CFI Suggestion - Communicate AND Clarify

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by 1000RR, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    Sorry, this is a long post...

    I am humbly throwing this out there in hopes maybe if there are some new CFIs coming about it might be helpful. This likely doesn't apply to the experienced polished CFIs as you have learned this through trials and errors of your own or from others gone before you.

    Background: I instruct business type classes, so I have some experience in teaching. I also have 3 daughters, my oldest has Down's Syndrome. Why is that important? You'll see shortly. Lastly, I'm an engineer by degree - so very often I've found - when I receive instruction (from wife, friend, CFI) - it's taken quite literal. My CFI is relatively new (not a youngster, but not old... just new) as I'm probably his 4th student.

    I've posted previously about me going through getting my PPL. I'm right at the point of soloing, which is probably coming up in a couple/few flights. It's dawned on me as I've gotten closer to soloing that along the way, a contributing factor (maybe?) to some of my difficulties (particularly landing) has been confusion over communication. I can point to more than a couple/few things that were said in flight that I took very literal and contributed to misunderstandings (and hence frustrations - probably on both our parts). I have multiple examples, I'll just give the latest. We're on short final, we come over the fence/trees, over the threshold, roundout, and I hear "Hold This". In my mind, I need to hold everything stable, stop moving the yoke, just "hold it". I've heard him say this multiple landings but being I don't know what I don't know - I also don't know what to ask. He really meant - hold the sight picture. I understand why, and as I've learned to land, I get the intent. However, to the new guy - I was holding "this" but the "this" I was holding was the wrong "this". I was holding still, thinking - don't move the yoke, and he wanted me to hold the sight picture (thereby applying back pressure AS NEEDED to hold "this" - the sight pictures. Sounds simple enough and I get it now, but it could have saved some frustrations had we had better communication and clarification.

    I had an opportunity to go up with another CFI (just for pattern work) and having experienced this small (but impactful) communication challenge... during our Preflight briefing - I specifically asked - "Now what am I going to hear from you? What commands will you be telling me, and what do they mean". I didn't know to ask this prior. We went through it and the day went REALLY smoothly - it was a break through day for landings.

    The whole point being (and we've all done this, me included) - communication is always TWO WAYS. There's a delivery/transmission, and a receiving/understanding. Sometimes we assume the latter happens because in our own head it made total sense. Follow up instructions with some questions for the student to convince yourself everything was understood how it was intended. Which brings me to my oldest daughter with Down's. This has been a HUGE learning curve for us. She's 20yrs old, high functioning, attending a HUGE University here in Florida, living on campus, getting to classes, etc. For the longest time, we would communicate (deliver/transmit) and assume she understood. Many times we throught she understood and we were so far from reality. So now, many many times, we will discuss things with her, and follow up with some additional questions - maybe "do you understand?"... (assume she says 'yes'), then followed up with "explain it to me, what do you think it means".

    Safe flying!
     
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  2. Jim Carpenter

    Jim Carpenter Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nice analysis. CFIs and students alike should take note.
    As a sidebar, I'd add, one of the reasons (as a CFI) I'm not a huge fan of touch-and-goes for pre-solo students (at least not for every circuit), is that the taxi-back time allows more time at a less stressful phase, in which to discuss and clarify with the student the finer technique points of the last landing, things to be improved, etc.
     
  3. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    "...followed up with "explain it to me..."​

    That's a good thing for a CFI to ask a student about landing an airplane before even flying the first lesson or before picking up another CFI's student. If the student's mental picture is wrong in the beginning, like they think they need to "Set it down" or "Fly it on" or "Touch down on all three wheels at the same time", rather than "Keep it flying" or "Hold it off" or "Land at minimum controllable airspeed", then the CFI has his work cut out for him.
     
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  4. ateamer

    ateamer Line Up and Wait

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    Good points. Unfortunately many instructors are young with minimal life experience, so they might not be quick to figure out how each student communicates and understands what’s being said. Being a trainer is definitely not for anyone who uses a cookie cutter approach to dealing with people. Tailor the training and communication to each individual.

    Another thought is that if the student has it nailed, don’t say anything. Give them room to self-evaluate their maneuver, and don’t distract if it isn’t needed. Before flying, let the student know that no feedback means they’re okay.
     
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  5. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Excellent points, and as you mentioned, applicable all through life.

    30 years into instructing, I still say things that only I understand, but I do try.

    I’ve also flown with people to whom I suggested we don’t use any pronouns besides “I”, “you”, and “we”. “It” or “this” was just too confusing too often, and they took offense when I tried to clarify.
     
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  6. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    One thing that annoys me about some CFIs, they feel they need to constantly talk. Non stop talking! I tell them to talk when relevant. Most student will check out and put on the wife ears if the CFI constantly talks. Me as a CFI talk when I need to. I will talk about what we are gonna do, give my input when needed, and either correct or criticize when needed.
     
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  7. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy En-Route

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    My CFII would talk and ask casual questions to get me distracted on approaches or at times that there would be anticipated radio calls or during holds. At first I thought he was making conversation. Until I realized all the screwing up I was doing then realized he was purposely distracting me.
     
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  8. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Your post is the reason behind my CFI DPE’s largest pet peeves.

    Absolutely true.
     
  9. LongRoadBob

    LongRoadBob Cleared for Takeoff

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    I get the feeling you suffer from the same thing I do, overthinking.
    You mention communication being a two way thing, but to me that would mean
    “Hold this”
    “Hold WHAT? You mean the controls or attitude?”
    “Attitude”
    Done.

    and I have experienced this kind of thing too. It sometimes feels for a second like a failure on MY part for not intuitively knowing what the CFI meant, when I have to ask a follow up so I know for sure. It feels like I ought to have known, so it can feel like a negative thing on the student. But best to just clear it up.

    Totally agree that it would have been better had the instructor said “ok, good, now hold this sight picture for now” but in real life people tend to take shortcuts, often even not be literal or clear, but a quick question will clear it up.

    and now overthinking this, as I tend to do, is there any time that a CFI would tell you not to make control input changes? I mean even on landing, you may have to adjust for gusts, etc, even if you want to hold off on the flare. Since flying is dynamic, there always can be need for change in controls, in order to hold a specific situation, right?
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2020
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  10. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    @LongRoadBob Spot on! True on everything you said. I am a thinker, an engineer by degree. I don't think of me as an overthinker, yet I know I think through things much more than many and have been told so before. So yes on that too I guess.

    My thoughts on your opening few statements and the question "Hold What". Knowing now what I know - I would ask that and even more questions. At that point in my training and not knowing what I didn't know - it wasn't realistic to ask that question since I kinda thought I already knew what he meant (but really didn't).

    Hopefully the new CFIs coming through along with (as mentioned above) any new students will take something away from this post and apply it in their own training and be better off for it. I'm a humble guy but old enough to loose any ego and not care what people think... I'll be the first to ask a question when I don't think I know the answer. That moment I described above didn't fit that - thought I knew (but didn't).

    On a very positive and cool note - I went up with our DPE yesterday for my pre-solo check ride and he passed me. I actually thought I failed maybe because he said after air work we'd do a couple landings but after coming back to the airport and doing our first landing - I pulled off the runway, cleaning up flaps etc., expecting to taxi back, and he said - ok, let's go fuel her up. I was like - CRAP, he musta saw something not so good. But he passed me. He said I was very comfortable in the plane and then went through about 6-8 bullet items I need to continue to work on to create good habits. Nothing too major.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2020
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  11. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    Interesting @Walboy... had no idea. That's great though! I don't think he's taken offense to my questioning or even pointing out things of this nature - at least he has not acted that way.
     
  12. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The CFI I completed my PPL with was a nit picker. Every deviation from the desired altitude or heading was pointed out by the time it reached HALF the standard for a check ride. Some other guys in the club hated it, but it did not bother me. Sometimes, he would call me when I failed to follow what he had taught me, I would explain why I was doing it different, and he would either explain why I was wrong, or tell me that I was good on my way. We hit it off well in that respect, and the conversation went back and forth all the time. He demanded precision, and I was determined to succeed in meeting his goals. I will add here that we were both in engineering, and thought in similar ways.

    We also had post flight de briefs, to determine what I should be doing differently that he had not addressed in flight, as well as my questions of just why we did a particular sequence as we did. He charged by flying time, so that time was a free bonus. Most of the students paid him and left, with out questions. I did not realize that until he commented that I was his only student who was willing to stay and analyze the flight. He had a good paying job, and the income was a bonus, plus he was flying!

    Other student pilots were annoyed by the continuous criticism, and progressed slowly, fighting him about too much demands for precision. The net result, I made it to the check ride quickly, they did not, and I passed first try. I did disappoint him, as he expected me to go into Instrument training as soon as I had my PPL. He was not a CFII, but had prepared me for an easy transition to the standards of Instrument flight.
     
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  13. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Half standard is pretty common. If a student can fly to that standard, the checkride becomes a cake walk.

    Tightening standards is for cocky students too. ;) “If you can fly that well, certainly you can fly THIS well...”
     
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  14. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    @geezer - awesome story. My CFI is somewhat a nit picker. I've really only had one though, so not a lot to compare to. I did fly with one other for some pattern work, but around the pattern I'm pretty good. My CFI, from the beginning would blurt out things - "now don't blow your heading", "don't blow your altitude", etc. etc. Or... "you just blew your altitude". All good things IMHO. If it's not right, it's not right.