Is Your Example Worthy of Leading? – Flight Instructor

Is Your Example Worthy of Leading? – Flight Instructor

For the most part, Twin & Turbine readers are professionals, possibly in more than one field, since our airplanes are often supported by other endeavors. For certain, the skills needed to fly these complex aircraft are only acquired through a professional approach to the task. This is serious work, folks; we need solid training and discipline to pull it off.

As we rise up the aircraft capability ladder and gain additional ratings, it becomes even more important to impose professionalism on our efforts. Why? Because our airplanes are now more noticeable than the four-seat piston singles in our past. Younger, less-experienced eyes are watching how we fly the bigger planes, and because these pilots are seeking role models to emulate, what we do influences what they will become. Like or not, you’ve become a leader.

I still hold Flight Instructor privileges, and I’ve attended at the birth of several new CFIs as trainer and mentor. One of my “now that you’re an instructor” lectures reminds beginning CFIs to restrain their desires to take short-cuts in flying. When you were just another pilot, I tell them, you could indulge yourself in hot-rod taxiing and intersection takeoffs, but now you’re supposed to set an example. Your students and other inexperienced pilots think instructors are someone to copy; don’t pursue any course of action that you don’t want them to follow. With your acquired experience and judgment, it might be okay for you to try it, but don’t lead them astray.

We’re also being observed by the public at large; our high-performance private rides need to be seen as something to aspire to, not an arrogant statement. We can make a 5 a.m. departure across the neighboring sprawl of bedrooms, but should we? If we’re the only one out flying at that hour, maybe we should take the downwind runway over open country, or depart later.

Last week, I had to lead a couple of low-time pilots on a half-continent hop, through country and airspace they hadn’t seen before. I took a little extra time to communicate with ATC clearly, because I knew they were on frequency. Alone, I might have colloquialized a little more; this wasn’t the time for that. And, when the weather got ugly, I diverted earlier than I would have on my own. I was setting an example, not just for this trip, but for the later ones they would make by themselves.

Because we were essentially traveling as a crew, I gave them the standard pre-takeoff briefing; “If any one of us feels uncomfortable proceeding at any point in the flight, he is to speak up. Do not hesitate to voice an opinion, early enough that corrective action can be taken.” Don’t let the Old Man get us in over our heads, I reminded them.

As professional pilots, the examples we project are not for us alone. Yes, it makes us feel good to be ahead of the aircraft, flight-planning for contingencies and flying a stabilized arrival profile, but our attitude of “doing it right” also carries over into the developing minds of young pilots and airport watchers. Be known as someone worthy of emulation.

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