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.

During the flight, the student was able to demonstrate everything properly as well as the ground knowledge. However, the student could not perform professionally when it came up on his last flight ie the mock checkride. Initially, the student was told to join a victor airway by following his CRAFT clearance. But for some reason, the student wasn’t sure how to use the GPS or maybe switch to VOR.

The pilot was getting panicked and eventually it progressed to a point where I had no choice but to intervene. Moving on, the first two approaches were very good, and I asked them to make a VOR approach before heading back. Unfortunately, the student was using GPS while shooting the VOR approach. The PFD message flashed by reminding the pilot to switch CDI, to which the student ignored entirely.

On the way back, I asked the student how they felt, and they replied, “Excellent!”. Then I pointed out the CDI needle, asking what it was indicating and what navigational source it was using. Suddenly, the student went out of control and started punching the flight deck, screaming with swear words. It shocked me, and I immediately took the aircraft controls and attempted to calm the situation by telling them, “Whatever you want to say, keep it until we land.” 

Upon landing, the student was able to calm themselves and we had a rational discussion as to what had happened. Their response was a combination of stress, fear, and disappointment. While we all have felt this at one point or another, this individual unfortunately let it get the best of them by letting it determine their uncontrolled reaction.

As pilots, showing courtesy and being responsible is essential, especially still in the air. As a flight instructor, I have learned you must always prepare for the unexpected from your student. They are here to learn, the pressure can be immense, and not everyone reacts the same way in every situation. That said, we as instructors are also the gatekeepers to the industry and a measuring stick to safety, in this case, I unfortunately had no choice but to discuss what had happened with our senior instructors, and after that, I cannot say.


Tzu-Cheng Kuo NAFI MCFITzu-Cheng Kuo, MCFI
NAFI #225229






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