Home' Collective Magazine : Heliweb Magazine July 2017 Contents COLUMN
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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.
Choosing the Right Instructor
It is not easy matching up well with
your flight instructor in trying to get
the right fit.
There are so many dynamics in
human relations that there are
bound to be disagreements and
misunderstandings. The instructor is
typically terribly underpaid and works
long hours at a very stressful job.
Instructors can be some of the most
amazing humans on the planet with
skills in psychology, flying, teaching
methods, and humor.
Some flight schools will assign their
students to an instructor, giving you
little choice in the matter unless you
specify that you have an issue or
want to make sure you have the right
The flight school banking on the little
background knowledge they may
have of the incoming student to try to
find a good match.
A match may be made through any
number of connections that they
think may make you and a particular
instructor a good fit. A common
background or interests that can help
spark a positive learning environment
is sometimes a good start, and
hopefully, your flight school takes the
time to ask you for more information
about you than just the method of
payment you will be using.
Other times flight schools may have
one instructor who has an open
schedule and assign that instructor
based purely on convenience.
You may find that a good
instructor is often already booked
out for their entire day well in
advance, so you may get assigned
to an instructor who only has one
other student or none at all.
Do you ever eat at a restaurant without
any customers? I am usually very
cautious about that and often choose
to eat somewhere else. Just like asking
yourself the question of “why aren’t there
any other customers eating here?” The
same should go for flight schools.
A longer serving instructor with few if
any students, is the restaurant with no
customers. You might ask more senior
students about this or inquire with
management about the instructor in
The person may not be a bad trainer;
it could be the circumstances. Maybe
they just graduated a few students
and have an open schedule.
This is a good sign. However, just
like an empty restaurant, do your
research. The internet has a lot of
answers for restaurants with sites
like Yelp that can help you. So too,
there are sites, forums and Facebook
groups that can give you access to
former students that may have trained
there and have an opinion on a
particular instructor. Take it all with a
grain of salt, but it is better than flying
When you begin taking lessons, it
should not take long to figure out if
you have a good fit with an instructor.
Is the learning enjoyable and are
lessons being taught efficiently?
Are you getting positive feedback
and constructive criticisms to help
you grow? Do they over control the
helicopter so you do not know if it is
you or them that has control of the
ship? Those questions should be
answered quickly to help you decide
if you have a good fit.
So what do you do when you feel the
learning environment is not a positive
one, or you feel like you are being
extorted for your ability to pay for
One thing is for sure; you have
options. Don’t be afraid to request a
change of instructor. A flight school
should have an open environment
that encourages the communication of
concerns without fear of repercussion.
I would not try to change instructors
often but when there are obvious
shortfalls in the instructor change it
up. Seek out something better for
If an instructor seems difficult to work
with, then you probably should try
some self-evaluation to see if it is you
causing the problem. Are you trusting
in the instruction, the instructor, and
the school, or have you built up a
defensive perimeter around your brain
so that nobody is allowed in?
A little self-evaluation may help you
uncover what about the program
of instruction is not working. Ask
for advice from others who have
completed a flight training course, as
they could be a great resource.
Becoming a pilot is a tremendous
journey. Enjoy the learning and the
freedom gained through the process.
Drive your education to success, know
yourself, and don’t waste time on an
instructor that wastes your time.
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