Element of Surprise...


Well-Known Member
What are some things you guys do to keep your students on their toes (especially the sharp ones)?

And while we're on the subject...how the HECK do you pull the gear motor CB in a 182RG without them noticing? Sheesh, they just had to go and stick it right next to the gear handle, didn't they? They couldn't just put it over on MY side of the cockpit where I could indiscretely pull it, could they? Noooo, of course not!

Ok, I'm done blabbering. But I do want to hear some (safe) ideas...my creativity doesn't seem to be creative enough lately.

(are we on multi threads at once??)

I have two methods for doing what you mentioned, and they both are running good batting averages.

1) If you dont wanna pull the breaker, just have your student overfly the field and then pull the power. The ensuing discussions about circling, descent rates, when to enter a downwind to land etc.... are usually enough for them to completely forget their GUMPs or whatever you are using. (Today I did THIS and I woulda let my student fly gear up down to go-around altitudes except for when we we were on short final I saw the owner of our FBO's car on the ramp and I did not wanna give him a heart attack).

2) My second trick is two-pronged. I ask them if they've had a door open. We do the whole open door in flight thing, and when theyre mentally and physically pre-occupied, I pull the gear CB. This trick will only work if you watch them and just at the moment they pull the gear handle down, you introduce some new distraction. Traffic, engine.. you pick it, whatever. If you can distract a student when his hand hits the gear handle, you got a good chance of succeeding with your ruse. If they catch what you did, then you got a reasonably good student in your left seat.

The most important thing is to stay in charge and not let YOU get distracted in this learning environment.

Its funny you asked this cuz only about two hours ago I did just this #2 mnvr.

I had a bunch of good ideas but you went and thru in the word 'safe'

I've never flown a 182RG so I'm not familiar with the size or location of the breaker but if it's in a location that may not normally be in their 'scan' until they reach for the gear get them looking outside and behind over their shoulder and reach over and pull it while talking so they don't hear the pop. Try and overload them with questions/scenarios/whatever distractions you desire in the pattern - if they get behind the airplane far enough start 'yelling' (not literally of course) that they need to slow down and get down - if they're overloaded enough the natural tendency will be to throw the gear handle and immediatley go onto something else.

I used to carry a small piece of black rubber tubing cut on one side length wise to slip around the breaker shaft after I pulled it/them. By doing that you can't see the 'white' part that gives away a popped breaker. It teaches the student the invaluable lesson that they need to run their hands over the breaker so they can FEEL any popped breakers - just looking at them sometimes isn't good enough. I used to like to go out and pull the gear breaker and put a piece of tubing on it before the student got to the airplane - many times they verified the breakers in on the preflight by looking at them visually but not feeling them and we would take off and I think I only had a couple of students realize that the gear hadn't retracted even though there were a ton of tell tale signs not to mention the climb checklist. Most instructors set up gear malfs so that the student gets to the point that they're half expecting the gear not to come down - the gear failing to retract can wreak havoc on a student - either they don't notice or the notice and immediatley start putting all of their concentration on the gear instead of flying the airplane - either situation leads to a good 'lesson'.

For my students that do a quick preflight, I sabotage the aircraft prior top the lesson, give it full aft trim, switch the fuel tanks off, put the carb heat on. The important thing however is to remember what changes you made and make sure if the student doesnt catch them, that you do!

Another trick my instructor used to do to keep me versed with my emergency checklists was that everytime he would call me or I would call him ,the first thing he would say would be soemthing like "Engine fire during start". or " Engine failure during flight" and would expect me to give him the appropriate checklist.
I agree with the others who describe some sort of distraction to get at the gear breaker. Remember, you don't have to do it just before "gear down". There'll be many times during the flight that the student is looking somewhere else (if he's not looking out the window before making a left turn, there are bigger problems than emergency gear procedures).

Other ideas for surprises:

Open your door during a maneuver to check on reaction to distractions.

Pull power before the stall in a power-on stall (find an excuse for you to handle the power)

For student or private pilot hood work, vector them into the pattern and have them pull the hood off just when it becomes time to turn from base to final, point and say, "there's your runway." Even if the student knows that you're in the pattern (like at a towered airport), it can be pretty confusing.

Change the pitch in the attitude indicator while setting up an unusual attitude, so they can't use it to reestablish level flight.
Re: Element of Surprise...(Engine Out, Short Approach)

Here is another distraction that an instructor used on me. During my ppl training we were working on engine failures and I knew that when she asked the tower for a "short approach" that an engine failure was coming. After a couple of flights I picked up on her tricks/distractions. Then one flight we called the tower 3 miles out and were cleared to land on 28R. Upon entering the downwind leg, she started monkeying around with my headset jack, pulling and resetting the plugs. I had no idea what she was doing. Once she was done and plugged them in for good, the tower came back and said "4349K, cleared for the short approach" and before I could blink, I lost my engine" It was a good distraction and caught me way off guard. I was thinking...we are already cleared to land and I did not ask for a short approach. Why in the world is the tower telling me I am cleared for the short approach? It only took a second of my own distraction before I thought crap, I have no engine, I had direct my attention to getting this plane on the ground. I made the runway and landed a little harder than I would have liked, but all things considered, a hard landing is better than a landing short of the rw because I failed to get set up for the best glide to the field.
My instructor did two things that stick out for me and definately taught me somethings...

I was a bit hesitant to solo (thats a big understatement), so one time when we were flying back from the practice area she took out a scarf, covered all of the instruments (including the tachometer and airspeed indicator) and told me to do everything necessary to get us onto the ground. Periodically, she removed the scarf to convince me that all was okay and that I actually new what I was doing. I landed beautifully and she proved her point.

During another lesson while we were practicing short and soft field take-offs, my instructor 'killed' the engine right as I began to rotate. I was definately surprised and learned about always having an out.

These might be old tricks of the trade, but as a student I can attest to the fact that they worked well!
My private instructor did many things to distract me. His most clever trick was dropping his sunglasses at his feet, while on final. He said, "I dropped my sunglasses." Unblinking I said, "Pick them up," and he replied, "I can't." So I said, "Tough crap, get them when we land." To which he replied, "Good answer."

I thought it was an excellent way to show that you should always be pilot in command, and never let a passenger distract you in critical phases of flight. I hope that I will someday be as good an instructor as he.

one ppl instructor i had (my normal one was on vacation) did the stupidest thing. we were on final, he switches the intercom so i can't hear him talking with the tower...he was telling them that we would be doing a go-around...then he switches back, acts like nothing is wrong (big smile on his face), and then he YELLS into the mic "theres a truck on the runway, GO AROUND GO AORUND"...after which he has another big grin on his face like he was the sneakiest guy ever or something.

i just thought that was the most retarded thing ever, but he sure was proud of it. oh well, and the moral is...there isn't one really, maybe just not to yell in your students ear.
I agree. that sounds really stupid. Especially if you could see the runway and there was no truck on final. I hope that guy liked being heard by all...

I also think there is more than one opinion to be heard on the idea of sabatoging an aircraft prior to a pre-flight. I have heard of scenarios where this kind of thing happened and then the flight got cancelled for a different reason (no-show, wx, etc..) and then the sabatoooogie was never undone!
"and then the sabatoooogie was never undone"

But because of a proper preflight inspection, the next pilot caught it. Correct?

If not, then hopefully everything turned out o.k. and a valuable lesson was learned.

I personaly ALWAYS preflight the plane like it wants to kill me.

Hows that reg go again.? The PIC determines if the plane is safe to fly.