Can we do better?

"If you ask each of the 2600 clubs about instruction programs, the overwhelming majority would respond by saying, "Sure, we provide help for the newcomer." All too often, little thought is given to how the instruction is structured. There just seems to be an ultimate goal; learning to fly, but without a road map to get there. But if you did have a more organized approach, in the long haul you would learn that you have safer flying and keep members longer. In the end, you will create a better club."

Robert Underwood, President (Ret.)
Academy of Model Aeronautics

"The perfect practice Training System would prepare the student so well for the task they are learning that they should be able to perform the task very close to perfectly the first time they practice it.

The typical instructor method is to whip through some turns, demonstrate the desired maneuver, and then say, “OK, you try it.” With such poor preparation, the student completely botches the maneuver, so the instructor critiques how the student did. However, the student is so busy trying to fly the plane he misses much of what the instructor is saying. This cycle is repeated over and over doing just a little bit better each time. Afterwards, the instructor gives the student a few final words of wisdom and heads over to the next student to repeat this cycle.

Some instructors have a more organized system, but still the basic approach is the same: Show the student pilot how to do it once and then let the student practice it over and over until they get it right.

Ideally anyone desiring to learn would first acquire full knowledge of the activity and the details of how it is accomplished. Then they would be able to review the task over and over until the image of the correct performance was burned into their conscious, and even subconscious. Because of this preparation, they would perform the task nearly perfectly the first time, and with very little additional instruction achieve the ideal performance."

Jay Hopkins, President
National Association of Flight Instructors


It's probably safe to say that most instructors instruct similar to the way that they were instructed. In R/C we're talking primarily about informal recreational instructing. By definition, recreational instructors can not be expected to spend the amount of time that it takes to thoroughly brief their students (what, how, and why) to have a real impact on their performance. So, "practice makes perfect" and "everyone learns at their own pace" are sufficient reasons to give for how their students' perform.

The question is, is there a way for instructors to noticeably improve their students' performance without making it a job? (Note: While encouraging the use of simulators can help people learn not to crash, student pilots need guidance to learn to fly correctly.)

While many of us arrived at our present skill level after learning our lessons the hard way, through error and subsequent trial, the better way would be to think things through before acting. This new way of thinking might be called wisdom. It is when we stop integrating new ideas, when we stop learning, when we approach instructing with a smug certainty that we have seen it all that we set ourselves and our students up for mediocrity and failure. Wisdom is enhanced by the humility of knowing that we don't know it all.

Those who lack curiosity about the instruction process tend to shrug off other methods and what they don't know as irrelevant. The fact that you are reading this indicates a natural curiosity about flying and its environment. So you likely already possess the key quality that makes a good instructor, a genuine interest in your students.

While the interest in better instructing is there, there's still the issue of not wanting to turn it into a job.

As you know, most student pilots are very eager to learn and committed to their training, wishing they could get a lot more. Might I suggest that the surefire way to enhance your students' performance is to let them take responsibility for thoroughly briefing themselves before taking to the air with you? 1st U.S. R/C Flight School has published several flight training manuals for just that purpose. (Did you know that people even hear and see better when they know what to expect ahead of time?)

In the same way good pilots make what they do look easy, the same can be said about good instructors: Simply by suggesting to your students that they get a flight manual and study for their lessons, they'll appreciate you more for showing an interest in their success. They'll certainly perform better, and even though your job will get easier, your students will think more highly of you as an instructor. Of course, instructing will also be more fun. Flying is, after all, more fun when doing well and making progress.

Confidence has been described as a feeling of optimism. That is, instead of hoping for success, a plan is in place to succeed. Fear has been described as what happens when one finds himself in a situation that he's not prepared for. (That's why some of your students shake during training, by the way.)

The positive difference you can make suggesting a good flight manual to your students, so that they show up for training more confident and better prepared to succeed, will be a win win for everyone.

David Scott, Instructor
1st U.S. R/C Flight School


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