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From the Desk of the Safety Office


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

Three ways to impress your CFI

One of the many responsibilities of a Certified Flight Instructor is to conduct aircraft checkouts and Biennial Flight Reviews. These flights can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job. Instructors must assess, in a fairly short amount of time spent with the client, what the client’s skill level is, if he/she is competent and safe, and whether additional training is needed. At WVFC we have a clearly defined process for this, but the process only can do so much to help the instructor. Ultimately it is up to them to make the call, and they must rely on their training and experience to make the correct one.

CFI’s can often tell right away if someone is “ready” or will require some additional training to bring their skill level up to standards. Many fellow instructors have told me that they know within the first ten minutes if someone is going to need additional training or not, and their instincts are almost always proven correct during the subsequent training flight. To put it bluntly, it’s usually pretty obvious to a professional if someone that’s being evaluated knows what they’re doing or not. In this quarterly article, I’m going to pull back the curtain on some of the “tells” that we notice, both good and bad.

First, be organized and prepared. This should go without saying, but whenever a client shows up with well-organized logbooks, paperwork, and has studied any required material it makes the instructors job a lot easier right from the start, and it will make their day as a bonus. The “tell” is that it shows us that the training event is being taken seriously. Even when being done recreationally, flying is serious business that demands our respect and full attention. Putting the time and effort into a training event is indicative of one’s overall attitude toward flying, and it’s easily spotted by any experienced pilot.

Second, use your checklist whenever possible. Just about everyone I fly with uses their checklist for the pre-departure runup, but if that phase of flight is taken away the level of checklist usage is wildly inconsistent. Someone that consistently uses their checklist is both easily noticeable and a very good sign – I literally get excited when I see someone that has maintained this habit and always make sure to include it as a compliment in a debrief. This also applies to most inflight emergencies, time permitting. Even in an engine failure scenario, checklist usage is expected if time permits and the required items have already been done from memory. If the alternator fails there is no reason why a checklist should not be the first thing that the pilot reaches for. Professional pilots use a checklist religiously, and so should everyone else. It really is as simple as that.

Third, know how to use your POH. The Pilots Operating Handbook is one of the most important, and most overlooked, sources of information about an airplane. Knowing where in the POH to find information about the airplane’s systems, performance, emergency procedures, and limitations shows that the client has actually spent some time looking at it instead of just having the information spoon-fed to them by their instructor. Even if the information given by the CFI is retained, it will not help the client know how to quickly find the Emergency Procedures section when needed, or how to calculate takeoff performance and fuel burn if they don’t know how to look up the information for themselves. Similar to the first “tell,” this shows the instructor that the client is taking their training seriously.

Other CFI’s no doubt have many other little things that they use as evaluation tools, but these habits (or lack of them) are not going to be missed by any CFI. Like the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and arriving to your next flight with a CFI well prepared, having familiarized yourself with your airplane, and making a real effort to use a checklist will serve you well. Not only will your instructor be impressed by your good habits, it may save you some time and hard-earned money by making his/her decision an easier one.