Flying self-selects fabulous people. But the sad fact is that many of these very special people and their passengers come to grief because they inadvertently assume risks that they don’t fully understand.
This is why we have come to so be deeply saddened by the lost opportunity represented by Flight Instructor Refresher Courses that cover all over again the same things instructors all learned back when they were Private Pilots. Covering things like thrust, drag, lift, and weight has little or no effect on an instructor’s ability to teach pilots things that will determine whether pilots and their passengers live or die.
We decided our FIRC should cover things like “Identifying and Changing At-Risk Behaviors.” Flight instructors often see scary behavior, but without being specifically prepared, they don’t know what to say that could help that person better understand and manage the risks of flying.
Another subject we decided to cover is “Conducting a Meaningful Flight Review.” The flight review is a very special opportunity for flight instructors to provide meaningful assistance. The FAA provides very little guidance on flight reviews, and in order to leave their customers with life-saving insights, the flight instructor needs preparation to make the most of it.
Most important, it is our suggestion in the FIRC that flight instructors teach their customers to employ a risk management analysis as a preflight action from the very first lesson. Pilots should find it no more acceptable to skip this preflight action than to go flying without a preflight inspection of the airplane. With practice, learning pilots will gain the skill of analyzing risks and coming up with a mitigation plan for them. Right now, new pilots learn this on their own, after they leave flight training … which isn’t working out well. It is our hope that with preparation from our FIRC, flight instructors will be able to do much better for their customers.
We hope that as a minimum taking this FIRC will make flight instructors thoughtful. The best case is that they will become strong advocates of risk management to everyone in aviation.