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Five Mile Final | A Flight Instructor's Sandbox

Aviation Instructor's Handbook


The Telling and Doing Technique of flight instruction is effective in teaching physical skills. It follows the four-step demonstration-performance technique, with the addition of a first step, preparation — students need to know what they will learn and how they will learn it. The second step, presentation, includes an explanation of the maneuver and the performance of it (this is the only step wherein the student plays a passive role). Instructors should demonstrate with thorougness and precision, since students often attempt to mimic instructors.

When skills being taught are based on previous procedures/maneuvers the known-to-unknown strategy can be used. When teaching more than one skill at a time, the simple-to-complex strategy is employed.

Instructors should avoid technical languge and jargon and instead clearly describe what actions students are expected to perform. Instructors should not try to impress students with knowledge of concepts or material that is beyond a student's grasp.

A transition step in the telling-and-doing technique, student tells, instructor does, is a departure from the Demonstration-Performance technique — here, the student plays the role of the instructor. The student is freed from the performance and is allowed to grasp the concepts of each task. This step also supports the principle of primacy, which states that it's important that instructors help students get it right the first time.

This is followed by student tells, student does, which is the act of application in the process. Meaningful learning will occur if a student is adequately prepared. The instructor must remain aware of the student's processes and determine which errors are conceptual vs. motor skills. This step also supports the student's self-learning process, which is highly desirable. The instructor should also remain vigilant for hazards as the student attempts a given maneuver.

The fourth step, instructor does, student evaluates (or review and evaluate) asks the student to perform the maneuver while the instructor makes appropriate comments. Success is a motivating factor, so concrete suggestions should support criticism, while the lesson should not end on a negative note.


Integrated Flight Instruction involves teaching flying both by outside visual references and reference to flight instruments. Habit formation in support of reference to flight instruments should be encouraged, and is supported by accident reports. Elements that support this method of instruction include:


There are several obstacles to learning during flight instruction, including:


The Positive Exchange of Flight Controls is a cornerstone of flight instruction, supported over the years by accident statistics. The phrase "I/You have the flight controls" is used consistently, and instructors should be preprared to calmly take the controls at any time.

The Use of Distractions is an effective form of spin-avoidance instruction. Students may be asked to pick up a pencil, determine a heading, reset a clock, get something from the backseat, read the outside air temperature, call FSS for weather, compute true airspeed, identify objects or terrain, identify an off-airport landing site, make altitude changes, and reverse course after S-turns.

Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) is a systemic approach that guides pilots to make the best course of action in any given set of circumstances. Fully 75% of all aircraft accidents are human-factors related (also called pilot error). Antother term is poor-judgment chain (also error chain or accident chain), describing the series of events, rather than a single incident, that leads to most aviation accidents. Instructors should help students understand how a series of events causes accidents.

ADM originated with airlines, which implemented Crew Resource Management (CRM) training for flight crews. CRM focuses on elements such as workload management, situational awareness, communication, leadership roles, and crew coordination. CRM equally applies to single-pilot operations, particularly with the need to make use of all available resources.

Fundamentals of the Decision-Making Process include defining the problem, choosing a course of action, implementing the decision, and evaluating the outcome. Another method is the DECIDE model, which asks pilots to Detect a change has occured, Estimate the need for reaction, Choose a desirable outcome, Identify successful actions, Do the necessary action, and Evaluate the effect of the action.

Basic Risk Management includes four risk elements or variables: the pilot, the aircraft, the environment, and the operation. When assessing risk, it's notable that most aviation accidents occur while approaching a destination airport. Departure, maneuvering flight, and weather also are risk factors. Landing fatalities are normally during IMC or night. Human factors often play a role in departure accidents. Instructors should set positive examples and encourage precaution in their students by requiring weather briefings, preflight, and the "go/no-go decision."

Factors that affect decision-making can include the lack of pilot self-assessment (the IM SAFE checklist), hazardous attitudes (anti-authority, impulsivity, invulnerability, macho, and resignation), and poor stress management.

Students must be made aware of resources to use during flight operations. These include internal resources in the cockpit (provided they fully understand advanced equipment like autopilots or GPS). External resources include ATC elements, such as Flight Service and FlightWatch. Students can be asked to identify resources throughout training.

Workload Management should include using checklists, prioritizing work items, and recognizing work overload. Instructors can gradually increase workload during a lesson to monitor student management of tasks.

Situational Awareness is the accurate perception of operational/environmental factors affecting the aircraft, pilot, and passengers during a specific period of time. Good awareness requires the recognition of significant elements, supported by overall awareness and lack of fixation, as well as of the fundamental ADM skills. Fatigue, stress, work overload, and complacency can impact situational awareness.

Operational Pitfalls, or classic behavioral traps, can bring about dangerous and/or illegal practicies. These include peer pressure, mindset, get-there-itis, duck-under syndrome, scud-running, VFR into IMC, geting behind the aircraft, loss of situational awareness, lack of fuel reserves, descent below MEA, flying outside the envelope, and neglect of standard procedures.

Instructors must consistently evaluate student decision-making and not just technical skills. Students should be allowed to make decisions about typical issues so that instructors can help them as they build effective judgment skills. Training offers consistent opportunities to improve decision-making.


Flight Instructor Test Questions

The basic demonstration/performance method of instruction consists of several steps in proper order. They are instructor tells - instructor does; student tells - instructor does; student tells - student does; student does - instructor evaluates.
— And yet FOI 9-2 states that Student Tells-Instructor Does is "the most obvious departure from the demonstration-performance technique, and may provide the most significant advantages"...)

The primary objective of integrated flight instruction is the formation of firm habit patterns for observing and relying on flight instruments.

As an obstacle to learning, impatience is a greater deterrent to learning pilot skills than is generally recognized.

Robert Wederquist   CP-ASEL - AGI - IGI
Commercial Pilot • Instrument Pilot
Advanced Ground Instructor • Instrument Ground Instructor