Personalized Training Adventures
Hello, my name is Jonathan Johns, and I have been instructing for well over 15 years. I have instructed for ab-initio airline programs, for local flying clubs, charter operations, air tour companies and airline prep training for companies like Lufthansa, Delta Conne
ction, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, and a host of other environments that requi
res serious focus for the instructor and the student to achieve success. Heck, I even owned a flight school and later an air tour operation as a partner for a 5 year stint. During that time, I realized that so many pilots who were not necessarily training for these environments would be disengaged and overall discouraged that something they dreamed of doing seemed so complex and out of reach because of the time involvement. This wasn’t information they volunteered, if anything these people were so polite, they would leave an operation making you smile, never to return because of a lack of relevance. Aviation in itself requires dedication and commitment to safety and working to a higher standar
d, but the training should match the environments you plan to fly in, while providing for the safety of the unexpected. Throughout my career, I would watch as we bore holes in the sky and clouds doing maneuver after maneuver in the name of all the was repetitious, but slowly the non-commercial oriented pilots would begin to lose focus, and overall “checkout” and I knew they would quit by the process of natural selection.
I knew something had to change, so I tried a number of methods, everything from video flights, geo-referenced flight debriefs, and even comic relief all while teaching and trying to keep discipline in the cockpit. It was gruelling, it was almost experimental, and though I could get a Private or and Instrument student through their ticket in less than required time, I was even becoming disengaged, burned out, and discouraged altogether. Then lightning struck and I hit upon an idea that was really quite simple and fit with the then newer “FITS” program from the FAA. The FAA’s FITS program is a training syllabus where scenarios are utilized throughout training to make the learning purposeful and fine tune my clients engagement. “FITS” (Scenario based training) alone wasn’t enough, you simply can’t learn the basics in a hurry on a flight from Orlando, FL to Tampa Bay, FL it left the student frazzled and lost.
So I started training in a new methodology where we initiated a strategic use of those learning tools I learned in my past lives in flight training. No stone was left unturned, comedy for the tight lipped serious individuals, constant confidence boosts for the faint of heart, and trips to small airports with what seemed like real life enroute emergencies to the student(s) flying the plane. It was like a roller coaster where they hit the little red kill switch when it gets to be too much. without recourse and without shame. This requires unique instructors, and talk about challenging? This was challenging in the truest sense of the word. Instead of criticizing the dawg out of some poor weekend warrior, you just correct him/her through behavioral modification
. An example: Alex-pilot is zooming along with teeth showing and the smile and exhuberance of a two year old that just discovered cookies while mom is in the bathroom. The student pilot is oblivious to the fact he is about to collide with Class “B” airspace above him or the violation it would hold, so bang! he gets a partial engine loss and an engine fire… now we are full speed ahead on those tasks the fun begins. Check out that field Alex! I don’t even like that field do you? “uhhhh -no” so no big deal Alex let’s find a better one. Pretty soon Alex has dealt with not only one emergency, but Aeronautical Decision Making, executing procedures in a logical priority, and as Alex discovers in briefing, there was no altitude issue any longer. Either way, when Alex leaves the airport, serious learning has taken place, in a controlled environment. We still fly to our destination, a small uncontrolled field that is just short enough to make Alex wonder landing is even possible, but Alex gets the introduction to landing distances and why they are important, because the instructor took the time to demonstrate the concept. Sure we were suppose to cover MCA, Stalls, Steep Turns, and sticking our fingers in the wind, but because it was going south in a hurry, we adjusted and reinforced basic principles. What else has occurred in this scenario is that Alex discovered that flying from point A to point B is still achievable and saved them a load of time compared to driving.
- What are the chances Alex is coming back? I would give it the high 90% range
- What did Alex learn here that he would have missed at the local “premier flight school”? Alex found that buying an aircraft might really be an option or a goal to work toward, after all the emergency occurred, no one died, and we are only on Lesson 3. Yes, those critical maneuvers like stalls, and stall recovery still have to take place. But Alex has discovered that flying is useful and relevant. Those scary “Math equations” and “rules of thumbs” suddenly seem like they are easier to learn than originally thought and the mystery behind what happens when there is a problem is solved for the most part.
- Does this coincide with the building blocks needed for learning? Absolutely! As CFI’s we should be called “Aviation Development Consultants”. Building blocks are as psychological as they are application oriented for flight training. Alex already had the idea of the checklists downloaded and ready to utilize. More importantly, it was pretty apparent after a number of attempts to hold altitude that it wasn’t happening today. To fit this in a 1.2-1.5 hour flight in some areas of the country is next to impossible. So we simply incomplete Lesson 3 marking ADM and threat management as complete and introduced, and airport traffic patterns complete, and marked Emergency demonstrations in the applicable lessons after the metaphoric lesson 3. People in the post-millennium era (General statistics) are not interested in boring holes in the sky just to grab some air. Many “would-be” pilots fail to discover the relevance of flying to their locale simply because the instructor or flight operation is fully immersed in “Aviation Culture” and the “would-be” pilot is immersed in daily life. So build on this block then take on the building blocks of flight training. If we fail in this area with a client, we will lose them forever. They are excited to fly or they woulnd’t be in the aircraft, it’s up to us to engage them, or place them with another training professional who can.
- What’s so different about this concept?
Obviously, there is more than meets the eye in this concept of flight training, it’s just alot of ideas applied. The major difference is that instead of subscribing to the latest “Hot Topic” for the FAA, or the latest ” Training Syllabus”, the student is the focus. As instructors, we all say ‘ Every one learns differently’, yet at the end of the day our actions are ” Do it this way, because it’s all I have”. When we have utilized the maneuvers as situations that develop, personalized to this persons learning posture, dealing with their fears, their fun, and their flight.
Obviously, there is no cure all to anything, however, taking trips to small airports enroute, adjusting the lessons and the syllabus to fit the actual training mechanisms of the student, and watching the student and adjusting the flight for max effect is paramount to the success of the flight instructor – pilot team. This is how we apply the “Logic” in “Flight-Logic Aviation and Flight Training” to general aviation. It doesn’t matter whether we fly a piston or a turbine, there is a “sweet spot” each pilot has in the learning process and I have devoted my time and my business to this idea that most people can learn to fly, they just need a coach in their corner. The Aviation world has simply changed from the days of whooping out a yeahaw and then raving about what a fantastic job you did narrowly escaping a fatal occurrence, now there are regulations, civil liabilities, new FAA regulations, and more airspace than every before. It would do us good to build the foundation on the fundamentals, while revisiting the idea of training effectiveness and relevance to the audience we work with.
Orlando – Winter Haven, Florida
Entrepreneur – Business Development Guru
daily- gravity – defying aircraft activist