Chapter 7. Instructor Responsibilities and Professionalism


The attitude and behavior of the instructor can contribute much to a professional image. The instructor should avoid erratic movements, distracting speech habits, and capricious changes in mood. The professional image requires development of a calm, thoughtful, and disciplined demeanor.

The successful instructor avoids contradictory directions, reacting differently to similar or identical errors at different times, demanding unreasonable performance or progress, or criticizing a student unfairly, and presenting an overbearing manner or air of flippancy. Effective instruction is best conducted in a calm, pleasant, thoughtful manner that puts the student at ease. The instructor must constantly demonstrate competence in the subject matter and genuine interest in the studentís well being.

Proper Language

In aviation instruction, as in other professional activities, the use of profanity and obscene language leads to distrust or, at best, to a lack of complete confidence in the instructor. Many people object to such language. The professional instructor speaks normally, without inhibitions, and speaks positively and descriptively, without profanity.

Evaluation of Student Ability

Evaluation of a studentís ability is an important element of instruction. Used in this context, evaluation refers to judging a studentís ability to perform a maneuver or procedure.

Demonstrated Ability

Evaluation of demonstrated ability during flight or maintenance instruction is based upon established standards of performance, suitably modified to apply to the studentís experience and stage of development as a pilot or mechanic. The evaluation considers the studentís mastery of the elements involved in the maneuver or procedure, rather than merely the overall performance. For example, qualification of student pilots for solo and solo cross-country privileges depends upon demonstrations of performance.

Keeping the Student Informed

In evaluating student demonstrations of ability, it is important for the aviation instructor to keep the student informed of progress. This may be done as each procedure or maneuver is completed or summarized during a postflight or class critique. These critiques should be in a written format, such as notes, to aid the instructor in covering all areas that were noticed during the flight or lesson. When explaining errors in performance, instructors point out the elements in which the deficiencies are believed to have originated and, if possible, suggest appropriate corrective measures.

Correction of Student Errors

Correction of student errors does not include the practice of taking over from students immediately when a mistake is made. Safety permitting, it is frequently better to let students progress part of the way into the mistake and find a way out. For example, in a weight-shift control aircraft the bar is moved right to turn left. A student may show an initial tendency to move the bar in the direction of the desired turn. This tendency dissipates with time, but allowing the student to see the effect of his or her control input is a valuable aid in illustrating the stability of the aircraft. It is difficult for students to learn a maneuver properly if they seldom have the opportunity to correct an error.

On the other hand, students may perform a procedure or maneuver correctly but not fully understand the principles and objectives involved. If the instructor suspects this, students should be required to vary the performance of the maneuver or procedure slightly. The maneuver or procedure may also be combined with other operations, or the same elements could be applied to the performance of other maneuvers or procedures. Students who do not understand the principles involved will probably not be able to successfully complete the revised maneuver or procedure.

Aviation Instructors and Exams

Knowledge Test

When preparing a student or applicant for the private pilot certification or higher grade rating (i.e., commercial or instrument) a test is required to ensure the student has adequate aeronautical knowledge in those subject areas listed in 14 CFR part 61. The instructor may provide the student with an endorsement to certify he or she has the required knowledge to pass the test. Some additional ratings do not require a test. For information concerning additional aircraft certifications that do not require knowledge tests, refer to AC 61-65, Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors. Flight instructors must take a short test for each additional category.

An instructor should remember he or she is held accountable for a deficient instructional performance. This is important for any instructor who signs recommendations for applicants who were not trained by that instructor.

If the applicant fails a test, the aviation instructor must sign the test after he or she has provided additional training in the areas the applicant failed. The applicant is given a retest. Prior to certification, the aviation instructor must make a statement that he or she gave the required training in the preceding 60 days and the instructor reviewed those areas of deficiency on the applicantís knowledge test.

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