Chapter 8. Techniques of Flight Instruction

Demonstrated Ability

Assessment of demonstrated ability during flight instruction must be based upon established standards of performance, suitably modified to apply to the student’s experience and stage of development as a pilot. The assessment must consider the student’s mastery of the elements involved in the maneuver, rather than merely the overall performance.

In order for a student to be signed off for a solo flight, the CFI must determine that the student is qualified and proficient in the flight tasks necessary for the flight. The CFI bases this assessment on the student’s ability to demonstrate consistent proficiency on a number of flight maneuvers. Also associated with pilot skill evaluations during flight training are the stage checks conducted in FAA-approved school courses and the practical tests for pilot certificates and ratings.

Postflight Evaluation

In assessing piloting ability, it is important for the flight instructor to keep the student informed of progress. This may be done as each procedure or maneuver is completed or summarized during postflight critiques. Postflight critiques should be in a written format, such as notes to aid the flight instructor in covering all areas that were noticed during the flight or lesson. Traditionally, flight instructors explained errors in performance, pointed out elements in which the deficiencies were believed to have originated and, if possible, suggested appropriate corrective measures. Traditional assessment depends on a grading scale of “excellent, good, fair, poor” or “exceeds standards, meets standards, needs more training” which often meets the instructor’s needs but not the needs of the student.

With the advent of SBT, collaborative assessment is used whenever the student has completed a scenario. As discussed in chapters 4 and 5, SBT uses a highly structured script of real-world experiences to address aviation training objectives in an operational environment. During the postflight evaluation, collaborative assessment is used to evaluate whether certain learning criteria were met during the SBT.

Collaborative assessment includes learner self-assessment and a detailed assessment by the aviation instructor. The purpose of the self-assessment is to stimulate growth in the learner’s thought processes and, in turn, behaviors. The self-assessment is followed by an in-depth discussion between the instructor and the student which compares the instructor’s assessment to the student’s self-assessment.

First Solo Flight

During the student’s first solo flight, the instructor must be present to assist in answering questions or resolving any issues that arise during the flight. To ensure the solo flight is a positive, confidence-building experience for the student, the flight instructor needs to consider time of day when scheduling the flight. Time of day is a factor in traffic congestion, possible winds, sun angles, and reflection.

If possible, the flight instructor needs access to a portable radio during any supervised solo operations. A radio enables the instructor to terminate the solo operation if he or she observes a situation developing. The flight instructor must use good judgment when communicating with a solo student. Keep all radio communications to a minimum. Do not talk to the student on short final of the landing approach.

Post-Solo Debriefing

During a post-solo debriefing, the flight instructor discusses what took place during the student’s solo flight. It is important for the flight instructor to answer any questions the student may have as result of a solo flight. Instructors need to be involved in all aspects of the flight to ensure the student utilizes correct flight procedures. It is very important for the flight instructor to debrief a student immediately after a solo flight. With the flight vividly etched in the student’s memory, questions about the flight will come quickly.

Correction of Student Errors

Correction of student errors should not include the practice of immediately taking the controls away 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 control 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 will dissipate 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 and not fully understand the principles and objectives involved. When the instructor suspects this, students should be required to vary the performance of the maneuver slightly, combine it with other operations, or apply the same elements to the performance of other maneuvers. Students who do not understand the principles involved will probably not be able to do this successfully.

Pilot Supervision

Flight instructors have the responsibility to provide guidance and restraint with respect to the solo operations of their students. This is by far the most important flight instructor responsibility. The flight instructor is the only person in a position to make the determination a student is ready for solo operations. Before endorsing a student for solo flight, the instructor should require the student to demonstrate consistent ability to perform all of the fundamental maneuvers.

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