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SDSU Super Fan
Dec 1, 2001
Hello fellow airman. I've been feeling a little jaded lately. Let me explain my situation. I've been a day laborer; err, umm I mean CFI for a little over two years, now with 1700TT/230multi. I'm getting to the point now were my students are starting to disgust me. Now ever since I started instructing I've always had a 5 to 1 ratio, that is 5 Special-Ed students for every hard working descent motivated student. Up until just recently I've been able to handle it. Now I want to push them out of the plane every time they lose 300 feet on a steep turn or go full scale on an ILS. I take instructing seriously, and am thankful I even have a flying job right now. However just like every one else I would like to someday fly for the airlines. My resumes have flooded every 135 and 121 operation from coast to coast, with no luck. I know things will turn around sooner or later, hopefully sooner. Maybe I just need a little cheering up… For those seasoned veterans: Is the aviation job market as bad now as it was in the early 90's? What did you guys do back then to stay motivated?

-Disgruntled CFI/CFII/MEI
Well, at least you're honest. You've been instructing enough you have a right to feel that way. If you were less experienced, especially as an instructor, I'd say bend over so I can kick you good and hard...but not to worry. It's time to take a breather.

As for motivation, seek new avenues. When in a rut, it's time to experiment. If students are getting on your nerves, change the environment. Try some new techniques. Try a new approach. Step outside your comfort zone.

Perhaps it's time to go take a banner towing job instead. I know from past experience that it won't do students any good once the "attitude" begins; sometimes just a change of venue or assignment is all it takes. You're not doing anybody any favors letting discontent build, least of all yourself. Look into a change.

If you intend to stay instructing, find something to push yourself. You might consider pursuing the NAFI Master CFI program; it's structured, and has a tangible reward as part of the effort. It provides motivation, a goal, and some reason in your efforts.

If that fails, use innovative techniques. I like to fly holding a fork. If the student bugs me, I can jab them with the fork, or alternately look at them through the tines and pretend they're in jail. Another useful technique is to use a sock puppet. Make the sock puppet do the instructing, and you ride along only because you have to be there to do the endorsing. Make the student communicate with the sock puppet, and refuse to answer questions yourself, or talk on the radio.

Another technique that really helps liven up the cockpit is electroshock therapy. This is best done with a short cattleprod (be sure to carry extra batteries. There is nothing worse than your prod running out of voltage in the middle of a flight lesson). Gently set the ground rules before the flight, explaining that any altitude deviation of 100' or more will result in being struck about the head and shoulders with a rolled up sectional. Any altitude deviation of 150-200' will result in a single shock with the prod, and more than 200' will result in continuous voltage until the deviation is corrected. Don't forget, for students who do a superb job, to just shock them once in a while to remind them, anyway. Besides, it's fun.

Introduce new distractions. While pencils dropped on the floor and wet fingers in the ear are traditional standby's, why not burst a blown up plastic bag, or set a tarantula in their lap? Everyone loves to play the "what would you do right now if..." games. Liven it up. Set a small container on the top of the glareshield before the flight. Then while in the practice area, while engaged in flight maneuvers, ask the question.

"What would you do right now if a swarm of African Killer Bees filled the cockpit, and then the engine failed, and your passenger panics and grabs the controls like this and won't let go, and you spill your coffee in your lap like this (pour hot coffee in their lap only if the seats are vinyl)?" When they don't have a good answer, take the lid off the tin on the glareshield and let the bees go. I should add that it's a good idea to have some strong bug juice on before you do this, button your collar to the top, and use long sleeves that are tight at the wrists. Carry epinepherine just in case.

Wait until after the bees are upset to pull the mixture, remove the keys, and toss them from the window. There's nothing like realistic training, and in the event that your student ever does encounter an engine failure while combatting a swarm of angry african killer bees after spilling hot coffee in their lap, they'll return to thank you.

Other fun things are running the trim full up or down and requiring the student to go the entire session in that condition. Or holding full rudder. Replace the fuel in one tank with coffee. Then when the student switches tanks and experiences a failure, you can use it as an object lesson on why students shouldn't run tanks dry later in life. This has the added advantage of being a reduced fire hazard in the event you can't get a restart, and it's something you can drink and stay warm while waiting for help.

Add props such as bubba teeth to your routine. I like to create a relaxed atmosphere. For young gothic students, I prefer to place a dead body in the back seat. For rural folks, I put straw and sawdust on the floor of the aircraft and a couple of chickens in back (rhode island reds seem to fair best during routine training operations). If the student is into punk, I leave tacks on the seat and hope they don't get too excited. Yuppies get ferns. And so on. Creativity is it's own reward.

If your student happens to be an off duty firefighter, leave a burning cigarette in the back somewhere and see how long it takes them to deal with the resulting blaze. For police officers, toss a firecracker in back. Check for backup weapons first.

Trade places. Tell the student you want them to teach you a maneuver. Be a really bad student for them, make them work at it; show them what it's like to be in your shoes. In fact, take off your shoes. Make the student wear them. Perhaps even swap clothes. Although I wouldn't recommend going that far, you might consider getting your name legally changed to that of the student, and visa versa. It's the little things that make these operations memorable.

Get a couple of auto foolers and wire them under the cowl. Right after engine start there will be a high pitched whistle followed by a lot of smoke and then a bang. If they don't understand the rollicking humor in the event, tell them it's part of the new FAA-mandated realism-based terror(ist) training. If they handle it well, cut loose the tarantula. If they're still non-plussed, bring on the bees. Failing that, take out the sock puppet. That will creep anybody out.

It's all in how you approach it. Don't get burned out yet. We still have plenty of recession to go around for everybody.
Thanks, I needed that!!

I'm adding a fork to my flight bag as we speak
partial panel column

Avbug, If I didn't know better I'd say you wrote that Partial Panel column in Plane and Pilot mag. If not, you should! Funny stuff.
I like the sock puppet idea. You can have the puppet say things you wouldn't DARE say, like "Hey, is this your first day? Not Baaaaaad...". (puppet reaches for the mixture) "Hey, what's this do?"

I found the best way for ME to handle unmotivated students was to continually hold them to a standard of average ability, and remind them in a friendly way that as their instructor, I wanted them to become good, safe pilots. Those that didn't want to try soon asked for a new instructor because they weren't having enough "fun". Then, they became someone else's problem, and my problem was solved.
OMG, Avbug I think your one of my old instrutors. Or at least trained one of my old instrutors.

No fork for me, but I did get alot slaps on top of my head. I will have to try the student teaching me thing, maybe I would start doing it during the Discovery flights.

If your students attention does wander just do a couple of nice gentle rolls, and they will be right back into after the normal holy $hit.
I agree with you that instructing can be hard work. I think folks that instruct at the pilot factories have the advantage there, since most of their students are focused. At joe mama's FBO, you get some guys that just want to fly so they can call themselves a pilot.

But I look at it as a challenge. I am going to try to mold this person in to a proper pilot. If you make it your challenge, it seems it goes by quicker but is hard work.

Also, do you do much leisure flying on the side? I have found that by doing a flight once in a while with a non-pilot friend or family is a great remedy. It gets you in the left seat, and you can talk about non aviation related stuff. I really enjoy it. Plus, usually these people are thrilled to fly in small aircraft so their enjoyment rubs off on you. I go on a couple of these flights a month. It helps me out.

Good suggestions above.

Yeah, seeing students lose altitude in steep turns flight after flight as you described gets old. Just remember, though, that while it's old to you it's new to them. Try to help them out. Maybe your spiel is getting old and you need to punch it up a bit.

Any possibility of being able to instruct in the areas you like? Maybe you can. My favorites were instruments and multi. Next was training CFIs. Many people dislike training instructor students, but you can make it fun for yourself and help your trainee by play-acting that you are the Special Ed student. For example, you can pretend that you are the student who comes unprepared for a lesson. I started doing it from the first day I had CFI students, after hearing so many times, "Hey, bobbysamd, what are we doing today?" Don't laugh. It worked and we had plenty of laughs. I hope it prepared them a little for real-world instructing.

I was there, in the same position as you, in the early '90s. I won't delve into all the history, but read some of my other posts. I got plenty discouraged, too, with being unable to interest any commuter in my quals. But, I looked at it this way. I might have been instructing in Cessnas and Pipers instead of driving around that 1900 I wanted to fly, but I was making a living by flying. That was more than could be said for so many of the more experienced pilots who were there at the time. I was proud of that.

Good luck with your efforts.
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Do your students show up in a short bus with their orange safety helmets on? Mine do.

Seriously, it's pretty much how it goes. Even at the pilot factories there are bunches of retards wandering around that will never near an airplane bigger then a light twin. What you need to do this summer is take a nice long vacation. Don't even think about work or your students for a few weeks. Ignore your student's phone calls and get out of town for awhile.

When you come back you'll be refreshed and ready for another year teaching soft-field landings.
Oh Avbug, the chickens!!!! ROTFLMAO

Our school is discussing how to wire the yokes for electric shocks. Gripping the yoke will result in an immediate zap and the intensity goes up each time they grip.

We're also installing a vaccuum system failure switch.

And did I mention the automatic engine failure at the IAF?


Jedi Nein

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