn in my mouth or the tear in my eye.

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Don’t panic, be professional!


Don’t panic, be professional!~Guest Blogger Tzu-Cheng Kuo, NAFI MCFI

The story goes back to two years ago while I was working for a local flight school in Arizona. Due to the amazing weather year round in Arizona it is a great location for flight training. Therefore, many overseas airlines are sending their cadet pilots over here to complete flight training as quickly as one can.

A particular instrument student was assigned to me just prior to them completing their end of course stage check. I had never met or flown with this individual before, so I devised a plan for how we would become acquainted and both develop a level of comfort for them to be signed off for the final step before their checkride. I planned for two flights with me before the stage, the first was intended to check their instrument flying skills, and review any deficiency areas noted from their previous instructor. The second was to be used for a mock check.

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Imposter No More, Dealing With Impostor Syndrome


Imposter No More, Dealing With Impostor Syndrome~Guest Blogger Michael Hodge Jr. CFI

The DPE extended his hand with a smile and with a hearty “Congratulations” and a firm handshake, he handed me my temporary certificate which had words that I had waited a long time to see, “Flight Instructor - Airplane Single Engine”. After nearly six months of studying at home, teaching over forty hours of ground instruction to members of our flying club, and spending many hours “teaching” in the air, by many accounts, I was ready. Within a week of passing my checkride I had my first discovery flight scheduled and I was anxious to jump in feet first. There was only one problem. I didn’t “feel” ready, and in fact, I felt woefully unprepared.

I started wondering if I had what it took to be a good flight instructor. Would I be able to see the bad landing coming before it happened? Would I be able to help my learners through their bouts of anxiety, learning plateaus, and even a defense mechanism or two? Most importantly, would I be able to provide value to the learner and keep the process of learning to fly fun and efficient?

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Improbability and the Beginning of Instructional Wisdom


Improbability and the Beginning of Instructional Wisdom~Guest Blogger Thomas P. Turner

Like a lot of pilots of my generation, my flying career started in the right seat of a Cessna 152 at a quiet, rural airport. I was the instructor in a one-person flying service in central Missouri. One early summer evening, as the wind calmed down, the shadows grew and the skies turned golden with the setting sun, I was in my happy place with a pre-solo student in the Cessna’s left seat. Of the flying school’s two 152s we had drawn the red-striped N46123 – “flying is easy as 1-2-3,” I quipped in the sales pitch on demo flights. The registration N46123 is now painted on a Boeing 737-800, but back then the designation belonged to the beginning of pilots’ dreams, not their career destination.

The learner (to use the modern term) was doing a great job and I was pretty certain he’d solo in the next hour or so. So after a little air work we were now on left downwind for Runway 18. No one else was in the pattern and Unicom was quiet. Somewhere about midfield my student pulled back a little on the yoke, then began easing the nose down—probably involuntary movements in response to an unusual situation, first a tensing up and then an attempt to correct for what he saw. For the airspeed indicator was reading low, and although we continued more or less level on downwind the needle spun slowly past the bottom of the green arc, then the bottom of the white arc, and then almost vertically as if the airplane was sitting on the ramp. My student said something in the neighborhood of, “Well, darn,” and looked directly at me, calling on all the judgment and experience I’d amassed in my lofty 300 hours’ total time. “What do we do?” his wide eyes exclaimed.

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Celebrate Your Freedoms


Celebrate Your Freedoms~Guest Blogger Bob Meder NAFI Chairman Emeritus

A co-worker of mine has always been interested to see what it was like to fly an airplane. A few days ago, I took him up for about an hour so he could have that experience. As with any introductory flight, I ensured that the ride would be on a nice day with little or no turbulence. We, of course, had a briefing beforehand covering the basics, including sterile cockpit, seat belt usage, what to do in an emergency, and so on.

What my friend hadn't expected was the part about exchanging controls. When he expressed his surprise, I told him that it'd be a lot more fun for him if he got to actually fly the airplane - besides, I already know how to fly.

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The Strength of Asking For Help


The Strength of Asking For Help~Guest Blogger Aaron Dabney, MSEd, MCFI

When I was a brand-new CFI, I was a chief pilot of one.  Literally.  I’d been given the keys to an office, a nice airplane, and a mandate to figure out how to make a flight school work at an airport where there had been no home-based school in nearly a decade.

ask for helpIt was awkward enough that I was pretty new to the aviation community in my area, but the audacity of standing up a flight school with the ink still wet on my certificate had me convinced that asking for help was the last thing I should do if I was to be taken seriously.  If that wasn’t enough, I had (and still have, if I’m honest) this independent streak that thrived on the idea of “me versus the world.”  If I couldn’t figure it out for myself, maybe I wasn’t good enough.

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Are You A Leader?


Are You A Leader? ~Guest Blogger Bob Meder NAFI Chairman Emeritus

I recently had a great conversation with a good friend regarding leadership. What impressed me was that it wasn't the usual platitudes attempting to define what a good leader is, but instead contained a few of my friend's more down-to-earth observations.

  • "Do you love your people enough to want to help them and help them grow?"

  • "A good leader gives his followers small tasks at first, making those tasks incrementally more challenging and larger. This will cause your followers to grow and get better at their jobs, making them leaders as well."

  • "A great leader is someone who will crawl through the mud to give someone a clean dish towel if they need it."

Editors Note: Watch this short video by Simon Sinek about being a leader. He sums up perfectly how being a leader is difficult to quantify, but is a sum of your actions shown over time.

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Backstory: Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Induction


Backstory: Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Induction ~Guest Video Blogger Greg Brown, Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Inductee


Every aviator develops mutually rewarding relationships with the flight instructors delivering his or her wings. Here Greg Brown, 2021 Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Inductee, shares the inspiring 22-year backstory behind his nomination, including compelling reasons why every good CFI is a Hall-of-Famer.

(Access Greg’s 1999 NAFI Mentor column referenced in the video, here.)

Learn More about Greg Brown here:

Greg BrownGreg Brown
2021 Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Inductee
NAFI #13972

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In Defense of the VFR Flight plan, and Being Prepared


In Defense of the VFR Flight plan, and Being Prepared ~Guest Blogger Patrick Howell CFII

First off, a confession…I filed one VFR flight plan in the first ten years of my flying career.  Frankly, I just did not see the point.  I did most of my primary flight training, from private all the way through CFI, in and around southern states, mostly Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. As a student pilot, my flight school based was at San Antonio International (KSAT), before moving to Stinson Airfield (KSSF), so we were always talking to ATC.  I was then and remain a habitual user of VFR flight following, and I found more utility in it than filing a flight plan, as well.  Also, it was not an emphasis item with my flight school, so just like the law of primacy states, first learned is best learned….and my first learned habit was not to file a VFR flight plan. So, I flew like that for many years…

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You can H.A.C it!


You can H.A.C it! ~Guest Blogger Tom Dorl, NAFI Board Member

I always enjoy the month of January, as it provides an opportunity to reflect and learn from the past and begin with a fresh start. This month also provides flight instructors with an opportunity to perform a self-evaluation and to look for ways to improve their skills and abilities. During my USAF career flying the HH-60G, I had the opportunity to attend and graduate from the Weapons Instructor Course (WIC). This nearly 6-month program expands instructor skill sets that come from many different USAF aircraft and mission support backgrounds. As part of their culture, they infuse a few core concepts into their graduates: learning about their aircraft, learning about themselves and making those around them better. They also instill three unique character traits within the graduates: to be humble, approachable and credible. These traits can help every flight instructor to have a fun and prosperous 2022. Here are a few actions to consider as we get ready to take off into 2022.

Humble – As instructors, we should be modest and teach with respectful approach to our students. Try not to take yourself too seriously but approach your craft of flight instruction with dedicated professionalism. Stay grounded with yourself and your abilities, and your students will learn to soar. They will likely teach you something along the way. When you mess up, admit it, own it, and learn and teach from it. Don’t write checks that your skills and abilities cannot cash. This makes teaching fun and remember that ALL flight instructors were students at one time. Try to have fun with yourself and your students—this is why people stay in aviation.

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Flight Review Follow-up


Flight Review Follow-up ~Guest Blogger Andrew Dow NAFI MCFI/MGI

I recently received a phone call from one of my previous students that started off with… “You know how I always gripe and complain during our flight reviews about how you make me manually hand crank the landing gear down?” I stated, “Of course I remember how you complained that you had to make about 50 turns on the handle just to make the gear go down.” He said, “well, I had to actually to do that in real life last week and I just wanted to say thank you very much for making me do that every flight review!”

My student owns a beautiful 1965 Beechcraft Debonair and had experienced an alternator failure during flight one afternoon and had to manually hand crank the landing gear down and executed a safe landing at an airport along his cross-country route. It made me feel good as a flight instructor to know that some of the things that we train and prepare our students for had actually paid off.

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Pilots Don't Grow Up, Why Should Flight Instructors?


Pilots Don't Grow Up, Why Should Flight Instructors?~Guest Video Blogger John Niehaus, NAFI Program Director



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It’s in the Recovery


It’s in the Recovery ~Guest Blogger Capt. Brian Schiff

When I dine at a restaurant, I expect great service. Things can go wrong, but anyone can have an off day and make a mistake. If humans were perfect, just imagine how boring sports would be. Some customers tip based on how perfect the wait staff was; but it is more reasonable and fair to base the amount of the tip on how well the server makes up for what went wrong. Errors or mishaps provide an opportunity to prove (or improve) oneself.

Mistakes are opportunities to learn. In snow-skiing, every time you fall down, you become a better skier. The same applies in flying. Recoveries from errors such as a bounce, stall, spin, flummoxed steep turn, upset, or an unusual attitude are more important than the error themselves. Few of us can maintain altitude to the nearest foot, but most of us can correct back to our desired altitude accurately and with minimal deviations. It is the lazy pilot, letting the airplane fly them, who experiences large deviations.

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