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cockpit personalities

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Well-known member
Nov 27, 2001
Howdy all,

I'm working on my ratings and have stumbled upon a little problem. The last few weeks my instructor and I have been getting on each others nerves. I'm going to switch instructors, but I can't figure out what happened. I've learned alot from him in the past, but I've always felt he was very tense flying. At first I thought it was me and the way I was flying, but I asked him about it and he said not at all. We come from completely opposite backgrounds and have very little other than flying in common, which I think is part of the problem. Anyhow the last 2 flights have ended early because of our bickering. Which also lead to both of us making mistakes that could have been serious. So how have all of you dealt with difficult situations in the cockpit? I realize you can't chose who you fly with most of the time, but I'm paying for this so I want someone I mesh with well. Thanks in advance for the words of wisdom.
There will be few times when a professional pilot gets to select with whom they fly. While not everyone we spend time with in the cockpit is our ideal fishing buddy, we're both there because.. hopefully, flying is our passion and desire.

I've had good and poor instructors over the years. One was a called a time wh*re because he just wanted to fly fly fly without really doing any ground instruction, breifings,etc. I had been away from flying for several years when I met up with him and was younger. Had I known what I know now I would have changed instructors, but I pressed on and made the best of it.

Ask questions, tell your instructor what you want or need. Don't be afraid to speak up and demand satisfaction. Of course, do this ON THE GROUND so when your in the air your objective is clear and you can concentrate on flying the aircraft.

There should not be any bickering or tempers flaring in the cockpit. If there is a disagreement or a real difference of opinion, keep a level head, fly the plane, return home, and talk about it on the ground. If this is happening, something is askew.

You'll learn something from whoever you are flying with. Often you'll pick up on these tid bits years later.
Changing instructors

I've been on the receiving end of that. A lot depends on the kind of relationship you want with your instructor. Some students want their instructors to be buds with them. Others want a touchy-feely kind of instructor. Some instructors may feel that they must maintain a certain distance from their students to provide them with the objective guidance they need.

Example: I had a student who asked for an instructor change. He said I was a very focused instructor but felt we hadn't "bonded." I didn't understand what he meant by that. As I recall, we flew two flights max. Relationships take time to develop as an instructor tries to figure out how best to relate to a new student. The student also has to give as well.

My instructor always told me that learning to fly is an intense one-on-one relationship. Something like marriage, in a way. You are paying someone to teach you a skill, you spend time in the closed quarters of the cockpit with that person, so both of you are in each other's "space," and during that time you are going to be criticized from time to time. Criticism, or critique, if you will, is part of the learning process. Some people cannot accept criticism. They only want to be praised and don't want to pay for criticism.

Students want to be treated with respect but they don't always return it. They figure they are paying good money so they can treat their instructor not as a professional and mentor but as a lackey and servant. What many of these students forget is instructors deserve and expect the same respect that they deserve and respect. They do not understand why many instructors eventually feel that students are just so many petulant children and treat them as such.

First try by taking your instructor aside and speaking with him. Try to work it out. If you are at an impasse, you need to be a man (or lady) about it. Sometimes, personalities clash. At the very least you owe the instructor the courtesy of being up front that you are going to request an instructor change.

Bear in mind this point before you ask for a change. Schools will usually grant one instructor change without asking questions. The burden then falls upon the student to try harder to get along with his/her instructor. The next time the student demands a change, the school will ask questions. Students who demand frequent instructor changes begin to develop reputations and have trouble finding instructors who are willing to work with them.

Finally, consider this situation as an early exposure to CRM. All parties to an airplane flight have the responsibility to work together smoothly.

Lots of luck with your training.
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Keep Talking

First, good call. If you are not feeling secure with the instructor, and it's hurting your productivity and learning -- change. You're paying for it.

The type of instructor that used to bug me in my student days was the dogmatic type who didn't communicate well, or listen especially well. As an instructor, those have been the two things I focused on the most: communicating clearly, and listening intently. I would encourage my students to do the same. That seemed to always, in the long-run, solve any personality snags or other problems in getting the intended knowledge across. So strive to be an effective communicator: open and honest. Also work to be a good listener -- not only to the words -- but the underlying meaning behind the words of those types that tend to be a little more oblique and not very up front with what they really mean.
I was working a fire in a Twin Commander with a very obstinate USFS employee once. He was performing the duties of air attack, which is a combined air and ground control function over a fire. It was late, and I was approaching my duty time limits, as well as fuel limits, and was about to time out on flight time for the day. It was dark, and I informed him I needed to get on the ground.

As it got late, the marine layer rolled in (California). I picked up a clearance into Camarillo. I was vectored for the approach, and just as the course came alive, and just prior to entering the soup, the AA said he wanted to go back to the fire. Something came up, and he needed to finish coordinating it. I let approach know, and returned to the fire. Shortly he said he was done, and we could turn in.

The same thing occured. Shortly after going into instrument conditions on the approach, something came up, and he was needed over the fire pronto. I informed approach and got vectors back over the burn. I wasn't happy, and approach wasn't happy. Finally the AA said we could turn in. I was returning anyway, and when he said we needed to go back the third time, I told him to forget it, that I was established on the approach. He began to hell and wave his fists, and demanded to go back.

I told him to shut up; I was on the approach, and we could deal with the problem on the ground. He had pushed and pushed, and my patience was zero right then. Pushing me further could have resulted in an unsafe condition for us, and definately for him as I was picturing him in freefall in the dark. We landed, and as soon as the wheels touched down, he went ape again, yelling and hounding. I again told him to keep still and very quiet until both props came to a stop.

After shutting down, he started again. For the third and final time, I informed him of his right not to get beaten to a pulp if he didn't silence himself in the airplane, and I told him that I'd speak to him away from the airplane. I informed him I have very restrict rules about disagrements or contention in the airplane, and he was welcome to yell and berate all he wanted...so long as he did it away from the airplane.

He took his pound of flesh once we got to the parking lot. The next day, I bought him some scotch, he got me a shirt from the fire, and we shook hands and went back to work. Not a perfect examle, but this particular person had been physically hit by pilots and ground pounders before; not smacking him took a certain level of self control, because he sure made it easy do do otherwise. The point of this is that conflicts in the cockpit need to be settled by prior agreement. Who is pilot in command, and what will be done in the event of a conflic? If a conflict cannot be resolved, such as with the instructor, then get on the ground and resolve it there. Don't go up again until the problem is fixed. Don't fly around "bickering," it's a safety of flight issue, to say nothing of wasted dollars and time receiving instruction.

If the problem can't be resolved, then fly with someone else. On two very rare and unusual occasions, I've refused to fly with a specific individual because I felt that the person was unsafe, and too "controversial." It's much like refusing to take a flight. Never hesitate to do so if you don't feel it's the right thing to do. There are always other instructors, pilots, and jobs. You only have one life, and your career is a delicate thing. Good luck!!
Thanks everyone, I knew I could find some interesting insight here.
Well I chose my instructors on multiple factors. First I did want someone that I could get along with in the cockpit for a few hours. Escpically one that doesn't mind my playful personality (it gets on some peoples nerves). Second I wanted one that flew well and basiclly subcribed to my basic way of doing things. Which is no hot dogging (low passes, really unusual changes in attitudes, and stalls and spins until I am use to the aircraft) while I am uncomfortable with the aircraft. I just happened to find all these traits in one of my friends.

It seems to have worked for me, I am still I little scared of flying (its the kind of fear that keeps you awake). But I feel that is normal.

Sorry to ramble on like this, but my answer if you are in conflict and you feel that its not healthy for you flight training, change instructors.
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I went through 3 instructors in a month until I found one I worked well with.

Although I would agree with the above post regarding you don't get to pick your cockpit crew, if your paying you hard earned dollars for training, get someone that you get along with. Your training will go quicker and easier and you won't have stress added to the training.

If a schools questioned me about wanting to change instructors more than once, I would change schools if possible. (Sorry Bobby)

I always treated my instructors as I wanted to be treated, but sometimes we just didn't communicate well. After doing some asking around, I found that those instructors I had problems with were on the bottom of the list as far as quality of instruction.

Remember, you are the customer when flight training. Don't be talked into a training lesson you don't feel good about.

"I bought him some Scotch, he got me a shirt from the fire"...

Did the shirt have burn marks in it or something spiffy written on it??? :D :eek:

great stories guys!

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