Flying self-selects fabulous people. It is easy to become fond of them. They are competent, committed and persistent. You already know this because you work with these folks all the time. My wife, Martha, and I became especially aware of how wonderful pilots are, and fond of them, during the decade or so that we traveled around the country teaching ground schools. It was also during that decade that we learned how vulnerable these special people are to the risks associated with flying.
We taught relatively large numbers, and it was not uncommon for us to return to a city in two months and learn that someone we had just taught was already dead from an airplane crash. I can name dozens. These were not foolhardy people. They just didn’t understand the risks they were taking. In each case the death was considered a local tragedy. These people make fabulous obituaries.
It points out there is such a strong need to help pilots gain insights that will save their lives. This is why I have come to so be deeply saddened by the lost opportunity represented by Flight Instructor Refresher Courses that cover all over again the same things we instructors all learned when we were training to become private pilots. Covering things like thrust, drag, lift, and weight has little or no effect on our ability to teach pilots things that will determine whether they and their passengers live or die.
When we decided we were going to create a FIRC, we made the decision it was time to respect the valuable resource that flight instructors are—to help them gain the specific tools to teach pilots things that will actually make a difference on how well they take care of themselves and their passengers.
We decided our FIRC should cover things like identifying and changing at-risk behaviors. Flight instructors often see scary behavior in their own customers, but until now, haven’t been given the specific tools to help their customers gain the insight they need. Plus, when someone at the airport comes to grief in an airplane, people who knew that person are often not surprised. They had seen it coming. It is the flight instructor who is in the best position to counsel that person before the tragedy happens, but once again, without being prepared, they won’t know what to say that could modify that person’s conduct.
Another subject we decided to cover is “Conducting a Meaningful Flight Review.” The flight review is a very special opportunity for flight instructors to provide meaningful assistance. The FAA provides very little guidance on flight reviews, and in order to leave their customers with life-saving insights, the flight instructor needs preparation to make the most of it.
Most important, it is our suggestion in the FIRC that flight instructors teach their customers to employ a risk management analysis as a preflight action from the very first lesson. Pilots should find it no more acceptable to skip this preflight action than to go flying without a preflight inspection of the airplane. With practice, learning pilots will gain the skill of analyzing risks and coming up with a mitigation plan for them. Right now new pilots learn this on their own, after they leave flight training. It is not working well. It is our hope that with preparation from our FIRC, flight instructors will be able to do much better for their customers.
We hope that as a minimum taking this FIRC will make flight instructors thoughtful. The best case is that they will become strong advocates of risk management to everyone in aviation.
–John King, co-founder King Schools