Westwind Flying Instructors

A guide to dealing with them. . .

Last Updated: March 14, 2006

Dealing with your Instructor:

Now a word about the person who counts most in the learning to fly scheme-of-things, your instructor.

A flying instructor, and particularly one who finally adopts you, is the closed thing you'll ever get to God while still inhabiting this world. You will come to learn that, unlike ordinary people, who are blessed with only the average amount of ability, your flying instructor has two of everything. They have double the brainpower, double the initiative and double the acumen of normal mortals.

From this you will realise how important it is to get off on the right foot with the person who is going to teach you everything they know - or more properly, everything they think you can absorb. Not only that, they are going to waste a lot of valuable time on your behalf, time which could be more profitably spent in snooker halls or betting shops. Treat them with the greatest deference and you will do fine. In addition, a little grovelling certainly won't go amiss.

As a breed, flying instructors are a happy band being generally endowed with a fine sense of humour and a keen sense of the ridiculous. They have to be that way, otherwise in a very short time they would be bouncing off rubber walls. This is because students, by and large, are a pretty thick bunch. You don't, as a habit, have to watch a student inadvertently switching off the fuel during a take-off run to realise that, if you don't laugh at it, the nervous breakdown is only a wait away.

From time to time during training, you will notice your instructor turning white. This, as you will appreciate, is not a terribly good sign. Their pallidity, however, won't be induced by fear, because there is nothing you can do to an aeroplane that they haven't already seen; and it certainly won't be through anger, for instructors rarely lose their cool. On the contrary, they will turn white from sheer disbelief that you could perpetrate so many errors in so short a space of time. But don't let that play on your mind because it happens to everybody.

Notwithstanding the above, if during your endeavours you happen to notice their eyes glazing over and their lower lip trembling, this is the time to consider whether you have turned them right over the edge and wonder wether they are a fit person to be flying with. At that point, you may wish to begin composing your statement for the subsequent court of inquiry, or decide to conduct all future flights solo.

It's been my experience that instructors tend to impart their knowledge on a need to know basis. What this means is that in the early stages they keep you in relative ignorance of how the plane flies, and of how the lump of engine machinery at the front works. It may occur to you, therefore to find these things out for yourself. The reasons behind your instructor's slowness in divulging all is quite simple. They realise that, once you get to grips with it, they become largely redundant.

It follows then, that the worst thing that you can possible do to your mentor is make them feel unwanted. Given the situation where you announce that you have reached such a level of competence that their presence is now only a token one to satisfy air law legislation, they will almost certainly prove differently. Like my taking the plane up to 3,000 feet and putting it into a pernicious spin and then asking what you propose to to about it. This is called power. Be Warned: flying instructors wield power with a conviction that would make Attila the Hub look positively timorous.

All of that aside, the need to know hypothesis is an eminently sensible one. It prevents your mind becoming cluttered in the early days, with information your don't really need at that stage. It obviates a lot of confusion, too. So you will discover that the necessary details stick more readily when it is drip-fed to you at every successive lesson, and as you build you hours, you will also build your knowledge. You had better get it cleat at the start, too, that you will never know all that your instructor knows. Neither will you be able to fly with their consummate skill. It is a pretty good idea to tell them so from time to time. They are only human after all, and they need approbation just as much as you do.

To recap, then, the real secret of learning to fly is also to learn how to be a devout crawler.


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