Cookie-cutter pilot.


New Member
I was reading a post on the infamous academy vs. FBO debate, and noticed John Tenney's comments on how academies tend to produce (on a scale of 1 to 10) "cookie-cutter, 5 or 6 grade" pilots, and the FBOs anywhere from "1 to 10".

Now, I'm no airline pilot, so maybe time would tell me, but what exactly makes a good or a bad pilot? From my little experience, I've recognized that some people pick up the flying bit a whole lot faster than others, but after that ... ?

If you're flying at the airlines, and one captain says to another, "That Joe Blow I flew with the other day was a damn good pilot. But John Doe, on the other hand, just sucked ..." Does this happen? What makes Joe Blow good, and John Doe bad?

Not only that, but how do you define a "cookie-cutter" pilot? Though that title tends to get a condescending rap, couldn't a "cookie-cutter" pilot be a good thing in that he's more predictable from the airline's perspective, being "by the book", or whatever?
Not only that, but how do you define a "cookie-cutter" pilot?

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I'd define it as a pilot that goes through a specific program without experience beyond that program. I know quite a few people I'd call "cookie-cutter" around here, and sadly some of those are proud that they've flown 200 hours solely at ERAU.
I think at an FBO, since there is so little structure, what gets produced as a pilot is a function of the person, the instructor(s), and the environment.

In my few years as a renter & student, and now as a CFI here, I have seen probably a range between 2 and 8. What I have realized is that if I wanna produce 8's, then I gotta be one myself

As far as what makes a good pilot?? jeesh, I dont think that can be easily answered. I think if you are a decent human being and can think and do a few things at once, then you could be a great pilot. A cheap test: go get a job as a waiter/waittress at a decent restaurant for a few months. If you can please some customers and walk out with good tips in your pocket, I'd say ya have half a chance of being a good pilot.
I didn't read the thread, so I don't know what John had in mind. It may or may not have been this. (BTW, this is one of those generalities that may or may not reflect the practice at any particular school. And to the extend that it is true, it may or may not be a bad thing).

The "academies" and Part 141 and 142 programs in general work on a very structured syllabus. It's designed to get pilots through each rating in a minimum amount of time. The overall goal is that pilots will meet career requirements as quickly as possible, not that a private pilot will stop there and use flying for pleasure or personal business. Pilots in these programs will step from one rating to another without spending a lot of time flying.

That can be a good thing if the goal is a professional flying career. Things missed or experienced not gained at an earlier stage can be corrected later. But teaching is to the curriculum does mean that things can get missed.

Example: I was briefly involved in a 141 program. The Chief pilot handed me a "problem" - a student who was doing great but lost it on a solo landing and bent the airplane. When I went up with him, the student was flying great. His landings were better than mine! But he had lost confidence and wanted to go up solo again more than anything else - to "get back on the horse". Nothing doing. He had the 10 hours solo called for in the curriculum, so no more was permitted.

I don't know what ever happened to him, but assuming he went on to get his private with no additional solo, would =you= consider him well-trained at that point.
I think at an FBO, since there is so little structure, what gets produced as a pilot is a function of the person, the instructor(s), and the environment.

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As an FBO person... I'd agree with that. It's been my experience that it's up to me to stay motivated in my flying and my studies. Our instructors are great, but WE schedule THEM, so the onus is on us as students to stay on top of things.

I've never attended an academy, so I cannot attest to their curriculum, but I can attest to the pilots I've met who have attened part 141 programs.

From what I've seen, they all seem to be quite knowledgable when it comes to FAR's, procedures and the "book work". As far as flying, I'd say it all comes out pretty much even.

My goal as a student is to be as knowledgeable of the rules and procedures as my instructor is who attended NDU. The instructor before him knew this stuff inside and out and he was PURELY FBO material.

So - the short answer is - in my experience - at an FBO, the reason why you get pilots with skills/knowledge ranging from "1 to 10" is purely self-motivation/devotion.
Re: Cookie-cutter cirriculum

It was really referring to the program and experience, not the pilot. For example, a Flight Safety guy will know his way around the east coast of Florida really well, but how is he going to do in mountains or an ice storm? On the other hand, FSA grads have always excelled at CRM and professional techniques in the cockpit. I don't think I've ever met a FSA grad with an attitude.

You can pretty much expect certain behavior from certain schools as well. I don't want to denigrate any particular school, but there are several that set red flags up for me when I hear the name. I come to expect certain techniques and attitudes from certain schools.

On the other hand, FBO and flying club guys vary widely and sometimes wildly. They come from a much less structured environment and I never know what to expect. Most of the 1's and 10's come from that end of the spectrum.

Hope that clears up my (much) earlier post. Sheesh I think I made that about 5 months ago.