By Rod Machado
I’m curious about your experience with bad flight instructors and hope you’ll add to this blog with your comments. Of course, most flight instructors do a fantastic job. I just can’t say that LOUD enough: Most flight instructors do a fantastic job. But not all do! And when they don’t, they cause a lot of damage to the flight training industry. So I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced a really bad flight instructor. Did this person scream a lot? Hit you with a sectional chart? Or a “whack” chart? Did he make calls and text friends while giving you dual? Call you a nasty name? Talk about you behind your back while standing in front of you? Overcharge you? Did this person drink or smoke while flying with you? Humiliate you? Berate you? Belittle you? Tell me about what he did or didn’t do. Spare no details.
The main reason I’m posting these initial responses to my query is to make sure that anyone interested in flight training recognizes bad instructor behavior and then does something about it. Specifically, find another instructor. And, if at all possible, give the bad instructor some good feedback on how his behavior can rub an entire city the wrong way.
Then again, there’s an old Chinese saying that goes as follows: It’s better to spend three years looking for a good instructor than spend just three minutes with a bad one. This always sounds better when spoken by an older and wise Chinese person, but you get the point, right?
Here are some responses to my query (unedited, spelling not checked or corrected):
Adam: First 5 or so flights he failed to notice I never touched the trim wheel once I set for take off for the entire flight. I had larger than normal control pressures because of never using trim. He also was so desperate for flight time he found any excuse to keep the Hobbs meter running like being overly courteous in letting other airplanes taxi, take off and land in front of us.
John: Okay, let’s start with going under the hood on my first lesson. I had no clue what vertigo was, and the CFI never told me. All he did was scream at me and tell my what a loser I was for not being able to hold my heading.
Chris: I know a couple in Caldwell NJ that specialize in keeping as quiet as they can during dual training so you have to keep flying and flying in order to get the knowledge you need. They will only “release” you until they have milked you enough to be evident. Stuff like getting a BFR for them represent milking a sucker -like me apparently- for no less than 10 hrs until we are fed up and go to another place and get the damn BFR done in one day.
Jim: I had a younger CFI when I was going through Multi Commercial. We were flying over congested area and that’s when he said, “My plane” and began doing barrel rolls in our Seminole. I took the aircraft back and told him I would throw his happy ass out of the airplane if he ever even attempted something so stupid. I was serious!
Jeffrey: I had one CFI try to teach me how to roll a Cessna 172 as a Primary Student. It was poorly executed and scared me into finding another instructor. The first instructor later had a gear-up landing in a twin and it freaked him out and he quit flying for many years until he recently reached out to me to see if I knew of any flying jobs. I couldn’t think of any I would recommend him for.
David: The only bad CFI I’ve had was the one who gave my first BFR back around 1978. He was a recent grad of an instructor mill. We got into the C-150 and I while running the checklist I noticed he had not put on his shoulder harness (this was before wearing them was mandatory). Thinking he was razzing me, I asked if he was going to put on the shoulder harness and he said “No”. Thinking he was still razzing me I asked him “Wait a minute, who’s the pilot in command here?” His response? “I am”. At this point I’d had enough and I told him “No you’re not. There’s nothing were going to do in this airplane that I am not qualified and current to do. Either you put on that shoulder harness, or I find myself a new instructor”. He put on the harness, we flew the review, he signed me off and I *never* flew with him again!
Sylvain: I am paraplegic. I earned my primary private license (that’s what they call it over there) in the UK. I eventually upgraded it – over the years spent here in the US – to a FAA commercial certificate ASEL and AMEL w/ IFR rating.
I am mentioning this not to brag – heck, a little perhaps smile emoticon – but to point out that I have had to jump through a few more hoops than most other pilots to get my wings, I can fly.
Anyway, the first place I contacted when I moved to California made the decision, on sight, that they would never let me fly solo. But they didn’t bother telling me about this, instead they strung me along for hours and hours, always finding excuses. I tend to be persistent, so I didn’t catch up right away. I eventually found out, it’s a small world, someone took me aside to let me know, unofficially that is (several months down the line). But the asshole instructors of that place – I won’t name said place, but everyone who knows me will know where it is – went along with that scheme. These assholes should have their CFI certificates yanked.
When I eventually switched to another more welcoming place, it took the first instructor I flew with – hi Mike!… smile emoticon – all of 15 mn to sign me off.
Brandon: Great topic, Rod. While I was a student pilot, I remember having a CFI actually tell me, while flying, that he “hated instructing” and that his priority was time building. From that moment, I decided to find another instructor. I made it a point to find someone who had a passion for teaching, and someone who simply loved to share their knowledge. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I found an amazing CFI (retired military and former chief pilot for Delta airlines) that tought me to be a safe and efficient pilot.
Gerry: When I was a student, my secondary instructor (on days when my primary CFI was off), who was also time building, told me while taxiing that he didn’t like instructing. He didn’t say he hated it, though. In discussion, he said it’s always great to go flying, but he really didn’t like doing ground instruction at all, and didn’t care for having to explain and teach while in the air. Funny thing is, he was a really GOOD instructor! I learned a lot from this CFI who didn’t like instructing. smile emoticon
Paul: Doing touch and goes in a 150 had 10 hrs in me . landed with 30 degrees flaps went to blast back off . carb heat in flaps up and lift @ 55kt airplane jumps off ground nose up trying to stall . I keep pushing nose down instructor screams flaps are down . I ignore that problem and keep flying . idiot instructor is flipping flap switch and pounding breakers I yell leave it alone , its already pissed off !! . fly ahead @ 50 ft per min climb make slow turn back and land . the whole time idiot is sitting in right seat frozen . What a jerk never flew with him again
Alex (CFI): Had one during my commercial, “who was the age of my son”. He pass out from a severe hang-over while I was under the hood. He also managed to exceed VNe in a C-172 while recovering from a night spin that he managed to invert. What a bone-head. I spilled the beans and he was looking for a new job.
Tamara: The worst cfi I experienced was while I was working towards my own cfi. Being cornered at one point by him in a classroom and I was being very loud at this point of course, and his words were ‘he likes to hear his girl scream’. I was 18 years old. And his flight instruction was at best mediocre too as what he taught in 10 hours the chief instructor who took over my training had me ready in 2 hours. (Another instructor had investigated because of the noise level I was creating, especially since I was having to physically fight at that point.
Twenty years later, I’m hearing stories from some female students going through similar issues.
As a career instructor, I’ve taught my share of students who have left bad instruction. Sometimes the stories and the instruction makes me wish I could teach that instructor a few things (sometimes with a brick). I’m not the instructor for everyone, but I want every student to find their best fit so they can become their own best pilot.
Paula: A bad CFI is also one who is apathetic. I changed to someone that was invested in communicating and creating great learning experiences.
Jamie: My first instructor was an extremely friend, affable guy. He was also making every attempt to empty my bank account while we flew around in circles doing nothing. My second instructional flight as a cross-country. I had no idea that made no sense. In my first 20 hours of instruction I flew three different types. I had no idea that was abnormal either. He was a nice guy, but a lousy instructor, working for a school that didn’t seem to care that their instructors were essentially running up the bill, but making minimal effort to teach their students to fly.
Oliver: During my initial training I didn’t feel comfortable on power-on stalls. I was afraid of getting into a spin. One instructor used to make fun of my situation, he even liked to put me in strong unusual attitudes to see my reaction. He tough it was funny. Then he would tell other instructors/students in the school how afraid I was, making jokes about me.
I asked the school owner a change of instructor. The new instructor was a nice guy who exposed me to the maneuvers at a different pace, focusing on safety and explaining everything before and during the flight. After I was cool with stalls, we did a power-on without rudder correction, a partial spin and a two-turn Spin. I ended up liking it and getting my Spin endorsement.
First instructor left the school as soon as he got the mínimum time for regionals. He was a time builder, not a real educator.
Daryl: Other than the obvious “time-builder” instructors…the only really bad one that I’ve had was at Seminole Lake Gliderport. I was considering getting my glider rating. I currently have 200+ hours ASEL and ASES. Let the student fly the plane. It isn’t a ride, it’s a lesson. I got maybe 5 minutes of stick time during the 45 minute flight. He was a cranky old retired Air Force pilot that shouldn’t be instructing. I’ve also had an instructor try to overcharge me for time spent after the pre-flight brief while he was getting ready (going to the bathroom and taking his sweet time walking to the hangar).
Gerry: After I had picked a flight school for my private certificate, I went about selecting one of their instructors. One seemed to have a fair amount of time available on the schedule, and I was interested in such an available instructor. On one particular day I had lunch at the cafe in the terminal building, and on the speaker there I heard the tower give a pilot an odd instruction (I don’t remember what it was; it was more than 13 years ago). Back at the school, I asked that instructor why the tower told the pilot to do whatever it was. His answer? “You don’t need to know why, you just need to do it.” I said I’d like to understand the situation better so I can be a good pilot who works well with ATC. His reply? “It doesn’t matter why they said it. They say it, you do it.” Needless to say, I didn’t pick him to be my instructor.
Tony: My CFI didn’t show the interest in my training that I had expected. I had struggled with crosswind landings and on this particular day they were going to be an issue. I was studied up for the flight lesson and arrived at the airport early. When my lesson was scheduled to start the CFI was nowhere to be found. 30 minutes after the start time past he finally touched down in his personal plane and instead of coming directly to the rental plane he decided he needed another cup of coffee and stopped to visit with the mechanic…and anyone else he passed who was willing to talk. I was anxious about the crosswinds and frustrated at his lack of attention and decided I was in no mental condition to fly so I left the airport. I contacted him a few hours later and informed him I would be searching for another instructor.
Ms. BP: my 1st CFI used to sleep in the back of the Citabria – when he wasn’t texting! he also made me cry on more than one bad landing…another CFI (prepping for my private checkride) yelled at me the entire prep ride, screamed during my first landing, cussed me out, then told me he’d never fly with me again and i needed to give up and go home to my kids! ha, i persevered !
Ruthie: Before finding my current CFI I had one that didn’t think women belonged in a airplane and made it clear many times he didn’t last long. Had another that would hoover over the controls or snatch them with out a positive exchange. I can say now I am fortunate to find a CFI that I consider a good friend and excellent teacher.
Tony: I have seen both ends of the spectrum. Several outstanding CFI, Cammie Patch and Todd Underwood are Both great. On the other side, I had an examiner from the Toledo police department cursing me out during my IFR checkride. His yelling went something like “you don’t know where in the fu$k you are, you are a fu$&ing idiot, you are going to kill us. I ended up busting one of the approaches . I could have retaken that portion of the test and been done. However, he was such an Ass, I went to a different examiner to finish the check ride.
Richard: Had one more interested in showing off his superior flying skills than actually teaching me how to fly…
Bob: I had stopped flying for awhile while I was building my RV and needed a BFR. I stopped in a FBO that was near where I was working and scheduled a BFR with a kid about thirty years younger than me. He was Brit that just moved here and started working at this non-towered airport. During the ground portion, he asked every arcane and trivial bit of unusual information he could dig up. He then went into a tirade about how to talk to ATC. I promptly cut him off and terminated the session and walked out and arranged for another CFI to finish the BFR. I was starting to imagine that the flying session was going to be a “how I can stump the old fart and prove I’m smarting than he is” session.
Oh ya, I forgot to mention to him that I was a former Tower ATC. He had no idea of my background (nor did he ever bother to ask). and just made some incorrect assumptions about my skill level. When he started giving bad information at the point of serving his own ego I turned the tables and explained his shortcomings before I walked out. Fortunately he didn’t last at that FBO very long.
I will say that the 2nd CFI was totally opposite and a great instructor. I finished my BFR and went on and completed an IPC with him.
Andy: I was working on the ground portion of my instrument rating through a part 141 program. Each lesson had a multiple choice quiz where it was required to meet 80%. Usually, my instructor would grade the quiz in front of me using the answer key. One day, I noticed something on my quiz that my instructor marked correct, when it was indeed incorrect. I politely pointed out my observation and then asked if I could see the rest of my completed quiz and answer key. As it turned out, my grade was nowhere close to passing. I learned this had been going on for weeks. Thinking I knew my stuff, I was no wiser to a bigger problem. My instructor was falsifying training records to make it looked like I knew the material. I immediately told the owner and found a different instructor. My new instructor is far more experienced and I’ve since switched to part 61. Much simpler in my opinion! Lesson of the day… trust no one, assume nothing.
Jim: My very 1st instructor I didn’t like. I felt he thought he was better than me. His daddy was a doctor & paid for his flight training. I had to do it by myself and couldn’t drop $10,000 at one shot. I was glad the day he said he forgot his wallet & had to go home to get it. I got to fly with another instructor & loved it. Then Neal got hired & I enjoyed every lesson. I was very happy when the 1st instructor moved on. Arrogance has no place in the cockpit.
Donald: I haven’t had a what I would call a bad CFI, though the first “stage check” I had was with a crusty old pilot who, when I picked up the mike to announce my go-around, grabbed the mike out f my hand and through it against the side of the cockpit and yelled “Don’t you EVER touch the mike before you have a positive rate of climb”. I’ll NEVER forget! Seriously, I can honestly say I’ve learned something important from every instuctor ( and every pilot) I have ever flown with. My two complaints: I had two very competent CFI’s who had a falling out. They acted like middle school girls. If you fly with him don’t talk to me! sort of things… The second was a young lady that I never did meet who was going to fly my Cherokee to renew my solo endorsement and BFR my primary instructor. She canceled for six weeks in a row until the annual ran out on my plane. It probably was really not something she could do anything about but now I’m grounded…
Buz: I am a USAF Trained Pilot and Endured a Lot of Misbehaving Smoking Screeming Instructor Pilots but I understood the Program was a Weeding Out of those who could Not Tolerate the Stress!! And I was Very Aware That I More Than Likely Would Be Flying Combat Missions Shortly !! But I was Getting Paid to Take This Temporary Abuse, NOT the Other way Around !
Stacey: For me it was my FAA examiner during my instrument check ride. I was flying at night in a slow two seater plane. I was his last examinee. He said “Lets just get this over with, I want to get home!”. Being nervous already, hearing that didn’t help. Most of the approaches had a strong 10+ headwind. He was yelling “Go faster! Our ground speed is only 40kts! At this speed I’ll never get home!” Mind you I was at 90% power. I couldn’t go any faster. Airspeed was 70 something. My approach was perfect. This whole attitude was given to me through the whole flight. Sighing huffing and puffing etc.. Even when we landed he yelled at me while taxiing that I should fly faster if I have passengers, if not I’m going to p!$$ them off. Unbelievable. <Nathan>
Brad: The worst instructors I’ve ever known were teaching at “Pilot Mills”, and unfortunately the majority of commercial pilots come from these mills because of their set costs and time frame based training. Stick and rudder takes a back seat while getting through quickly and within budget is foremost important.
Robert: Unfortunately the only way to build time (unless independently wealthy) is to instruct. “There are Pilots, instructors, and Instructor pilots”
Soren: I’m a product of one of the Part 91 “schools” and had a miserable experience while being jostled between several very young CFI’s most of whom were often overworked with too many students but for most, teaching (ground) often took a back seat (or didn’t exist at all) to the schools monthly agenda of pushing people into checkrides they are not really prepared for. I was always on budget until the very end where I found out that by some miracle of capitalism everyone has to suddenly buy more flight time right at the end of the program (read choke-point). Nothing like needing at least four more practice flights to the tune of $450/hr for twin time. There were a lot of other big issues I could divulge but I’ll refrain. Had foresight been 20/20 I would have taken my $65,000 elsewhere and found a single dedicated CFI at the local FBO. For some, the mill schools work (especially if your pockets are deep and you can attend a flagship location not a satellite) For me it was a bad mistake that I’m still recovering from financially and looking back I still question what I really got out of the experience other than 105 hours of flight time. I probably could have doubled that with an attentive CFI that had access to good planes, of which many flight clubs do. As they say..you live…you learn. — And I’ll say this too, the CFI wields a lot of power..especially those who work for themselves because it can be very easy to milk both time and extra money from the un-knowledgeable student. I’ve seen it happen more times that I can count and it’s unfortunate more CFI’s don’t hold themselves more accountable. A student will either have to suffer through it or go through the awkwardness of finding someone else and once doing so it’s also takes a certain amount of extra time for a new CFI to be able to asses where the student is at. Therefore the student can lose there too. This profession costs A LOT so every CFI should do their absolute best to always train to a higher standard and not get complacent or fall back on tricks of the trade.
Aurora: Had an instructor tell me I’d probably crash because I didn’t get a 100 on my commercial written.
Michelle: An examiner failed me, many years ago… it could happen, improvement is always possible … only to find out the fail had nothing to do with my performance but with his need for extra money …. i had to pay for the retest less than a week later. I have also had an instructor tell me that I would do better to learn to cook and knit. One thing I learned quicly as a student is that I have a choice… and I share that awareness with my students… and to anyone who listens
Andrew: I had one set the rudder trim to the far right so I didn’t need a lot of rudder input. Lazybones.
Ben: I’ve been lucky with my instructors personally, but the main things I’ve witnessed with other instructors:
1. Not being punctual
2. Acting like they are the customer
3. Lack of respect for small aircraft
Alan: I am a first hand witness to these things too and a lot of CFIs out there operate like this. It makes it hard at times to get things like a flight review accomplished. As I’m getting older I find I am having less tolerance for this kind of crap. These things you point out were the main themes during my flight training and I got though in spite of them. But I sure didn’t like it. It made training miserable.
Andy: After 30 hours with one instructor (who shall remain nameless), my landings were worse that they were at 10 hours — I switched instructors to Lee Borchers and soloed after an additional 1.5 hours. While I certainly learned a lot from my first instructor, his endless negativity undermined my confidence and inhibited my learning.
Lee’s “That was good but let’s see if we can improve by doing this, or this”‘ made all the difference between white knuckle flying and loving it. THANKS LEE — I am sure you have no idea what a difference you made — but for me it changed flying from a stressful experience to the most exhilarating hobby I have ever had.
So, thanks to you Lee, “I have slipped the surly bonds of earth . . . . And reached out and touched the face of God!!” — as precious a gift as any one could have ever given me! THANKS!!
And Ms. B — thanks for “opening the door” and giving me the forum to express this.
Scott: I learned to fly at a USAF Aero Club overseas back in the mid 1980s. Most of the CFIs there were from various other countries. They had come to the USA to get their certificates.
The fellow I flew with was a foreign national who enjoyed hot-dogging, and since I worked on fighters as a maintenance tech and envied the fighter pilots, flying nap of the earth over nearby farmland at 100 kts in a Piper Tomahawk seemed like great fun. I was vaguely aware we were probably bending the rules, but I was young and stupid, and figured that if he wanted to do that then lets have fun!
Then one day we were cruising along several thousand feet up, and he suddenly asked me, “what would you do if the Red Baron was on your tail?” When I said I didn’t know, he took the controls, pulled that little Tomahawk straight up, and as the speed dropped off he gave a big pull on the yoke and we flopped over upside down. Then as he pulled out of the loop (that was more of a hammerhead in pitch instead of yaw) I was terrified to see the wings bending up and wing skins wrinkling. I hollered at him that he’d better never do that with me again.
He didn’t do any more loops but he later taught me how to do wingovers so we were weightless over the top. Then he taught me how to do hammerhead stalls which I thought were great fun but I was too chicken to do them on my solo flights.
He finally left for a job with a charter company somewhere in Europe to fly Learjets. I finished up my Private with another CFI who really wasn’t comfortable hotdogging around, so I only did it occasionally when I flew solo.
I finally passed my Private checkride with over 100 hours, mostly due to all the time my first CFI and I wasted screwing around.
I took a fellow maintenance guy flying in a Tomahawk a short time later. He’d always wanted a ride in a fighter but hadn’t got one, so I did my best to give him the experience. I flew a couple of steep turns to show him 2 Gs. Then I did a wingover to show him zero Gs, and immediately entered a second one as we pulled out of the first. I over-controlled it and somehow we ended up inverted. I considered trying to roll upright but the CFI had never taught me rolls so I was scared to try it. Instead, I pulled back on the yoke for all I was worth and we essentially did a split-S. I watched the airspeed go up over redline, and I saw the wings bending up. I had just read an article a few weeks before that said that inflight breakups usually start with the tail snapping off, and then the plane pitches forward nose down and the wings fail downward. I just knew that was going to happen to us, and we were going to die. But the air was glass smooth, the airplane was only a couple of years old, and it held together. As we pulled out of the dive, the airspeed dropped below redline and the G forces lessened. I began to think we might live after all.
My friend said, “That was COOL!” I sheepishly said that maybe that was enough, time to head back.
After we landed I looked the plane over very, very carefully. I didn’t see any damage or deformation. I was too scared, ashamed and immature to report what had happened, but that plane is still flying today so I must not have hurt it.
I had never come so close to dying, and it had a huge effect on me. I have never hotdogged in a plane since, I drive more carefully and gave up other risky behavior. In fact I wonder if I’m maybe a little bit boring but I’m okay with that.
I fully realize how stupid I’d been. I know that as soon as that first CFI started bending the rules I should have dropped him, and I should have reported him to the Aero Club Chief Pilot who was a USAF Colonel. And that is my shameful story about a truly dangerous CFI and the effects he had on me.
Dana: My CFI instructor used to compare me to his other students. His instrument and private students. He also used to just tell me how horrible I did that day, but offer no way to correct. I would ask him how I could come prepared for the next lesson and his response would be “show up prepared”. When I did what I thought was necessary, he would be little me for about have and hour or so on how I did every incorrectly and still offer no examples of doing it properly. He never filled out my logbook. He changed my schedule with him all the time and didn’t tell me when he did. One day I realized I was 20 minutes late because I didn’t know we had a lesson. I called him because he never bothered to ask if I was coming. I made it to the airport still during out scheduled time and he was working with another student. Then he finally filled out my logbook and charged me for an hour.
Manny: My fist instructor was an older instructor in his mid 50’s. He was an angry guy who bad-mouthed the aviation industry and and blamed all of his problems on Tip O’nell and the Democratic party. “Because of them the industry is in the state it is”, he would say, or “because of them I was not able to finish my studies and go to the airlines”- was another one he would yell. I remember that that he was insulting and and would yell at me when I did not do something right. Of course, he taught me everything in the airplane and we never had ground school- on the ground. I was always nervous and remember the butterflies in my stomach and that sinking feeling when I was doing a pre-flight knowing what was about to come. One fine day, I figured that if I did not quit, I would bite him, so I quit. I got really angry at him and realized that a life-long dream I heard (I was also in my mid 50’s) was being destroyed by a first-class jerk. So I quit. I went to another school where I met a young kid only 22 years old and with only 250 hrs. But this kid put me at ease so much so that after two flights with him I wanted to fly by myself. The experience was fabulous and a few months later, I received my private pilot’s license. And I am glad to report the “kid” is now 26 years old, working for the airlines with over 2600 hrs and we have stayed close friends sharing many stories over the last few years. What a shame to have met a person who almost ruined my life-long dream. I am glad to had taken the initiative to turn this around.
George: We have a lot of students who fled other schools because of instructors like this. I’ll put them in touch with you. They sure have some interesting stories to tell, including that a few of them paid for their entire private pilot certificate (in effect) and still had not yet soloed after 50+ hours of training despite being intelligent and capable of doing so.
Johnny: I had a college-aged CFI who was hungover once and kept nodding off in the right seat one day. Another CFI used to like to get really low when practicing emergency landings, and ended up doing an “off-airport” landing (in the desert) with another student pilot. Luckily, I earned my certificate unscathed.
Ben: I was getting my multi engine private at a large 141 school. I started with a great instructor that was trying to do the right thing and push me through quickly before he left for the airlines. Unfortunately I messed up one the maneuvers during my check ride. And he was gone so I couldn’t do my recheck training with him. So the next instructor I get is a complete nightmare. His idea of instruction was put his 5 students together in a room charge all of us full price and have us teach each other while sleeps in the corner. Since I had already taken my check ride and passed the oral I was to lead the lessons. I told him no. My recheck has nothing to do with an oral, I have to fly. He said he is the instructor and I had to what he said. This went on for about 20 hours of ground instruction while he slept. I went to the chief and he told me that the instructor is one of his best and I need to learn how to get along with people. So I went to one of the schools counslers. I explained. Next thing I know I am in a chair with 7 people starring at me. All assistant chiefs the head chief, Dean and 2 counslers. Pleading my case. So they put me up for mock check ride with an assistant chief they called the neutron bomb. 8 hour oral for a private multi engine checkride. I didn’t miss a single question. We went flying worked on the areas i messed up on my first checkride. He sent me to my checkride. The examiner said I passed with flying colors. The instructor had to sit through all of it. At the end he told me he couldn’t understand how I could of bs’ed for that long and he still felt that I didn’t know anything. I went back to the dean of the school and said if that instructor isn’t let go than I am leaving. He said he couldn’t do that so I left. And his next 5 students left as well. Best decision I ever made in my career.
Dan: I had a couple of bad ones during my initial training. One criticized most everything, and even how I wasn’t doing the checklists properly – he considered them “do” lists more important than looking outside and keeping level. This was a reasonably busy towered field. One kept hitting me for not using enough rudder straight and level – while “my” ball was centered, the one on his side wasn’t. After “quitting” for a while, I went back and had two wonderful instructers, Marcia and Kevin, who were what instructors should be! 30 years later, I’m more active than ever.
Amanda: I’ve flown with 19 CFI’s( for the record, I’m slow, not hard to get along with) Had three that I wouldn’t get back in an airplane with, even if they paid me, which of course wouldn’t be legal. For the most part they were very professional, but the bad one’s are egotistical and have low hours, like 1500 or less. I had one gal that actually slapped my hand and yelled at me. Maybe that was the kindergarten flight lesson. The best CFIs possess certain qualities like professionalism, calmness, kindness and are humble in their teachings. I think the biggest obstacle for a CFI is to remember that the student is just that, a student. Students don’t crawl into an airplane knowing how to fly. They are there for an educational experience.
Ranferi: I’m not sure if I am late to the party, but my initial instructor has me do nothing but power on/off stalls during my very first flight. I didn’t like it because I had no clue that was coming, nor did I prepare for it. By following the syllabus he had given me, we were supposed to do straight and leveled flight for that day.
Big shout out to my next CFI Lindsey Moreland who took me as a student with about 10 hours in my logbook. She helped me master the art of flying an airplane, safely and confidently. It was thanks to her that I can now call myself a pilot, and she made every flight a learning experience. Thanks!!!
Imon: My CFI is a former USAF colonel who flew F-111s, and he epitomizes a great flight instructor. I’m lucky. But there was one instructor at my club that nobody liked. He’d charge students while sitting and reading the “book” with them, even though the student had already read it at home. This gent would also took over control during approaches if the flight parameters deviated slightly, even at reasonable altitude, from where safe corrections could be made. The guy was also quoted saying stuff like “you’re going to crash us” while the student was flying an approach. Compare this behavior to my awesome Colonel who, on my first lesson, allowed me to fly landing approaches down to 10 feet AGL before assisting or correcting. And when I used aileron instead of rudder when a wing dropped during stall recovery practice, he sat with arms across chest, repeating “recover!” until I figured out my mistake. To summarize, IMHO, one major distinguishing factor for good or great instructors- they’ll let you make that error or mistake, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the airplane, because they know you’re more likely to learn FROM your errors than from being simply WARNED against errors! And they have the skill and alertness to make sure that even though you’re making mistakes, the airplane is remaining within a safe operating envelope!
Gina: My primary instructor once called me a “maggot”. This was in response to doing something wrong on downwind. He was fresh out of the Marines. They say when you are an instructor, you need to find five ways to say the same thing. He was especially talented because he found SIX! He was an AWESOME pilot and a great instructor. I often wish I had him on “CD”, so I could play back his wisdom. He was great. You just had to have a thick skin around him. Since I never thought of myself as a maggot, and the phrase kind of confused me, it never really hurt my fee-fees. I managed to do fine and grew up to be a jet pilot. I’ll never be quite as good as he was. He was pretty awesome. So was his vocabulary.
Rick: When I finally had the last of my 4 children out of sports and finishing high school I told my wife that I was bored and felt like I needed to apply myself to learning something new and challenging. Having flown model airplanes since I was in grade school and being an accomplished RC pilot I knew exactly what I wanted to do…get my pilots license!
I live in Wichita, Kansas “the air capital of of the world” so finding a good instructor should have been a piece of cake, or so I thought. I did a little research and picked out the second largest airport thinking it was non-towered and had a flight school with several Cessna 172’s for rent.
I signed up with the flight school and was assigned an instructor that was a dead ringer for Tom Cruise down to the flight suit and making the front counter girls swoon when he came rolling in to give flight instruction to mere mortals such as myself.
My first lesson was check list, fuel, basics about airspace and aerodynamics, and then flying! I explained that I was prone to motion sickness and that If we took it easy I would get acclimated to flying and it wouldn’t be a problem. The instructor said that he was a natural born pilot and never needed any acclimation to flying. In his opinion you either had it or you did not.
He has me start the plane and taxi out. We do our run up and then line up and take off. Everything went fine so we climbed out and did some simple maneuvering when he announce that we were almost finished and that he wanted to show me “something”. He started pulling the yoke back while under power and had me watch the airspeed decay just like the stalls that I had done earlier but with one exception…when the plane stalled he stomped hard left rudder and put the plane in a spin for about 5 or 6 rotations.
Up to that point I had been dealing with the motion sickness that I had felt lurking just around the corner but this put me over the top and I was immediately sick and needed to land.
I crawled out of the plane when we landed and was sicker than I had been in many years. The macho instructor informed me that the first dozen or so flights would involve spinning the 172 but that I would get used to it. I thought that it would be hell but that I would work through it so I went out a few more times with Tom Cruise and did more and more spins every time we flew. I got sick every time but stuck it out for the first 6 lessons. I was telling my model airplane buddy who had his pilots license what had been happening in my flight training and he was mortified to find out that we had spent more time doing spins than anything else. I admitted that I was close to throwing in the towel and asked what I should do. He said get a different instructor so I did.
I was told by the new instructor that spins were off the list of training unless we were flying the Decathalon.
I obtained my pilots license that summer and went on to buy a Pitts S2B biplane in which I have flown many contests and with many instructors that act in an appropriate manner and respect their students and airplanes.
I guess the best thing that came of the initial lessons was an early example of what a bad instructor could put you through.
And realizing that I could change instructors!
Don: This may be a little off topic but I’m compelled to make mention how the right instructor for you can make all the difference. I can’t say anything negative about my first instructor; he had his approach/methods which are different from my second/current instructor’s. Scheduling was my main obstacle both his and mine, that was my reasoning for changing instructors. Although my work schedule still has been a problem I have progressed steadily under my second instructor. She has a very assertive personality who commands you attention yet she is patient; no matter how slow I am to pick up on things she will still keep going over everything like it is the first time, and she don’t let me get by with anything. With my first instructor the airport we used was in class G airspace so radio use (Unicom) was minimal and my instructor didn’t force the issue at the time. My second instructor is at an airport in class D airspace and first time out she made me stammer through talking with both ground and tower, she did jump in at crucial moments. It was the same thing during the weather briefing when we called the Aviation Weather Center (1-800-WXBRIEF). I say all of this because I didn’t want to talk to the AWC or on the radio but because of her insistence; I am more confident when I talk with the ATC and AWC, and I now know that when I do stammer the world won’t come to an end. What’s holding me back at the moment is me knuckling down and getting my written out of the way.
Reg: And how do you define “bad”. The CFI that gave me most of my instruction did it “for the love of flying”. So, no, I was not over charged. But he was a perfectionist. In his mind, the pluses and minuses in the PTS did not exist. You either accomplished every maneuver perfectly, or you didn’t meet his standard. I never achieved a sign-off for my PPL check ride from him. After laying off flying for a few months, I climbed into an airplane I had never flown (though the same type I had previously trained in, a C-150) with another instructor. After an hour of going through the PTS, he announced that I was more than ready for my checkride. I was trained to a high degree of precision, but I almost gave up because I couldn’t perform every maneuver perfectly every time.
Steve: April 1987, Boulder CO in a Taylorcraft… I’m about ready for my check-ride and I’m eager. My regular flight instructor is unavailable and I’m short my night hours. I scheduled with a flight instructor with whom I had not previously flown. While we flew T&Gs in the pattern as it was getting dark he asked what types of interesting things I had done with my regular flight instructor. Among other things I mentioned that we had practiced what is now known as “the impossible turn” (which we had practiced at altitude, with lots of caveats etc.). After I made the next takeoff, and at about 500′, he said “here, let me show you something” and took control of the airplane, pulled the power and cranked it into a steep turn. Stall, spin. At least he got it roughly wings level with the wheels down before we crashed. Totaled the aircraft. Broke both our backs (I had two non-adjacent crushed vertebrae, now I have two rods and six fused vertebrae). Although he lost his instructors cert. he didn’t lose his commercial. Years later I heard from his former boss (the owner of the FBO) that he had apparently not learned adequately from the event as he had gone to have more “events” since my crash. Fortunately, this was the only bad instructor I remember having… Ironically, I consider this the single most instructive lesson of my flying career. I completed my check-ride prep and passed my check-ride around 6+ months later once I was out of my post-surgery back-brace… I’m still flying. smile emoticon
Tarik: For me it was how a CFI ruined what was supposed to be the best day of my life, the day I got my PPL.
On the day of my PPL oral and flight exam, after I passed and did several fist pumps, I decided to celebrate by doing a single circuit in our Cessna 152. What I didn’t know, was that very recently our airfield had made a non-official agreement with the locals so that aircraft not equipped with “silencers” (not sure you call it that in English) wouldn’t fly circuits on weekends between 12 noon and 2pm. It just so happened that I had decided to take the C152 on a Saturday at 1pm… and C152 was not equipped to do circuits at this given time.
When I requested training circuits on the frequency a CFI from my school informed me of the fact that I couldn’t fly circuits at this time because of the local agreement. The controller, who knows every aircraft on the airfield, also didnt seem to know since he didnt say anything and was also surprised by the interruption of our exhange.
I wasn’t too worried, I had printed the weather, and I had a chart, so I thanked the instructor and changed my intentions for a local flight. I would make a quick lap away from the airfield and come back to land.
So that’s what I did. When I came back and shut down, I decided I would go to the CFI in question and thank him for having warned me. When I reached him, he seemed to explode.
“You don’t follow the rules! You’re completely irresponsible you f**king idiot! You are honestly the worst pilot I’ve ever come to know! And didn’t you just pass your PPL today? Well you better get your act together because that’s not f**king good enough. What a disgrace to this club.”
I was 17 years old. One of the reasons I had started flying well before I was going to start professional flight training was to boost my self-confidence. Needless that went out of the window and I ended up crying in the car. I will never forget the experience as it being my worst in aviation.
Today I have not forgiven the CFI and I never will, but I made a commitment that I will never, ever, be like this when I become CFI. I will be everything that man was not and will not be everything he is.
I will be patient, encouraging and will always make sure to keep my empathy at high levels.
Mike: On a day before cellphones were invented, I arrived five minutes late for our dual instruction. My instructor informed me that the only acceptable excuse for being late for a lesson was to be killed on the way to the f****** airport and yes he was a chart swatter.
Gail: Flying the pattern….we were about to turn from downwind to base, when we noticed a helicopter ( from another flight school ) hovering nearby. CFI tried to make radio contact, with no response… I wasnt very comfortable turning base and then final with another aircraft so near, esp not knowing if they were paying attention ( lack of radio comm ). But CFI told me, “fly towards the helicopter!” I refused…he got exasperated… Took control, lined up for final, then gave me back the plane…the landing, needless to say, was not a good one… And there was post flight critique/lesson… He just ran away….
Tod: My first Instrument lesson: Taxi aircraft to the runway. Put on the hood. Told to take-off down the runway by following the DG. Got yelled at for 15 min because I couldn’t keep the plane on the center-line. We took just 1 lesson together. That was enough.
Bob: My biggest complaint getting my PPL was when I walked into the FBO, having my instructor tell me to go out and preflight 123B. He would come out, jump in the plane and off we would go. Practice some maneuvers and do a few landings, the lesson was totally dependent on what he felt like doing at that moment in time. After landing, we would walk back across the tarmac to the office. Upon entering the FBO, he would tell his next student to preflight 123B, and figure out my bill for the day’s lesson. No debriefing, no discussion of how the lesson went, and certainly no planning or talking about what we would practice during the next lesson. Simply “you owe this amount for today and I’ll see you next week” as he headed for door and 123B.
We spent many lessons doing nothing but takeoffs and landings for the entire one hour lesson. After soloing several times and several hours of solo time, I asked to be signed off to fly to a neighboring airport. “No” was his immediate answer, “just stay here in the pattern and get more solo time”. As I look back, it is no wonder the average time to get a PPL is up around 65-70 hours.
Bob: I flew one time with a cfi in the pattern that screwed me up so bad I almost had to learn to fly again! Later found out she actually flew students with thunderstorms nearby
Tim: I wanted to learn spin recovery, and had read the PARE System book, so I was ready.
I had never been with this guy — he was a new CFI there — and so we took off in the 152. I hadn’t read the POF on spins. (It wasn’t an Aerobat, by the way.) He didn’t ask me any questions about my “experience” level, familiarity with the machine, or anything else that would have told him this was maybe my tenth flying lesson.
Anyway, we spent the first hour or so climbing to 8500′, when he said, “Let’s spin it.”
I stalled the airplane and crossed the controls, and the airplane just lost a bunch of altitude, but didn’t do anything exciting.
He was disappointed. We climbed back up, and he said, “Give it full flaps.” So I did.
This time, it spun. Like crazy, with the green side “up,” maybe six, seven turns. I looked briefly at him.
His eyes were closed and he was holding onto the seat belt. Figured it was still my bird.
I remembered the Power, Aileron, Rudder, Elevator routine, and did that; we were going really fast, though, as I rounded out. I remember glancing at the airspeed, and it showed 150 — redline. And I still had the flaps at 30 degrees. (I could have done a Tsunami, but for the wonderful overbuilding at Cessna and the great maintenance at my school.)
We didn’t die, and so I thought it was pretty exciting, so I was writing up my postflight notes when the chief instructor glanced over my shoulder. He asked what we had done, and I told him.
He walked out and came back in a moment, dropping the POH on the table in front of me. “Read the part about spins,” he said. “There will be a quiz.”
He walked out and I heard him talking to my instructor, whom I never saw again.
He was still redfaced when he walked back in for my “quiz,” which I passed, this time.
My takeaway was to always read the POH, especially before practicing a maneuver. I also got to accompany the A&P, as he went over the miraculously undamaged Cessna.
For the record: Don’t spin a standard 152; don’t exceed Vne (even without flaps, and never while maneuvering!), and don’t ever, ever spin one with flaps extended.
Lucy: When I was starting flying I flew with this very old instructor once, I don’t remember his name, he lit up a cigar when we got into the airplane, but some how with him it didn’t seem out of place. We were going to an other airport about 30 miles away and as we were flying the top of the hill in front of us was in the clouds. The weather was coming down. I decided that we couldn’t make it and I headed back to home airport VFR I don’t think we even did a weather briefing. As a student at that time, the danger was flying with such a passive, non teaching instructor. I think he was a fill in because my instructor had quit. In college when I was flying the Cap 10 aerobatic airplane, I had an instructor when would always yell at me. I also flew in college with some fantastic instructors.
Lin: Was on my 4th CFI and they assumed the others had covered basics to date but was part 61 and apparently no good records and syllabus was a foreign word. When I tried to explain I didn’t get VORs I just got a look and comment to the effect of maybe I should quit if I couldn’t get a basic concept like VORs instead of help. Rather than quit I purchased a copy of flight sim and printed the training materials and Rod Machado taught me how to tune in and fly VORs.
Daniel: I was on my PPL Exam and we were in the air for about fifteen minutes…. Then the examiner yelled, “There you go! That’s the reason why you lousy Germans lost the war! With those flying skills you still have no chance!”