Home' Collective Magazine : Heliweb Magazine March 2017 - Heli Expo Edition Contents 22 | heliweb magazine
Straight & Level
Ben Fouts is a career helicopter pilot, business owner, successful
entrepreneur, and passionate flight instructor. In addition to his role as an
FAA Designated Pilot Examiner — a position he’s held for fifteen years,
since he was just twenty-four years old — he is the owner of Mauna
Loa Helicopters, operating three bases in Hawaii and one in Alabama.
Teaching for an Exam
Learning to fly is so dynamicrom the
technical side to the practical application
of the skills learned, it can be quite
an undertaking. A student comes
with a vision of being a pilot that can
effortlessly go from point to point and
no real understanding of the education
needed to achieve that goal.
Instructors are the gate-keepers. They
have learned through their experiences
what it takes, and now have the
credentials to teach a student and
create new pilots. They ultimately have
the biggest influence on a student’s
performance and ability to achieve their
If learning to fly were like taking a
history class, you simply would read
the material, review and take the exam.
Flying is a life skill that involves so
much more than reading a book, and
expecting results. The journey to the
pilot certificate requires a person to
immerse themselves in the material to
get the most out of it. There is so much
to learn and only reading the material
to pass a test will not cut it in aviation. It
involves books, multi-media, practice,
challenging conditions, professional
guidance, time, and opportunity. If all the
tools are available, then a pilot can be
As a flight school owner, you can
see those with the passion, and it is
enjoyable being part of their journey.
The passionate student becomes
intuitive and learns far beyond what a
book may say and begins to develop
an instinct. It is the instinct and
intuition that makes them successful.
All the study and good intent in the
world will not develop an ability. It takes a
team: A passionate student, a dedicated
instructor, and the opportunity to practice
and develop the skill.
The instructor has to know how to handle
and mold the student. Often an instructor
may by teaching and preparing the student
for the test and what the examiner might
ask, has met the definition of their job.
Simply being able to fly a helicopter on
a beautiful sunny day and handle the
necessary maneuvers in the Practical Test
Standards is not going to create much.
Problem-solving, and decision-making while
under stress is a critical skill that sometimes
is not adequately taught and tested.
The devil is in the details. Whether it be
related to maintenance of the aircraft, the
minute details of the weather or the flying
that present a risk; an aspiring pilot has a lot
to learn and absorb. Without the exposure
to the areas outside the PTS and life flying
outside of books, they will not be educated
to make the right decision for each problem
that presents itself.
When it comes to maintenance, a pilot
is often told to call the mechanic and
then waits for the fix. This is an excellent
opportunity for the student to learn how
things work and how things get fixed.
Maybe there is a chance for the student to
participate in a hundred hour inspection
and get their hands dirty. Learn about the
maintenance department and what they go
through to provide an airworthy helicopter.
In regards to weather, can the student see
through the wording of the DUATS report?
Beyond decoding the report, can they draw
a mental picture of what the conditions are
and what is predicted to be happening?
There are so many excellent sources for
the weather with predictions and graphics,
but many don’t understand weather theory,
and without that, it is like watching Grandpa
with his new iPhone.
What an Examiner hopes for is not a robot
who can pass a test, but someone who
understands the environment around
them and can use all the available
information to make safe decisions. We
do not need pilots in the industry; we
need Aviators. This is the goal. For it is this
person that has a higher level of learning
and dedication to the profession which
makes our industry responsible and safe.
As the flight training industry, we have
a responsibility to go a step beyond
and develop the skill set that helps
a pilot decide it is time to land, or on
questionable days, to feel secure enough
to say “I am not taking this flight.” The
flight instructor is the gateway to the
incredible freedom of flight. Preventing
accidents starts on day one. The test is
not all that important in the big picture of
a pilot’s journey. It is only a small step.
The real test will be the intuition and
instinct that the student has gained
through a full circle of education
and experiences. Expand their mind
to think and to be decisive in the
dynamic environment of flight.
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