A little less than 5 years ago I took a big step outside my comfort zone. Like so many other students of aviation, I moved a few thousand miles away from home to pursue a dream. A dream I had fostered longer than I can remember of being a pilot. In those nearly 5 years I have transformed from a student of aviation, to a teacher. As an individual I have grown countless milestones.

This chapter in my life comes to a close, and a new opportunity awaits me.

I have been hired by an airline and have been assigned a start date. Of the few times previous that I have interviewed and ‘hired,’ never have I made it this far in the exodus. I have officially provided my supervisor a letter of resignation.

These past few months have been a roller coaster of emotion and fear coupled with excitement. The unknown and waiting during the application process, followed by the stress and pressure of the interview process, followed by more waiting and anticipation waiting to hear from the company. I have finally heard the official word. The emotion has turned towards a nervous excitement. I will miss some things, but look forward to not dealing with other certainties. I’m apprehensive of what awaits me, yet eager to get started.

For what feels like forever I have been where I am, and I find myself facing the same issues of transplantation as when I first came to Florida. Where will I be? Will I like it? Will I succeed? Will I make friends? Will I be able to pay my bills? What if…?

In a little over a week I will be starting my trek across the country again. This time by car. I have a little over 2200 miles to drive to where my parents live. I look forward to the drive, and I will be joined on the trip by my Dad.

Soon you will hear of the trials and tribulations of a teacher turned student yet again. Lets hope I can practice what I have for so long preached.

so you’re getting ready for standardization

This was a post I created on jetcareers about the upcoming standardization events for our new instructor candidates. The purpose of these posts was to ensure that new instructors had some insight on what to expect and what was expected of them. I tried to provide some guidance for the ground briefings as well as flights that are used to standardize the instructor. I think with the realization that I will no longer be around the academy much longer has prompted my desire to help the new comers. I wish I had started this process much sooner.

You’re not quite sure what to expect when you meet that standardization pilot.

Let me give you some guidance.

Show up on time and prepared, with the materials required for a pre-flight briefing. Don’t show up 5 minutes late, with no marker and nothing prepared on your white board.

This means you should probably have something already prepared on the white board that includes things like:

  • Title of discussion or presentation
  • A brief overview or description
  • Listed references for the student to use or refer to
  • A diagram or drawing depicting the maneuver or topic

This discussion should be taught using the guided discussion method.
That means that you treat the standardization pilot as the student, not as a standardization pilot. Don’t refer to the student in third person. “I would tell the student this” or “Now I would ask the student that.”

Ask me those questions, tell me what you want to tell me, as your student. My job as a standardization pilot is to evaluate your ability to lead a discussion or briefing on a maneuver. Show me you have that ability!

Avoid saying things like “bump power” or “pull back”. We are taught to use very specific instructions with the students, and it is heavily emphasized. “Add 100 RPM” or “Increase pitch 1 degree on the horizon” are phrases you need to be comfortable with. Generalized statements tend to lead to students over controlling and making erratic inputs.

Throughout the entire standardization event you should act and conduct yourself as the instructor. If you don’t know things, tell me you can look it up. Admitting errors is OK, but saying “I don’t know” isn’t. The student needs to know it’s OK to not know everything, but should also understand that there is always someplace to find information.

You must have instructional knowledge of the aircraft! We need to ensure you’re going to teach a student the basics of the airframe and systems of the aircraft. These are things we look for on stage checks, and they start with the students primary instructor! Just to name a few:

  • What kind of flaps do we have? What benefit do they provide?
  • What kind of ailerons do we have? What design characteristic do they have that is beneficial?
  • What does the stall strip do?
  • How much fuel is in this fuel tank? How much is unusable? How much fuel is at the tab?
  • Tire inflation numbers, and strut extension tolerance limits.
  • How the Piper External Power plug works
  • Show me the Vacuum pump. How do you know if it stops working? What instruments will stop


  • Be able to identify basic components of the engine, and what their function is
  • The Piper Pitot/Static system is pretty unique; be sure you understand the design of the mast ,
    and what happens when the various ports become blocked.

You will hear a lot, this is not a check ride. It truly isn’t. However, it is an evaluation of your instructional knowledge of the aircraft, and the topics to be covered from pre-solo to single engine commercial applicants. This will probably require some studying and practice on your behalf. Especially the procedures and specific techniques that they require you to use. I’m sure that everything we teach here is taught at least slightly different than what you’re use to.

Lets talk about the flight, shall we?

The flight contains every private and commercial flight maneuver for single engine airplane requirements. All maneuvers are expected to be performed to PTS while simultaneously explaining/teaching. This seems to be the significant pitfall of most instructor candidates.

Remember that throughout the flight you are the instructor, and the stan pilot is to be treated as the student. If you make any mistakes throughout any of the maneuvers, please use them as teaching examples. The students are going to make mistakes when they attempt maneuvers and we want to hear your criticism and analysis of your performance. Do not try to cover up your mistakes, or say that it was PTS when it clearly wasn’t. We are perfectly OK with mistakes, just teach me about it. Always admit your errors to your students. They know you’re not God, don’t act like it.

Do not teach too much. A lot of new instructors sometimes feel the need to narrate and comment on everything that occurs during the flight. Don’t. We want to hear the key instructions, and main points. We don’t need a play by play announcer of every little item. Be careful that you don’t over-instruct the maneuvers. Especially in the traffic pattern, be very cautious of how much instruction you’re giving. If you want the ‘student’ to complete a maneuver, be sure to take the controls before providing your short debrief. The student has little to no ability to listen and perceive your criticism and debrief while flying the aircraft.

Be sure to have a plan of action on how to complete the lesson. You already have a complete list of all maneuvers to be completed, use it. You will be responsible for execution of the lesson with a student, so assume that role for this flight. Tell me which maneuvers we’re going to do, and in what order. Ensure that we remain in the same practice area, or that we don’t stray 10 miles from the airport. Keep an eye on the hobbs time, and ensure that we are not taking too much time between maneuvers. These are essential skills as an active CFI.

Organize your plan of action so it makes sense. Don’t climb to 3500 after departure, then climb to 4500 with chandelles, and go immediately into a steep spiral. That will require us to climb back up to altitude most likely to perform additional maneuvers. This is a waste of time, and waste of the students money. Complete all your altitude maneuvers before descending. Once we’ve descended, lets complete the simulated emergency landing, followed by the ground reference. Once those are completed, we should be done with maneuvers and heading to an airport for landings.

No matter what anyone tells you, the power off 180 approach is not an emergency landing. Do not tell me how you would ‘troubleshoot’ for the failed engine. Do not give an example of us using this technique in an emergency. This is a performance maneuver to demonstrate proficiency and accuracy. We do not need, or want, to see you perform the power off landing checklist/procedure for the power off 180 approach. I see this a lot on stage checks, and even though it is not an unsatisfactory, it is a standardization issue.

Do not be afraid to conduct a go around. During debriefs the candidates will say ‘well I would have had the student go around’. Why didn’t you? Some of the stan pilots will not be satisfied with a go around, as the PTS allows only one attempt for satisfactory, however I personally prefer the go around. I have never, and will never, grade unsatisfactory for a go around. Unless the student is unable to satisfactorily complete the landing from multiple attempts.

Most of all this is a standardization flight, so remember that the procedures and checklists are graded most. We need to see you do the checklists and procedures as listed in the training handbooks. If you have to double check the memory item checklists, do it. Don’t feel that you must do them from memory. Complete what you can from memory, then verify. This is what you should teach your students to do, it is what you should also do.

Ensure to complete your clearing turns, radio call, and pre-maneuver checklist prior to commencing maneuvers. We have and do fail students for this on stage checks, so you better believe that instructor candidates fail stan flights for it. In fact I know of a new instructor that recently failed his stan flight for this very item. It’s crucial for the student to understand the importance of this. Collision avoidance is a special emphasis area of darn near every PTS, and it’s often listed in the specific task of maneuvers.

Contrary to what you may hear about the stan pilots, most of us are more than willing to help you along. We are not looking to fail you, we are looking to ensure you are capable of teaching our students the ‘right’ way. You have the benefit of a wide range of experienced instructors to help you out. I am the least experienced of all the IPs doing stan flights. Regardless of being on the bottom, I’ve been teaching the ‘right’ way for 3 years, doing stage checks for over 2 years, and I have instructed in every current program minus one. I do not know everything, but I sure think I can help y’all out some.

full circle

Of the things I get to do as a flight instructor, I think none are as rewarding as flying with instructor candidates. Guys and gals pursuing their flight instructor ratings are motivated, good aviators, and make excellent students.

If anything, I wish I was able to teach instructor candidates more often. Over the last three years I have had a handful of them, mostly add-on instructor ratings though. A select few were going for their initial instructor rating.

Recently I have been going over some of the fundamentals of flight instructing in preparation for a new student I was receiving. It got me thinking about how far I’ve come since I began this job. It truly is a unique experience to reminisce about days gone by, and how much I’ve learned and experienced. I have come full circle.

Tomorrow I will even get the opportunity for the first time to complete some standardization flights. When you’re hired at the school, you get to spend countless hours in class learning how to teach the way the school wants you to teach. If you were a student here at the academy, it’s never really a big deal. However, we currently have almost all instructors that trained elsewhere. This tends to be a trial by fire, and quite shocking to the new instructors. Teaching something a completely different way is almost like teaching something completely different.

Because we are so short on standardization pilots, they are utilizing the check instructors to assist with the standardization flights. So I get to fly with these new instructors and evaluate their ability to teach and evaluate the ‘right way’. This is essential to ensure that the students will be able to learn from any instructor and be taught the same thing. This makes moving students from instructor to instructor seamless, and it ensures that the instructor is providing quality instruction as desired.

It gives me an opportunity to help out a new colleague, and perhaps teach a little bit. It hopefully gives them an opportunity to gain some insight on the school, and I hope, build their confidence.