Getting back on the bicycle for the CFI and the Pilot…

Pilots ‘quit’ flying for as many reasons as there are grains of sand on a beach. Most of the time the priorities of life change and flying has to wait. Family, career, re-locations, job changes, and (oh yeah) money are all factors.

When the time comes for you to start back up again what should you do to prepare to get ‘back on the bicycle’? For the instructor, what should you do to facilitate the flyer’s desire to get back into the air?

For the re-starting aviator a review of the basics is in order. Start with your logbook and look at the hours, the equipment and the location of your last flying sessions. When you contact a local flight school or friends at the airport it is good to have an idea where you left off and what your short and long-term goals are. Be realistic and even a little self-critical with your evaluation.

When you have not flown for a while you may need to put on your ‘student pilot’ cap, crack open a current set of Regulations, the AIM and your aircraft operating handbook. Study the materials, look online for self-improvement courses and get a current picture of general aviation operations. If you still refer to Class B airspace as a TCA, or if GPS, FMS, PFD, and MFD are not in your vocabulary it is time to catch up on today’s information.
Instructors you have a great opportunity with the returning pilot. You can help re-start a forgotten passion, help a friend work toward a new goal, but most of all remind a fellow aviator what it is like to simply enjoy the freedom of flying again.

As a CFI you should start at the same place the pilot started…their logbook. See where they started and ask where they want to go. A frank discussion of where the person was in their training and how recently they have been actively flying will have a bearing on your plan. Listen to the individual’s goals and provide direction on how to reach them.

When the actual flying starts here are a few things to think about…

Someone who is familiar with terms and basic aircraft construction is more likely to skip items on a checklist, or breeze over things without really checking. Try having the pilot explain to you each of the pre-flight items. Not just a “what-is-it” quiz, but a why do we check it question.

More and more we talk in acronyms and use ‘pilot speech’. If the pilot has been out the loop for a while they may not be able to correlate any of your directions if you throw in too many references to PFD, MFD, FMS, GPS and so on. Expand as you explain, and be irritatingly consistent.

The old railroad signs used to say Stop/Look/Listen…with your returning aviator stop talking, look at their face, and listen to them speak. Try answering the question after it has completely left the speaker’s mouth, not before.

Pilots who have come back and instructors who have led them, add your ideas to the conversation.

Guest Author Brian Riis
ATP/CFII-ASMEL, ~9800 Hours total time, 10 Type Ratings.

For 13 years at a Regional Airline served as Instructor and Check Airman, Chief Pilot and Director of Flight Standards. Former Designated Pilot Examiner-ATP/Type Ratings and Pilot Proficiency Examiner (10 years).

Worked for an International Aircraft Manufacturer as a Chief Pilot, Certification Test Pilot, Instructor/Ferry/Delivery/Demo Pilot, Level-D Simulator Training Center Manager for a mid-size Turboprop and Jet aircraft.

Currently a Corporate Pilot, and Instructor/Check Pilot for NH Wing-Civil Air Patrol.

by Brian Riis on May 21, 2010

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