Flight training is a process. Like any learning experience or developmental process, there are a variety of stages, components and challenges that come with the pursuit of a pilot certificate.
Earning a pilot certificate is an incdreibly valuable and rewarding experience. I started the journey when I was 13 years old, which lasted for many of my teen years. I wouldn’t trade having my pilot certificate when I started college for anything, but I do occasionally think that it would have been fun to complete my initial training at other stages of my life.
The typical flight training process entails a student pilot being paired with a primary flight instructor for the duration of the flight training process. This has proven to be effective over time as the student pilot/flight instructor relationship is a very vital and valuable bond, one that I’ve written about previously.
However, every once in a while it’s a good idea for a student pilot to do a flight lesson with another flight instructor. This is as much about the student as it is about the primary flight instructor. During the flight the other flight instructor can evaluate the student with a fresh set of eyes. While different instructors teach different ways and employ different methods, they are all able to provide a fresh insight on the flying skills of a student pilot.
During the lesson the alternative (if you will…) flight instructor will be able to address questions or struggles, possibly even leading to a training plateau break through, simply by explaining concepts in a different way.
Following the lesson the alternative instructor can provide a thorough briefing for both the student pilot and the primary flight instructor, usually separately. These briefings again will be very valuable to the student pilots’ development. The alternative instructor can give the student an honest assessment which is sometimes easier for the alternative instructor as opposed to the primary instructor who has that bond and relationship mentioned earlier that can become an obstical to constructive criticism.
The discussion between the alternative and primary instructors will be equally valuable. Typically flight instructors will set up the flight lesson with an alternative instructor for their student when the student is struggling with a learning plateau or approaching a milestone flight such as a first solo, cross country or checkride. These two situations are drastically different but each are aided by the honest evaluation of the student pilot by an outsider. Habits or techniques that might be missed by the primary flight instructor as a result of constantly flying with the student will be noticed by the outsider (alternative instructor), who can provide this information to the primary instructor who can use the takeaways from the alternative instructor or help their student.
Part 141 flight training programs which are a more regimented flight training environment as compared to Part 61 flight training (commonly found at local flight schools) employ the concept of “stage checks,” as a part of their curriculums. These stage checks are preestablished opportunities at critical times during a student pilot’s flight training program. These stage checks will allow the student to fly with a senior instructor who can ensure both the student is where they should be skills and knowledge-wise and that the primary flight instructor has covered all of the required topics with their student. The stage checks, illustrate the value of an outsider opinion. Unfortunately the stage check is more of a ‘test,’ so it serves as a double check of the student’s skills but not always as a flight where a student can receive guidance, input and instruction from another instructor.
Double checks and second opinions are a way of life and are critically important. When it comes to flight training, the view of another instructor can go a long way in the success and ease of a student’s training. The student receives the opportunity to hear things a different way or experience the alternative instructor’s own method of demonstration and explanation, which just might be the key to breaking through the learning plateau.
So for you student pilots, if you feel like you’re hitting a plateau or not understanding the way your flight instructor is explaining something, make sure you communicate that to your instructor. Often times a second opinion, and second voice/instructional method might be the answer. It is always okay to do a flight lesson with another fligh instructor, you never know, it could catapulte your flight training forward to new heights! For you flight instructors, don’t be afraid of sending your student up with another instructor, the fresh perspective may be helpful.
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9