My troubles as a CFI

c172captain

Well-Known Member
My problem is that I can't, I won't, and I never will let my student's make a mistake... and I want to fix that. It seems that I'm having a terrible time trying to suppress my natural instinct to fix a problem that arises... kick in some right rudder here, correct for wind there, etc. Especially, ESPECIALLY on landings. When it comes to landings I really find myself not being able to let go of the controls for that last 200ft. For some reason I fear for my life and I have not trust in my student's ability to fly, even if they are pretty decent. I dunno... what can I do? (Other than the obvious statement of "Just let go of the damned controls!")

Sean
 

Boris Badenov

It's a work in progress, but, ah, symbols endure
Sometimes the obvious is the correct answer. Think of it this way: Your job isn't to be superpilot and make sure the plane lands perfectly. Trainers are massively overbuilt and actually pretty damn easy to fly. In the final analysis, you're a redundant safety component to make sure the guy (or girl) doesn't kill themselves while the figure out how to fly the thing. Sure, you give helpful advice along the way, and you know a lot of stuff they don't, but in the end, the reason you're getting paid is for them to become a competent PIC of an airplane. The way to achieve that is to let them screw up until it becomes dangerous, advise them of how and why they're failing, and try to figure out how to help them get better. No where in that description is there anything about "showing them 15 times how to do a squeaker and make the first turnoff". The job isn't about your ego or your capabilities. It's about the student. You're not paid to be a great pilot, you're paid to be a good instructor.

Hope that helps. I think everyone goes through that phase of instructing. You're not the only one, the first, or the last.
 

wrxpilot

New Member
According to your profile you are very low time. As you gain experience as a CFI, you'll become much more comfortable with your abilities and will let your students make mistakes that they can learn from. Before you know it, you'll let them absolutely butcher maneuvers, approaches, and landings before taking over. Just make sure that if/when you do take over, you immediately (and calmly) tell them what happened, why it happened, and how to correct it. Then follow up with a demonstration. Don't ever get mad or visibly frustrated. I have been EXTREMELY frustrated with students before, but I didn't show it. Yelling and anger have no place in the cockpit. It's very detrimental to the learning process, and can really ruin their experience. It also scares them, because YOU are losing control in an airplane, which destroys the huge amount of trust and confidence they have in you. You will probably never get their confidence in you back if you do this. I know none of that probably applies to you, but it's so important I just wanted to throw it out there.

As far as landings, I don't ever trust anybody while wearing the CFI hat. Even if they're an advanced instrument student or 20,000 hr pilot doing a checkout (I've had both types try to kill me on several occasions!). During the base turn, I would stealthily place my feet near the rudder pedals, and put my hands on my lap. I look relaxed (for their confidence), but am ready to spring on the controls. By having your hands and feet located like this, you can spring on the controls just as fast as if you were hovering over the controls. If they feel you on the controls (feet or hands), they will have serious doubts about their abilities, so stay off them.

If it looks like it will be less than perfect, who cares? As long as it's safe. Safe means normal sink rate, not landing on the nose wheel, no porpoising, and no side loading the gear (x-winds). If they're going to bounce it, let them. It's a good learning experience for them, and VERY important for you to see if they can handle it correctly. If it's not right on the centerline, let them land and discuss how to fix it while taxiing. Also, always be very clear about what kind of landing this will be (T&G, full stop, short, soft, etc.). I always verify this and require a verbal response from them on the base turn.

I've always been a big proponent of see and do. In other words, I'll demo the maneuver or landing first, and then verbally coach them as they attempt it themselves. I absolutely hate the "follow me on the controls" method. It does not allow for the proper development of muscle memory, and usually leaves the student more confused than anything else. Bill Kershner didn't like it either, and I think he knew a thing or two about flight instructing :). Oh, and PLEASE give your students a decent preflight ground briefing on what you will be doing. Most CFIs don't do this, and it is ridiculously stupid. You cannot teach somebody about overturning tendencies or adverse yaw while they're sitting in an airplane. It just doesn't work, and makes them frustrated as hell.

Finally, there's only one area I never let my students cross into: low and slow. Either parameter (within reason) I'd let them screw up, but not both. Good luck!
 

esa17

Well-Known Member
Every CFI struggles with this at first, its something we all have to find away around. You will have to come to terms with the fact that you're not always going to be on the controls and you MUST allow your students to make mistakes. Its a fine line between letting them mess up and making a smoking hole but you need to discover the correct balance for you. If you don't, you'll have a very short career as a CFI.
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Every CFI struggles with this at first, its something we all have to find away around. You will have to come to terms with the fact that you're not always going to be on the controls and you MUST allow your students to make mistakes. Its a fine line between letting them mess up and making a smoking hole but you need to discover the correct balance for you. If you don't, you'll have a very short career as a CFI.
This hits the nail on the head.
 

tgrayson

New Member
what can I do?
Have another instructor, ideally more experienced, fly some screwed up approaches and landings, and practice talking him through the maneuvers, rather than touching the controls. Keep your hands in your lap.

You might also consider setting some guidelines for yourself about when you will interfere, such as "never when more than 10 feet above the runway." Those guidelines should be based on your known ability to fix problems. If you don't know what your own limits are in this regard, practice them with the above CFI.

BTW, this isn't an issue of trusting your student, because you shouldn't.
 

bdhill1979

Gone West
BTW, this isn't an issue of trusting your student, because you shouldn't.
:yeahthat:

Even now; the only students I teach are instrument students, the ones who should already know how to land an airplane. Turning final I sit up straighter, me feet are ready to take the rudder pedals, and my hands go right on top of my knees ready to take the stick/yoke. They usually don't notice, but being ready (meaning not trusting them) has saved a few potentially bad days.
 

ILS37R

Well-Known Member
For the landings, as others have said, some time around the base leg, position your feet near the rudders, your right hand near the yoke/stick and your left near the engine controls. Then resist the urge to touch anything unless you have to. From such a position it takes only a fraction of a second to assume command. An ugly (but safe) landing is a better learning experience than a demoed squeaker.

And don't feel bad about moving your body into a position to take over immediately, if necessary. Don't try to conceal it. Rather, be obvious. Being at the ready lets your student know you've got their back, should something go wrong. And when they see you were ready to take the controls, but didn't, it tells them that they did a good(ish) job.

I'm still a relatively new instructor myself, so believe me when I say the fearing for your life and not letting students make mistakes issues tend to work themselves out quickly. That's not to say I haven't had students try to kill me, but we all have our roles to play :rolleyes:
 

Blip16

Well-Known Member
Make no mistake, the guy in the left seat is trying to kill you.
yup!

and about the original question. you just need to bite your tongue, it was hard for me to do, but whenever i find myself doing it, i think back to my first CFI who wouldn't let me make a mistake, and i remember how much i DON"T want to be like him.
 

Maurus

The Great Gazoo
When I first started I would judge my performance later in the day in terms of letting students make mistakes. I found I was hands on way too much. I would have to consciously make sure I wouldn't use the controls too much during each flight afterwords. My questions/statements to students have been getting to be vague compared to where I started as well.

If a student forgets to decrease power (which seems to happen a lot) after a climb, I will just ask what that higher pitch noise is. Eventually they will figure it out, or I will have to pull back the throttle as we red line. In our Cherokee-140's you have to pretty much be full power and descending to red line them, but students do it.

These types of mistakes as instructors is the reason we get some slack for the first 100 hours of dual given. By 100 hours of dual you will be relatively comfortable with mistakes by students. That first 100 hours also gives us the time needed to experience how far we need to let the students make their mistakes before intervening.

At a bit over 75 hours dual, I still find myself trying to correct my students too often.
 

Blip16

Well-Known Member
When I first started I would judge my performance later in the day in terms of letting students make mistakes. I found I was hands on way too much. I would have to consciously make sure I wouldn't use the controls too much during each flight afterwords. My questions/statements to students have been getting to be vague compared to where I started as well.

If a student forgets to decrease power (which seems to happen a lot) after a climb, I will just ask what that higher pitch noise is. Eventually they will figure it out, or I will have to pull back the throttle as we red line. In our Cherokee-140's you have to pretty much be full power and descending to red line them, but students do it.

These types of mistakes as instructors is the reason we get some slack for the first 100 hours of dual given. By 100 hours of dual you will be relatively comfortable with mistakes by students. That first 100 hours also gives us the time needed to experience how far we need to let the students make their mistakes before intervening.

At a bit over 75 hours dual, I still find myself trying to correct my students too often.
i have 1200 dual given and i still find myself doing it once and a while. mainly with CFI initial students though, when they personally have troubles with maneuvers. overall i have become pretty much a hands off CFI, but i do have my bad days :)
 

nosehair

Well-Known Member
Have another instructor, ideally more experienced, fly some screwed up approaches and landings, and practice talking him through the maneuvers, rather than touching the controls. Keep your hands in your lap.
Have another instructor who is more experienced make some bad landings; not so bad that you have to take over, but you have to stay off the controls. You have to do this; you know you have to. This is the training you didn't get in your CFI prep training.

So suck it up and get it.
 

Blip16

Well-Known Member
Have another instructor who is more experienced make some bad landings; not so bad that you have to take over, but you have to stay off the controls. You have to do this; you know you have to. This is the training you didn't get in your CFI prep training.

So suck it up and get it.
that is my favorite part of the CFI training. the problem is the students don't usually have the guts to take over because they can't tell if i am acting or not. i need to kick their butts in more landing competitions i think so they know i am acting.
 

Ruff T

Well-Known Member
When it comes to landings I really find myself not being able to let go of the controls for that last 200ft. For some reason I fear for my life and I have not trust in my student's ability to fly, even if they are pretty decent. I dunno... what can I do? (Other than the obvious statement of "Just let go of the damned controls!")

Sean

I think that instead of grabbing the controls, what's worked for me is to verbally tell them what control inputs they need to correct the problem as it happens. And at the same time, I put my feet on the rudder pedals shadowing their movements and place my hands on my knees ready to react if I need to. People learn by making mistakes, and if you don't let them make those mistakes then they might not know what to do if they encounter that situation.
 

Nihon_Ni

Well-Known Member
Sometimes making a mistake is the only way students learn a lesson. For example, I live on an island. I used to constantly preach about the need to stay within power off gliding distance to the shore when we can. To get to our practice area takes a circuitous route to stay over land and a small chain of islands that's a few miles longer than flying direct from the airport, but the direct route covers several miles of open water at low altitude. It used to be that I'd tell students to take me to the practice area, and they would start to fly the most direct route. As they'd get to the shore, I'd tell them to turn the plane to follow the shore along the chain of islands, and I'd give them the sermon about the need to stay within gliding distance. The next lesson, they’d do the same thing and I’d repeat the sermon. And again the following lesson, and again…. After a while I adopted the "live & learn" policy. Now when I tell them to go to the practice area and they start to head out over the water, I let them. The first time they do this stunt, I let them get out to the middle of the bay, then pull the throttle and announce "engine failure". When they discover that there's no place to land, I ask them how they got themselves into this position, since there is land in every direction, yet we can't glide to it. "Wouldn't it be better to be over there? (pointing to the circuitous route)" I only have to tell them once now, and they learn the lesson. One mistake is worth a thousand sermons!
 
Top