formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

May 28, 2013 CFI'ing

The Liberty Gazette
May 28, 2013
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Believe it or not, I’ve actually thought many times over the years about flight instructing.

After all the intensive study and the gut-check, after passing a written exam, a new flight instructor candidate will spend two agonizing days with an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration; eight hours in a royally grilling oral exam of aeronautical knowledge and teaching theory, and the next day recreating all sorts of possible new student scenarios while flying an airplane. It’s not the study, nor the exam that has given me cause to pause, but the tremendous responsibility held by a person certified to give flight instruction. And that’s just for a primary flight instructor certification. At the end of every work day I am just floored to hear about Mike’s day – highly advanced flight instructing for pilots who are already flying commercial jets.

Mike: To teach in the airline or corporate aviation environment instructors must be well established in their career. Each of the highly accomplished former corporate, airline and military pilots I work alongside brings unique experiences which they use to help mold the thought patterns and skills of other pilots learning to fly a particular aircraft. Our purpose is to make the pilots we train the safest in the industry.

Because each airplane has uniquely designed systems and procedures that need to be followed pilots must learn how those systems work and practice those procedures. Therefore, each large aircraft or jet requires a rating specific to that type – a 747 pilot cannot just jump into a Learjet. The price tag ranges from about $15,000 to $60,000 just for initial training, and again for each recurrent training. Since some of the scenarios we must face would be too dangerous to recreate in an airplane on a regular basis, we practice in state-of-the art simulators which cost more than the airplane itself.

In ground school pilots learn the nuts and bolts of the airplane’s systems. Each system is broken down into its individual pieces and the student learns how the pieces of the system work together and how that system works with other systems. Some of these aircraft are so complex their ground school can last for weeks. Then it is time for the simulator.

In the simulator we not only instruct, but simultaneously run the computers that run the simulator all while acting as an air traffic controller, making everything as realistic as possible. Weaving scenarios into the training sessions, we set up system failures or weather conditions that present particular challenges to the crew – it can make for a tense and taxing session. Because of the realism some pilots may even start to sweat, forgetting we’re in a simulator. But these sessions also tax instructors. We’re continuously evaluating progress, measuring it against a set of standards that must be met in order for the pilot to be recommended to take the final exam for that type rating – the "check ride". Every now and then someone fails to make the grade and that’s the part I least enjoy – breaking the news to them – but fortunately those times are few and I consider myself privileged to have met many fine pilots who have taken on the challenge and achieved what they set out to do.

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