Failure to Communicate

From NAFI's Chair

Failure to Communicate

I recently saw a conversation on Facebook where a CFI candidate described how they had failed the CFI practical test because of a question that the examiner asked regarding the structure of an aircraft. This was an aircraft the candidate had never seen before and it was a question that never came up during training. As a result, the candidate became flustered and subsequently failed the test.

Many participants in the conversation took the examiner to task. There were comments suggesting that the examiner be reported to the FSDO, accusations that there's a "quota" in place to fail first-time CFI candidates, that it was ridiculous question because that wasn't the make and model of aircraft that the applicant had presented, and so on. In all, many voices were saying that it was just plain unfair, some in language I won't repeat here.

Interspersed with the comments about unfairness, the applicant kept writing that they had been stressed and getting worse during the test. Further, they could understand the examiner failing them by that point, but there was still a chorus of "it wasn't fair."

At some point, I added my thoughts. I simply asked, Did you say I don't know, I'm not familiar with this aircraft, let's find out together? I didn't receive a response to that, but some folks liked it. Another commenter expanded (actually, I think they had the same thought independently) on my point. His comment was that no one can possibly know everything there is to know in aviation - sooner or later, more likely sooner, a student pilot will pose a question to which you won't know the answer. That's when it's time to work with the student and you both can learn.

In sum, I think the reason the CFI candidate didn't pass was not due to the single question - that was, as they put it, the final straw. Rather it was the totality of the situation. I don't know if it was lack of aeronautical knowledge or difficulty imparting information in a teaching situation. I tend to think it was weighted towards the latter.

So, when preparing for a CFI practical test, remember, there are some things you are supposed to know, cold. But there is no shame in admitting that something is beyond your experience and that you need to look it up. Often that is what the inspector or examiner is testing - your ability to both admit that you don't know it all as well as being able to find the right answers.

P. S. During the current pandemic, are you aware of anyone volunteering their services to help others? People flying supplies where needed or flying patients where possible and safe? If so, we'd love to hear about and recognize them for their efforts. Please respond with an email to [email protected]


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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