My personal look back at CMEL and my Riddle experience


Filing Flight Plan
Apr 8, 2022
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Hello all, this is just a story about my CMEL experience awhile back at ERAU and my overall view about the school now.

I did 25 hours of DA42 time throughout the course. I had a very senior flight instructor. Tough and picky, but I didn’t mind. Was really looking forward to the training since at this point I already had everything through CFI/II and it was a big change.

This instructor used to yell at me whenever there was a barrier to communication (lots of radios/traffic, heavy workload, he had an accent I sometimes wouldn’t understand 100% of the time) and he used to scold at me, shut down, and pretty much say “don’t listen to me, not like I’m your CFI”. It was getting really bad. However, with me close to graduation I sucked it up and didn’t change instructors.

End of the course got the worst. One of the last flights he made me redo a flight for an emergency descent (and being Embry-Rediculous) I had to spend about another $1000. The reason for the failure is I went into an emergency descent and brought up my airspeed to get down quick. However, he told me that is not how you do it. You need to establish your speed straight and level and maintain that airspeed while descending (never what I learned…). Didn’t want to be cocky, but I told him he was wrong and it was a big argument. I showed him the SOP’s for it as well as other sources and I was still wrong (I just didn’t want to do another flight with him and spend money). One of my current students does that to me, I give them a high five and we both get a learning experience.

In the end he signed me off for checkride. However, refused to give me a complex endorsement for the airplane. He went off and said he will not give me one. Took the checkride, passed.

It is unfortunate I’ve spent so much money and these issues popped up from a school that is known to be one of the best in the world and is very expensive. I got half my training outside riddle and had a much better experience there. Thankfully where I work I love flight instructing and want to continue it on the side possibly the rest of my life. But talking around and learning about a lot of these 141 schools it is a very mediocre industry. We take instructors whose only goal is to get 1500 hrs by providing sub-par instruction and then move on like an assembly line. Also their syllabus are strictly designed to pass the ACS, not fully set up a student for the real life flying. On top of that charging a ridiculous cost per hour.

I was young, I heard about ERAU being highly ranked but the end of the day I really hope that young aspiring pilots can realize that there are other opportunities. And it is less the school, more the quality of that instructor. For me, maybe I had a lesser experience than others, or a vision that opened up at my current employment.
The only reason I enjoyed being at ERAU is because I was Navy ROTC and had most of it paid for. Still came out with too much debt, and my dumbass went back for a Masters, too. Eh, live and learn. I didn't have any terrible experiences like that, but I want to go back and slap the **** out of myself for not doing my CFI while I was there.
Somewhere here there is a send up piece on “Elizabeth Regina” flight school. It was pretty cute. I flew with 2 different EU-trained instructors while I was doing some rusty pilot brush-up & BFR. Their focus was just different, let’s say. Rules & procedures based, appropriate for ATP but a drag in a two seat trainer. “Let takeoff with no flaps,” I’d suggest. “POH only lists 1 notch for takeoff,” ER says. “But there is 5,000 of runway,” I counter. “First notch or abort & taxi in.” (The manual for this lsa kit plane is rudimentary, at best. The documentation is so spartan that there are no DA performance tables or over 50 ft obstacle landing or takeoff charts. To be fair, however, 400 ft is a long takeoff or landing run for this plane. But experimentation is built into the owner experience). No flap & ½ flap landings were similarly discouraged despite the mile of runway.

As number 3 in the ER conga line for takeoff, I was admonished for nimbly swinging right to get a better view of final & base traffic in our high wing aircraft. A little later, rolling onto the uncontrolled runway, I flipped on the wig-wags. My instructor huffed and switched them to “landing.”

On climb out, despite flying a powered leaf in a 10 kt crosswind, I was admonished for straying from the runway center line, my transgressions hidden from my view on the instructor’s ForeFlight extended centerline depiction in their lap. (That instructor spent a good deal of time head down fretting over ADS-B targets & announcing our every intention while in the furthest empty corner of the Alert practice area).

Returning from the alert area, we were on the wrong side of the airport for the pattern. The instructor fretted about how to get on far side to join the pattern. That was a little dismaying. I suggested that at 3 miles from the runway and 1500 ft, crossing the departure end of the runway wasn’t very risky. My instructor thought about it & finally agreed.

on landings I thought I’d please my instructor by checking my love of wig-wag lights & switching on the landing lights instead. Wrong guess. Wig-wags are for landing.

I passed my BFR, but it was a close run.

1. Approaches are consistently above PAPI (the papi is pitched for twins, not powered leaf’s that stop dead in the air if the engine quits with no hope of gliding to the runway).

2. In the pattern, I didn’t turn the fuel pump off (excess recirculates back to the tank, plus, since it runs thru the filters, helps to “polish” the fuel of sediments. Fuel pumps are cheap & easy to replace)

3. On landing I didn’t verbally say something about fuel. (There is only one tank & a sight gauge).

4. My landings need more work. (And they always will. It’s called being a pilot. My landings got immediately better without the stream of consciousness that is taken for instruction flowing into my headsets.)

I think ER is a great way to fill the big iron pipeline. Procedure, consistency, predictability, rules chapter & verse. But real killjoys in a powered leaf on a sunny day.

My ERAU experience was back in 1991 when I was looking for a flight school. I was calling flight schools to get the first feel and to weed out the ones that did not feel right for me.

Talking to the ERUA sales person, that person was laughing and saying what a great experience this will be for me. I felt as if he was selling me a used car and telling me how great of a car it would be for me even though the car has no engine... One positive was they (ERAU) did do was have a call back a few days later and ask me how I thought the first call went, but they were still one of the first cuts off my list.

I finally did choose a flight school in Florida and I remember the ERAU planes coming into a practice area and basically telling everyone else this airspace is now being used for training and requesting all other planes to leave the area. I once called back and told that instructor that this is public airspace and I am not leaving and that if he didn't like it he could go somewhere else, which absolutely mortified my instructor for some reason....:lol:

I agree, I think ERAU is good for those that can take instruction without questioning and wish to keep moving up the pipeline.....

not unlike the Peter Principle...
I agree, I think ERAU is good for those that can take instruction without questioning and wish to keep moving up the pipeline.....
ERAU’s flight training program is primarily a pipeline to airlines and jets, so fairly rigid procedures are established, taught, and considered the norm. From what I’ve seen, that pipeline doesn’t include a lot of knowledge that light airplane pilots consider normal, such as @rhkennerly ’s example of takeoff configuration, which is included in Limitations and therefore regulatory for a Part 25 jet, but not for most light airplanes. They also seem to accept technique as being procedure. They’re generally extremely competent in stick skills, instrument flying skills, and ability to rapidly learn procedures. But if they know much about light airplanes, they didn’t learn it there. Overall, they’re pretty good to work with in a professional cockpit.

On the other hand, graduates of Billy Bob’s taildragger flight school have very different competencies. Over the trees, under the wires, hop the fence, and land in the pasture works great, but it’s difficult to transition them into a crewed jet cockpit, in part because they tend to see procedure as technique. Fun to fly light planes with, but a PITA to work with in a jet.

most pilots are somewhere in between, with good and bad characteristics of each.
Can't add to your ERAU directly, but agree about flight instructors who are getting their 1500 hours who have no business teaching. The worse instructors I had were 20 year olds who were working to airline jobs. 1) They were bad teachers, and 2) in some cases what they taught was just plane wrong. (see what I did with "plane" vs "plain"). Don't get me wrong. I know of an old retired CFI who I swear hates students. But most of the older retired CFI's actually think about what they want to teach.
I went to ERAU 1986-89. I was a CFI before going and went primarily for the academics (which have proved very valuable over my career). I looked at the tuition about a decade ago and it's just nuts. I wouldn't recommend paying that today (which must be significantly more by now) unless you were independently wealthy. I don't think it's a good value anymore.

The academics were great. Aircraft Systems, Recip engines, Turbine engine, Weather, Aircraft performance, History & regulation of aviation, Avionics, Air safety, Air crash investigation, and more. That academic background put me ahead of my classmates in every airline ground school I've attended since.

I took the last flight course (FA314?) which was basically the commercial-multi course. I did learn a good bit from that course, even though my CFI wasn't a great instructor. I learned how to approach non-normal procedures and emergencies in a more professional manner, better techniques for old-style (then current) navigation, etc. But, the most important thing I learned was how to adapt to a training program where you are the employee-student being paid to succeed in the company's qualification course.

In airline training, or military training, you are not the customer. You must adapt to the course, not expect the course to adapt to you as a good G.A. CFI will do. Throughout my career, I've seen a number of airline pilots wash out because they could not adapt. They wasted effort trying to do things "their way" instead of learning how the airline wants it done. From what I've heard, this is even more important in military UPT.

The ERAU students lack varied experience but so do students at G.A. training schools. Both will gain that experience as they continue their careers.

For an aspiring commercial or military pilot today, I'd recommend a highly structured school with both academics and a flight program. I just don't recommend going into debt to achieve it. Find something with similar structure and comprehensiveness but at more affordable cost.