Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ground Grilling

I recovered from food poisoning, got a practice session in and prepared my notes for the flight test. That morning I arrived at the flying school just after it opened, so I had lots of time to get the weather, preflight the airplane and be ready for the examiner's arrival. That done, I sat down and read ten year old aviation magazines, featuring airplanes still too new for me to have ever flown them, and avionics I would still love to get my hands on.

Eventually a guy in a Transport Canada windbreaker came in. He expressed a desire for a cup of coffee, and knew where it was, but as he poured his cup I didn't recall seeing anyone make coffee that morning, and remember I arrived as they opened. I checked with the dispatcher, and warned him just in time that he was lifting a cup of yesterday's coffee. "Here," I offered, "I'll make you a fresh pot." I should have thought to do that while I was waiting, shouldn't I have. He decided, however, that it was enough to reheat the old coffee in the microwave. Yikes.

We went to a briefing room for the examination. The first part of the test is administrative, like every other Transport Canada test. I hand over money, my licences and medical and he gives me a receipt and copies my information onto a form. Next he gave me an excellent, patient explanation of the whole process of the exam, even though he knows from my record that I've been through this many times before. He was really quite expert at putting me at ease.

Next he asks me questions designed to determine my knowledge and judgement level for running a flight school. The instructor rating I wish to renew qualifies me to do that, so he has to test me for it. He isn't too impressed with that. He thinks that it should be a separate test, such as the test to be a chief pilot or a person responsible for maintenance, so that the flight instructor test can concentrate on instructional ability. I knew I wasn't going to be able to have all the regulations he could ask about at the figurative fingertips of my brain, so I have brought in a printout of the parts of the CARs applicable to flight training, and answer his questions by looking them up and reading them to him. He asks me some questions to be sure I understand what I am reading and is satisfied.

He has printouts of the flight test records of my most recent students, years ago. I'm embarrassed not to remember all of them. (Their names are not on the printouts, but I should remember who failed the 180 power off landing, and have no recollection of that happening. Perhaps it was someone I signed off to take a flight test before I left the school, and I never found out how he or she did.) I'm also embarrassed that there are a few poor flight tests. I start to explain that towards the end of my time as a flight instructor I worked at a big school where I was the troubleshooter and the patron saint of lost causes. When a student was doing well, I handed them off to a less experienced instructor, in exchange for one who needed my skills and attention. He understands completely and isn't holding the record against me.

My rating also qualifies me to supervise brand new instructors, so he asks me about the minimum supervision required of a class four instructor. I tell him succinctly that I must fly with the student prior to solo and prior to flight test, and then start off on a long winded explanation of my philosophy of when to do what with whom. I rein myself in when I realize I'm answering more than he asked, but he asks me to continue. He wants to see that I understand and take responsibility and I do, so this part is truly just relax and be myself. he asks me if I have to see all flight test items in my preflight check. "Yes," I say. "I have to sign a form that certifies that ..." I scrabble in my papers for the form. He suggests that I am countersigning the form for the class four instructor who certifies that she has seen all flight test items. I'm just certifying that I don't think she's lying. I look at him dubiously and he admits that he agrees with me, but that the other interpretation is accepted in some quarters.

Next he wants to see me teach a lesson on the ground. He asks me to brief him on spiral dives and slips, and then left the room to allow me to prepare. This is standard for flight tests, even though in real life students just arrive and you may have someone else's student to fly with at the last moment with no time to prepare. I read over the Transport Canada lesson plan and my own notes and am ready to begins. The scenario he asked for is that of a new inexperienced instructor who is having trouble with this briefing and has asked for a perfect demonstration. It's a set up that is sort of grooming me towards the next level of instructor rating, which would qualify me to teach others to be instructors. There are only 467 people in Canada who are qualified to do that, and many of them are working as examiners, like this guy, or have moved on to the airlines and their ratings just haven't expired yet. I was encouraged even at my initial class two exam to think about a class one rating, so it's not surprising to have this intermediate scenario.

I set up the whiteboard and when he returns I explain that there is no such thing as a perfect presentation that I could give so he could watch, memorize and regurgitate. if that were so, Transport Canada would produce them and distribute them on DVD. You would show them to the student, see if they had any questions, and then go flying. No, the reason this briefing is one-on-one is that it is adapted to the particular student and it is as fully interactive as you can make it. I then elicit the topic and the definition from the student and develop the lesson by asking him questions all the way through, so that it is built out of what he knows and understands, using words and concepts he can identify with. This can be awkward when the 'student' knows the material well, but I have confidence in my knowledge and know that as well as assessing me he is looking for useful techniques he can steal, so I show my stuff. He's happy. We go flying. I'll describe the flight tomorrow.


pat said...

I just can't wait until tomorrow! :-)

James said...

"There are only people in Canada" -> "There are only a few people in Canada" ?

Anoynmous said...

Fully interactive Aviatrix -- my favorite kind!

Lord Hutton said...

Dude you have a fully focussed memory

Jimmy Mack said...

So, does this mean you are taking up a life of instructing again?

Aviatrix said...

So, does this mean you are taking up a life of instructing again?

Paul B said...

"So, does this mean you are taking up a life of instructing again?

However, like before, it will keep doors open for you, and you never know when nthat could come in useful again!

Good step.

Besides, it demonstrates your wide abilities to others, and I have no doubt there are times that what you have learnt to formally be an instructor helps in your daily work.

Sounds like you enjoyed the exam!


Soaring Student said...

So, does this mean you are taking up a life of instructing again?


Too bad. I'm having a bitch of a time getting my flare working.

Though switching from a L4 to a L1 instructor has significantly helped... just a matter of time.

Aviatrix said...

Don't land the airplane (or in your case the glider?) Fly it five centimetres above the landing surface, right down the middle, and keep flying it until it's parked. There is nothing you have to do to make the airplane land.

Soaring Student said...

Diamond Eclipse C1, actually. I must go back and fly gliders someday, if not for the reduced costs then for the increased awareness and stick&rudder skills. Pretty much the same level of diligence, but it exercises your mind in a different direction.

Changing instructors had the benefit of having the same skill explained in a different way, and with some skill-specific exercises thrown in (this L1 instructor has a bigger toolbox than the L4).

And some of those tools involved exactly the skills that will result in doing what you describe.... not landing the plane, but flying it until it lands.