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Good - and bad - stories about Flight Instructors / PPL training

Peter wrote:

Unfortunately the profession attracts some “unusual” personality types.

I resemble that remark

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

6 August 1979… my first flying lesson… I’m already quite old at 22… spent too much time dreaming and spending my dough on stupid stuff iso realising my dream…

Since then I’ve experienced my share of FI and examiners, or as some would argue, the other way round
I’ve spent a good part of my flying career renting airplanes in the US, getting checked out or renewing my BFR. Nothing worth reporting here happened during this time, notwithstanding what can be read thru these pages… yes, there are plenty of characters with whom one could, or could not, get along with.

Thread drift: I’ve had more interesting encounters on the pro level…

As when, during my ARJ TR in Istanbul the TRE fell asleep during one of the sessions. I was flying F/O and the Captain stared at me when the snoring started from the TRE sim station in our backs: he whispered to me what shall we do?let’s wait some. Some 5 minutes later I placed a loud Swissair xxx, radio check?, and we continued the session to its end as if nothing had happened.

Or when we flew to Épinal – Mirecourt LFSG, still on ARJ TR, to perform our final “flight training”. 2 of us greenhorn F/Os, and our sadist and racist TRE/TRI. We were to perform 4 visual circuits T&Gs each.
I had a firm arrival on the first, but the subsequent ones improved to the satisfaction of the TRE/TRI. We stopped on the tarmac, engines still running for the other F/O to take my seat whilst I took his position on the J/S.
My poor colleague was not as lucky as myself, as we quite firmly impacted the Planet on the first try. Almost the same happened on the second one. And the third. Then, the TRE/TRI who’s face had by then taken a crimson tint, could hold it no more, just exploded and started shouting vociferously at my poor colleague: bl…y hell (first name), you will never learn it, you are too fu….g stupid!!! whilst holding his checklist in his right hand and menacing to administer a blow with it… a scene I will for sure never forget!
The shouted at turned white pale, clutched his teeth together, and without a word flew another 2 circuits for a marginal pass.

A few years later I joined, as a DEC, a large LC based in LGKK aka Gatwick. The A320 series TR went very well, the whole, including LoVis and ZFT being done in the CAE sims at Burgess Hill.
The line intro was much more of a challenge. Not only was the Airbus vastly different, in operation – handling – philosophy, than the Fokker 100 I came from, but some of the TREs and most F/Os were openly aggressive towards our DEC group. This was probably due to a feeling of resentment for us having bypassed the proper way to take left seat in what was seen as their airline.
My first few days of line intro will remain imprinted in my memory as a really bad experience. My TRE was sitting on the RHS, and we had an F/O on the J/S, performing assisting duties. The TRE was extremely unpleasant and uncooperative. As fate (?) would dictate, my first flight was a challenging shortish LGW-AMS-LGW, and then some other short 2 sectors. New aircraft, first time PAX, new base, new operation, slots, etc. The attitude of the TRE was outrageous from the first minute of the briefing to the end of the day, and landing back in LGW I was just about to get off and report him to the training dept. In view of the strength, or rather lack of, of my position, I chickened out decided to bite the bullet for better or worse, and spent 2 more days with the same individual, suffering constant critics and cynical remarks.
A couple of years later, same TRE was demoted from his training function…

I have to add that whilst these examples depict negative experiences, most of the training I received during my pro career has been professional (in all logic ), and given in a helpful and constructive way, phew

Last Edited by Dan at 13 Nov 14:02
ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

A couple of years later

One has to ask why 2 years? How many victims passed “through” him in that time, and before you?

It’s like teachers at school. A good one will make a lifelong positive impression on thousands of kids. A bad one will destroy thousands of kids in that subject. We had a total bipolar schitzo (?) type for chemistry, nicknamed Dracula (St Andrews Church of England School, Worthing, in case anybody went there). I scraped through with a grade 6 O-Level pass despite his best efforts. Most got nothing. I reckon I have seen a similar % of totally mad FIs/FEs as I have known of teachers, which is probably quite a bad statistic given the “vetting process” these people are supposed to pass through.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I had this kind of examples in my short flying life.
At the end of my PPL, the school organized a flight with 2 of us and a FI to LFKO for PPl Exam. the FI is talented as a pilot, but very intransigent and probably don’t like me since the beginning – I could just make hypothesis about why. Her student came late in the school on the morning of the flight, haven’t prepared anything and even arriving 1.15 hour earlier, I had to help him on the flight preparation, FPL, perfs, …. We started the briefing 1h late while he was still struggling wit the printer to get map printed in A5 format, and finally departed 1.30 late.

The objectif of the flight was not only a mediteranean crossing, but also going to Ajaccio at the local antenna of DGAC for the PPL theory exam.

The first student flew the 1rst leg to Ajaccio, and was apparently not up to the task. After TO, the FI took the command and ATC while he was setting the GNS530 for the crossing – took his 10 minutes at least… He was just a bit negligent and behind the aircraft, but the FI was quite tolerant – I found.
At the test facility, I came out the first with only 1 error, and waited for the other guy to finish, to call the FI for the trip back. As local DGAC people were very tolerant, he finished more than late (actually too late) but manage to get his exam. We reached 2h30 delay.
On the trip back in the DA40 (standard VFR no PA), weather was hazy and a bit shaky and it was difficult to get a fixed heading and altitude for more than 10s, and I was under constant pressure to stay in the 20ft around our altitude, and heading, with perfid questions on the theory and log updates.
Arriving in Cannes, still on the command, I express my plan to descend a bit under the PAPI because R35 in LFMD has a unneeded big DTHR and keeping the papi to the end prevents the plane to get the first correct exit, and send the plane to the farther A3 point. It was the “could hold it no more” step for her. Upset of this outrageous request, she told me ëxercise, I’ll call to disable the papi and you will have to be perfect", which has been refused by ATC, PAPI is mandatory on R35 (for this same DTHR reason).
Once on the ground, I didn’t even got a briefing, but she directly went to complain to my “referent” FI, that was also chief pilot and was very surprised.

Some times after, I requested to never fly again with her. I fully respect her for the pilot she is, but she now has the bad habits to overstress me at the point I become really bad.

Last Edited by greg_mp at 13 Nov 16:11
LFMD, France

Like most here I can remember my fair share of bad and good instructors.

One of the worst came about about 9 months after I got my PPL. The school that I was flying with and learnt with, was taken over by another school on the airfield.
I have the unfortunately luck to get a particular instructor from the new school to do a currency check on a TB9. He had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the fact that I trained with the wrong school and he decided that he just didn’t like anything about the way that I flew.

It didn’t start well when he gave out to me for checking the manual trim from end to end (like I’d be trained to do) as part of my pre-flight. He said I was going to wear it out doing that I should just check that it can move a bit! The next 40 minutes were painful as he attempted to change everything that I’d been taught. Actually this instructor had very little time on the TB9 as it was transferred over from the old school. I probably had more time on it at the time than he did! I do remember him telling he that he wouldn’t do a flapless landing in it as he heard it was very scary. (I did it as part of every checkout on the TB9 as with electrical flaps, if you had an electrical failure then the landing was going to be flapless!). I was determined not to be beaten by this instructor (my mistake – should have dumped him straight away). But after 4 more lessons and still not checked out, we agreed to part ways.

I got paired then with an instructor from the old school. The instructor from the old school just told me to “forget everything that the other instructor has told you. I’m not going to say anything. Just fly it like you were taught to and give me a good circuit.” We did one perfect circuit follow by another then a request for a glide approach followed by a flapless landing. I can still remember the relief after that as he said “There is nothing wrong with your flying. Just someone has ruined your confidence. Let’s work on building back the confidence. You can take it that this checkout is passed.”

On the good side, I’d a fantastic instructor for most of my PPL. I managed to get my first solo in just 7 hours (including 1 hour of an intro flight that wasn’t really a lesson). I’d no airborne time prior to that other than as a passenger in an airliner. I credit the short time to one simply fantastic instructor that I had (even thought he only did 2 of my lessons prior to my first solo). That’s why I pass very little notice of how long it takes someone to get their first solo. I think it’s all down to the instructors that you have. If I had different instructors I’m sure it would have taken me much longer.

I do remember one lesson in particular with this instructor. It was the instrument lesson where I had to wear the foggles. At first we did the 180 degree turn. After that we did some steep turns, and for the rest of the lesson we did very severe unusual attitude recovery all with the foggles. It’s the only time I’ve every truly experienced “the liens” and I had a bad case it for most of the lesson. When we landed and were having the debrief I was probably as white a snow. I remember thinking “That was hard. I’m going to have to work really hard to be able to do that well for the skills test.” I remember the instructor telling me that I’d done really well, and then me telling him that I found it really tough. He told me that I didn’t need to be able to do any of that for the skills test, only the level 180 degree turn, and that he’s only pushed me harder because I was able for it and he wanted to teach me some more. Everything in the lesson was positive. No criticism or complaints about mistakes. He was just pushing the student as far as they could handle building my skills and my confidence at the same time. A truly remarkable instructor that I’ve very grateful for having.

Maybe I should try and find out where he is today and send him a thank you card 22 years later

EIWT Weston, Ireland

My PPL instructors contained more than the fair share (or maybe not) of personalities substantially into what today would be called sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Two of them got female students pregnant. One, aged about 55 at the time, I recently learnt, is believed to have served jail time for “something under 16” (the under-16 was obvious; the jail time wasn’t but he did vanish from GA). He explained to me the benefits of teaching in a PA28, one of which was the location of the fuel selector, on the far left and behind the student’s legs… Another, now dead, pulled out (during an IMCR lesson) an envelope with a load of photos of bikini-clad girls which he took (the photos; no information on anything else was provided) at a flying club at Biggin Hill, which was many years defunct by this time although like so much at the now-almost-dead (in terms of “club” activity) Biggin Hill seemed to be a hive of social activity in the 1970s, and gave me a commentary on each of them, amazingly remembering their names after all the years… I was paying some £150/hr for this and though it ridiculous but just got on with it and got the IMCR

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I must have been lucky to have had pleasant instructors who taught me a lot, not only flying itself but also airmanship. But I’m starting to doubt myself now, because if there are so many awkward instructors around, I’m probably awkward myself and did not notice their strange behavior! My FI career was not that long, school quit, but I may have to check and call my students and apologize if appropriate.

Last Edited by aart at 13 Nov 16:59
Private field, Mallorca, Spain

I didn’t watch the video – what’s bad about it?

The only really bad instructor I’ve run into was the “chief pilot” at a certain SW France aeroclub, who twice panicked and grabbed the controls when I did perfectly reasonable things that just happened not to be his way of doing things, then (the second time) proceeded to gaslight me to the point where I was seriously ready to just give up flying for ever. Coming just after my accident, it took quite a while to get my confidence back.

I’ve had my fair share of 251-hour brand-new CFIs, especially when trying to stay current in the helicopter, but they weren’t actually bad, just inexperienced, with a distinct tendency to hang on to the controls when they shouldn’t.

I guess I was very lucky with my main instructors – for PPL+IR+CPL, PPL-H, and aerobatics, who were all highly experienced seen-it-all-before types who took everything calmly. I’ve flown with some other excellent instructors too.

Last Edited by johnh at 13 Nov 18:02
LFMD, France

Wiltshire Flying School, at Thruxton, in 1964, was the best organised I’ve encountered. I didn’t realise that at the time. After going solo, my landings deteriorated. I was shocked when, after 3 circuits, my instructor said he could do nothing and cancelled the lesson. But I was soon back with a senior instructor. Took off, he took control, did a low circuit, and handed it to me set up for the approach.
No advice or comment until I done 3 poor landings.
Then he told me what to do, not why my landings
were bad. After a few good landings I was back to my usual instructor.
That was also the cheapest UK school by far.

EGPE, United Kingdom

I haven’t have any unpleasant flight instructors but I knew some whose judgement was not always the best.

During training for my night rating I was going to do a solo cross-country. My instructor (who was F/O for a domestic airline) was working that day, but had the bright idea that as he was going to fly ESSA-ESSD and back in the evening, I could do a solo from our home field to ESSD and back and he would advise me on the club frequency using the second radio in his airliner. At the time I was not experienced or confident enough to just say no to less clever ideas from instructors.

Anyway, I filed my flight plan, preflighted and refueled the aircraft (a Cessna 172) and took off. After rotation there was a loud BANG in the aircraft. Then another BANG. The runway disappeared fast under me but as the aircraft seemed to handle normally, I decided to make a normal circuit and land. I advised the tower that I had a problem and needed to land again immediately. After landing I checked the aircraft, It turned out that I had not fastened the left wing fuel cap properly. The cap was secured by a chain and as the aircraft gained speed it repeatedly struck the wing surface. On the 172 the left wing root is next to the pilot’s head so the effect was that of having a drum next to your head.

I put the fuel cap on properly, took off again and the rest of the flight was uneventful. In arrival at ESSD my instructor told me that he almost had a heart attack as he could only listen to my conversation with the tower and not be able to do anything.

My wife almost had an instructor-induced crash while training for her PPL. Some distance away from our home field is a lake where we occasionally land in winter when it is covered by ice. During a dual training flight in a Cessna 152, the instructor told her to do a touch and go on the lake. Of course he had not properly checked the ice before but simply assumed it was ok. When the main wheels touched down they broke through the ice. It turned out there were two layers – a thin layer on top, a thick layer below and liquid water between them. Fortunately they managed to get airborne again. Had they slowed down too much they would never have been able to take off.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden
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