Here I go, about to open my mouth and most likely offend someone, but I am going to do it anyway. There are a lot of articles about aviation out there. Getting good information is hard enough to begin with without having to sift through the validity of an article writer and the content they put together. So the question for anyone reading an article looking for something of value is this, who wrote it and why should I take it seriously.
Why people write aviation articles in the first place.
Here is the answer. A long time ago the almighty Google had a formula for ranking websites. This formula was developed by a bunch of PhD’s that are way smarter than the most of us. The first algorithm or formula worked well for a little while but then businesses realized if they ranked in the top ten of Google they were going to sell a ton of whatever it is they want to sell. So Garbage websites (websites of little or no value) started showing up and polluting the gene pool of content in the ranking quest. So Google changed the formula in an effort to sift out the wheat from the chaff so to speak. And this formula or algorithm is tweaked from time to time to adjust for businesses adjusting their marketing strategy. One of the biggest changes is what Google calls establishing authority. Authority more or less means that the person writing it seems to be some sort of expert or authority on a topic. If you were not an authority all you had to do was to appear as one and that was accomplished by the number of articles that you had published on your website (the place of business). So in essence, if you wrote it, Google will bless you with better rankings hence you sell more stuff. All that being said, anyone who is in business (myself included) can rally behind that fact and play by the rules. The problem lies with the question of who wrote your aviation articles and are they on point or are they trying to appear like they know what they are talking about. The answer is, Google has no idea, only you do.
Who do you trust?
So who do you trust when you are sick? A doctor or certified medical professional. When you need expert legal advice, you don’t call your buddy down the road who slept in a Holiday Inn (this is a joke from a commercial) or someone who watched a lot of YouTube videos. You call an expert, you verify that this person is a pro and you double check the facts. I am always working on a project that requires getting contractors to come and bid a job. Most of the time getting three bids or talking to three different people is a good idea to get the best price. I do it to find out who knows what they are really talking about. You would be amazed. The media is fantastic for reporting the facts and printing stuff that is completely wrong. So why do they do it? The almighty authority designation in the search engines. Articles rank on their own and people follow links from articles to find companies or sources that are valid. The problem is, not everyone is an expert.
How do we fix this?
To be honest, the only way to fix it is to look for the most important way to validate an author of aviation articles. And that my friends is an email address ,phone number or author profile. Most garbage aviation articles hide behind anonymity, they do not want to have to answer questions or give support to what they wrote. One such article i recently came across is from a careers website churning out articles about aviation and adding graphics to them that do not support the article in the form of validity. For example you cannot have an article about becoming a private pilot and show a person getting in a corporate jet, any seasoned veteran can see that a mile away. A classic example would be an article written about flight instructors, although it covers the basics, I have taken the liberty to add some value to each of the points. Having spent a considerable time as an instructor in the past (before cell phones mind you) I feel qualified to make a response. These are the points and a few thoughts on each. It is noted that the article is taken from a Reddit poll and then developed into a article
Excessive Cell Phone Use This was not an issue when I was an instructor, however I do see how this could be a problem. Aviation ratings are expensive and so are good instructors. If you had an instructor that was guilty of this, you should/would address it immediately. Why because time is money and the instructor works for you. If they don’t get that, find another instructor. It may hurt their feelings but they will hopefully learn that if you are paying for someones attention, you should get all of it. .
Quitting in the Middle of a Course This happens a lot and is part of the journey, over the course of getting from novice to airline pilot you will have MANY different instructors. If one leaves in the middle of training, it does stink, but it is nothing you cannot get over. Different people take advantage of different opportunities at different times, learning this early will help you cope with a lot of decisions that larger companies CEO’s and board of directors make concerning your career. It’s not always the way you want it, but it comes with the aviation landscape. Finding a seasoned instructor that is not trying to move on is much more difficult than you think. A lot of times you will have better luck with an older pilot that just loves to teach on the side and has made all his aviation goals.
Smoking or Eating Garlic Before Flying This probably happened once that someone had some garlic before a lesson and would hardly be worth mentioning in my opinion, it is certainly not the norm. Smoking is not as popular as it once was, so ask your instructor if they smoke before you commit to them. If you cannot stand the smell of smoke on clothes, find someone else.
Gum Smacking…Into the Mic This falls under common sense, chances are the person does not even realize they are doing it or does not care. I had a first officer who was doing this at a major airline and I just said “sounds like you are enjoying that gum” We laughed and he fixed his own problem because we all want to be considerate as we work together. People that are not considerate build and maintain a reputation that is more powerful than their flight skills could ever overcome. To be honest, anyone can fly the plane, it does not take a genius to do that. I had an older instructor that used to say that he could teach a monkey to fly if he had enough bananas. The point is, no one is God’s gift to piloting, but consideration and having some inner core values goes a LONG way. Like yourself and work on your character.
Not Fessing Up to Mistakes So how does someone know an instructor is making a mistake? No one is perfect and the question really comes down to humility. The average professional pilot per leg (point A to B) makes 29 mistakes. Most of them are small and silly such as a wrong frequency change, but they still count in the stats of the statement. The rubber meets the road in how pilots deal with them in a cockpit environment. If you fly with someone who is a jerk or is not humble or makes a lot of mistakes and pretends he/she knows it all then use it as a metric on what NOT to become. Put it in your memory bank and say to yourself, I am going to try an inspire others to want to work with me instead of dreading to work with me.
Pretending to Know Everything See the answer above, no sense in repeating it twice
Overcharging Flight Instructor rates are posted at any flight school. The only time when an instructor charges more would be if he had a qualification that set him apart from other instructors. However this is not a surprise and neither is the rate for which you pay for an airplane when you rent it. Set a budget and figure it out before you go, I cannot think of one person who does not do this, especially in aviation.
Talking Too Much This is most likely a variable of opinion. Some people do talk a lot, however you hired a teacher and their job is to teach. There is a fine line between teaching and letting someone figure it out with supervision. Supervision is letting someone bang it on the runway and then working through a solution to correct it.
Not Talking Enough Like previously stated, sometimes you have to let students learn by making mistakes. The same goes for raising kids, but sometimes the value is in the failure. You can figure out early enough if your instructor is not talkative because he is not socially equipped or if he/she is trying to let you learn something valuable on your own. This continues all the way through your aviation career by the way.
Being Overprotective There are only a few parts of a flight that are truly critical. Good seasoned instructors who know their airplane and their abilities also know how far to let you push the envelope before stepping in. Being overprotective is a good indicator of someone being insecure. This is another character assessment that you will have to make as you go through many years of flying airplanes.
Riding the Controls Read the previous two paragraphs, if it is a big problem to follow the lead of your instructor, perhaps its time to get a new one. There is the characteristic called synergy in the cockpit. That concept is a variable or a factor in accidents that happen in aviation. In other words, it is common that two people that come to work together in the aviation environment do not like each other for various reasons. That can either be a minor annoyance or it can contribute to errors or perhaps and incident or accident. It has happened in the past and it will continue to happen as long as their is more than one person in the cockpit. Two people are not always the best of friends and toleration goes a very long way. This is not any different than any other job in corporate america, sometimes you just do not get along.
Not Letting the Student Fly the Airplane This was the last entry, it seems somewhat weak and did not really have a good explanation. I can however see where it can happen. Put a pilot in a plane and ask him if he wants to talk on the radio or fly the plane and most of the time they will choose to fly. However students are paying to learn, its their money and their journey. I have found that a student will always ask for you to take the plane controls and give themselves a second to clear their head so they can continue, especially during instrument training. There is a balance that good instructors learn to offer. Reading a persons body language, interpreting what they are saying, looking into their eyes to see if they are really understanding are all part of the instruction process.
There are many hats to wear, good instructors know that, not so good instructors can learn that too as they hone their craft. Just remember this, your instructor career maybe a stepping stone to the next level of aviation, but you will ALWAYS have to hone your craft. You always need to practice and perfect even the most basic of skills to become the best at what you do. Maybe its a student sitting next to you who is paying for your expertise, but it also could be 100 people that are counting on you to get to their destination safely. Aviation is as much psychological as it is a skill set, don’t be afraid to always learn as much as you can. You can do so with different pilots and their personalities or different airlines or companies and their training facilities. It never ends.
And in case your wondering my qualifications for my many aviation articles: 38 years flying experience, over 30K hours logged and still a student of the game of aviation one landing at a time.
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