You Say Potato

From NAFI's Chair

You Say Potato ...

You say potato, I say Solanum tuberosum.  Not really, and I'm not going to sing you the song, but it illustrates a point I'd like to make. A few weeks ago, NAFI ran a King Schools' ad in eMentor which had the term "pilot license" instead of "pilot certificate," which is the technically correct term. It seems that the updated ad copy from King Schools was missed and we ran the original version. Naturally, when we caught it, we called King Schools to apologize; they told us it was no big deal and that no apology was necessary.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I tend to be a bit pedantic in my writing and speech. It's important to me that I use the correct phraseology when discussing technical and regulatory issues, as the devil is always in the details. When teaching students at any level, I continue this habit. My goal with newcomers is to ingrain the correct habits, so, if they elect to be flight or ground instructors, we're not spending time and effort on what should be a relatively simple thing.

But here's my point: It doesn't hurt anything if we hear someone using slightly different words to get to the same goal. The case in point is "pilot license." Functionally, a "pilot license" is the same as "pilot certificate." Does using "license" instead of the more correct "certificate" have ramifications? Perhaps, but the instructor should have the correct documents with them, in any case. And the FAA uses "pilot license" in its own publications, so it is a commonly used term.

When we see or hear a newcomer slip, don't do what I used to and make a point of immediately correcting them. That can be a turn-off and potentially something that spoils the relationship we have with a student. It can also reinforce the incorrect perception that pilots tend to be in an exclusionary club. Instead, try to use the correct terms as a matter of habit, because using correct terminology does facilitate communication, and others will follow your example. And, if that doesn't happen, try to find the correct teaching moment where it doesn't seem like you're lecturing or being a "know-it-all."


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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