Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't forget the gear!

I remembered an interesting story and I figured there was a lesson to be shared. Back in my instructing days, I was training a fellow who bought a high performance aircraft and needed a check out for insurance. I had flown with him before and found it challenging to say the least. Being so young at the time, he really didn't want to listen to me. I would continually drive home the importance of cockpit check as the likelihood of him using a checklist once solo, was nonexistent. When operating an aircraft with retractable gear, it's important to establish solid checks from the get go. I still remember the "BBGUMPS" brakes, belts, gas, undercarriage, mixtures, props and switches. Just saying it puts a smile on my face as it has been drilled deep into my head.

As I was saying, this gentlemen was a challenge and whenever I brought up the checks, I would receive a response such as, "I don't know how people can ever forget, I have an ultra-light and I haven't forgot the landing gear." His ultra-light only has a retractable nose wheel. One day, while doing circuits, I gave him a simulated engine failure. During the entire procedure I continued to give pointers to see how he would handle the situation. He did a fantastic job right up to the point when I took control! In the overshoot, I looked over at him and asked, "what did you forget?" He looked around the cockpit and couldn't figure it out. I then asked, "what's the one thing you would never forget?!" His language was colourful to say the least.

We have all had those instructors who have allowed us to make mistakes without jeopardizing safety to drill home the importance of the lesson at hand. I still find it interesting when an employer considers instructing time as low value time. With my instructing background, I believe the contrary and you should as well. For those who haven't had the privilege to experience instructing, as an instructor you learn how to deal with multiple personalities and different skill levels. You become an excellent communicator and it can be very exciting or down right scary at times. As I fly with different pilots on occasion, I can see who has had a professional instructor and who has had a time builder instructor. Unfortunately, the latter generally is a poor communicator and lacks the necessary confidence. Marginal hands and feet skills can also be an indicator.

For anyone starting out, I recommend instructing for a year. If working a ramp job or flying and getting your feet wet are the options, it's easy to choose. Also the PIC time will help you greatly down the road. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


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