Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks


A Beechcraft Travelair


The last three weeks gave me the chance to learn new things and also enjoy a large serving of humble pie.

As an instructor, I feel like I do my job quite well in most areas and in others not so much. I find that my level of patience isn’t as elastic as it once was and even though perhaps my techniques for instruction are better I may be taking away from the joy of learning a bit by not being satisfied by my students’ ability to learn quite so quickly.

Learning to fly multi-engine aircraft put me in the left seat, which was a first in a very long time. Now it was my turn to be the instructed and to have an instructor and examiner sit to the right of me. I found myself relying upon them to teach me properly and to let go of my ingrained role as a teacher. I also had to leave my ego at home and be able to take on the criticism given to me. That was really hard. I knew that if I took it personally or disregarded it that my training would be ineffective and take much longer and at $350 an hour, I had to suck it up.

The morning of my flight test found me anxious and already exhausted from the short but intense road I had journeyed. It doesn’t matter how many flight tests I do. It’s the same old feeling of will I be able to show the examiner that I am skilled and safe enough to pass. I have to admit, it was probably one of the worst tests I ever did and the only saving grace was that in the end I had passed. And you should have heard all the excuses I was giving for such poor performance. It was like a small platoon of soldiers ready to sacrifice their lives for my battered ego. Of all the excuses I uttered that day, I would have to say that the lamest was that my age was a limiting factor on my performance. Ready excuses such as the above just show that I was willing to justify my poor performance rather than work harder. As soon as the excuses start popping up that’s the time to kick the studying into high gear and leave them behind.

Being a student again gave me a chance to see life in the cockpit from their point of view. It had been years since I had done that and found that I made mistakes, asked dumb questions, and needed lots of reminders and practice. All these things can add up to low confidence if you’re hard on yourself like I am. I think what you have to tell yourself is eventually you’ll get it and that being a student gives you the right to make lots of mistakes as long as you try hard to learn from them. Once you are free from the ever-demanding instructor though there is no safety net anymore. Those mistakes you made while training cannot be allowed to happen once you’re solo. Learn from them if you can but not all mistakes will the aircraft lightly forgive. As difficult and humbling as it was (even at my age), flying a twin around at over 180 mph was an awesome experience that every pilot should try!


Safe Flying,