Question for CFI's: Students that just dont get it

cougar6903

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 2, 2002
Posts
276
Total Time
>2000
I have been a CFI for about 2 years now and consider myself to be pretty good at my job, However I have hit a brick wall with one student. He has about 220 hour and is still having major difficulties with basic air work and the maneuvers for the private. I’ve flow about 25 hours with him and feel we have made some progress, but nowhere near the pace as I usually am able to attain with students. Is it just a case of him learning at a slower pace? I know the other CFI’s he’s flow with and they are hard working and dedicated, defiantly not a case of a CFI milking a student for hours. I’m no Chuck Yeager so I don’t feel its my place to tell him he’ll never be a pilot, but at what point do you say enough’s enough?
 

NYCPilot

Incorporated.
Joined
Nov 29, 2001
Posts
645
Total Time
.00001
I remember working at this flight school where one of the students got bounced around to all of their instructors. He had almost 100 hours and not even close to solo.

This may be the job of the operations manager to sit this kid down, but unfortunately, if someone wants to fly, they usually won't stop them.

How old is the student, by the way?

Maybe you should sit him down and have him discuss his progress to you. See what's going on in his mind, and how he views his progress and training. Is his ground material good. Is he of average intelligence. Maybe he's got ADD or something and can't focus enough to develop piloting abilities. Has he soloed. Maybe he's avoiding this, but at over 200hrs, I can't imagine this is the case. Who's paying for all this training? Probe a little deeper into his psyche.

Otherwise, if he's having fun and doesn't mind going dual, keep flying with him. Of course, only if this doesn't totally frustrate you and you're enjoying the time with this student.

You might want to break out of the manuevers and go for a leisurely flight, perhaps try some negatives G's. Change things up. Try to get him to learn outside of a step-by-step lesson.
 

nosehair

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 22, 2003
Posts
1,238
Total Time
24/7
cougar6903 said:
at what point do you say enough’s enough?

When you've given all you can, and that's not enough. What that means is YOU should never say to a student, "you'll never make it." You might point out where he is not meeting standards and suggest he try with another instructor. Maybe another instructor can unlock the door. Having flown with several other instructors is an indication that the student may not have the potential, but it is not solid evidence. I have flown with people who took more than 100 hours - as much as 150 hours getting to private. 150 hours of hard ernest training, not burning holes. But they did get it. Slow but sure. Don't give up on a student just because he/she is taking 4 times as long.
 
B

bizijet

If that student was mine, I would sit down with him and tell him that he may not want to persue this anymore. Explain to him that he has almost enough hours to be a commercial pilot and hasn't yet completed private training. Aviation is not for everyone and everyone is not meant to be a pilot. No more than I can be a surgeon. It sucks when things like this happen and it is not for a lack of trying.

As long as the guy knows that he is way behind and doesn't even compare with other students, then and only then would I consider giving him more training.
 

JimG

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 1, 2005
Posts
205
Total Time
1600
I took my private ground school with a couple of "these guys", one of whom was a former brother-in-law of mine.

What's interesting is they both aced their written tests, but after 30-40+ hours of instruction each (without soloing), they sort of got the picture that they'll never be pilots and quietly gave up, more out of embarrassment than anything else. They were both the type of guys who viewed themselves smarter than the average guy and didn't like to be seen otherwise.

I can't imaging guys with hundreds of hours not figuring that out.
 

NYCPilot

Incorporated.
Joined
Nov 29, 2001
Posts
645
Total Time
.00001
At busier airports, most students, on average take 40+ hours to solo. This is due to the high density, complex airspace like in NYC. Taxiing to and from the end of a long runway, holding for departure behind 3 other aircraft on one side and 3 more on the other, constantly having to extend downwind, flying 10 - 15 miles to the practice area and sometimes not even being acknowledged for 15 minutes or more when reporting in for landing. Not only are there takeoff and landing delays, but the airspace is more complicated which requires more familiarizing than might be required in a quiet, non-towered field in the Midwest. It seems most students in NYC take close to 100 hours to achieve the private Pilot certificate. Not to mention this is all done part 61, which is usually longer than 141 programs.
 

cougar6903

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 2, 2002
Posts
276
Total Time
>2000
NYCPilot said:
I remember working at this flight school where one of the students got bounced around to all of their instructors. He had almost 100 hours and not even close to solo.

This may be the job of the operations manager to sit this kid down, but unfortunately, if someone wants to fly, they usually won't stop them.

How old is the student, by the way?

Maybe you should sit him down and have him discuss his progress to you. See what's going on in his mind, and how he views his progress and training. Is his ground material good. Is he of average intelligence. Maybe he's got ADD or something and can't focus enough to develop piloting abilities. Has he soloed. Maybe he's avoiding this, but at over 200hrs, I can't imagine this is the case. Who's paying for all this training? Probe a little deeper into his psyche.

Otherwise, if he's having fun and doesn't mind going dual, keep flying with him. Of course, only if this doesn't totally frustrate you and you're enjoying the time with this student.

You might want to break out of the manuevers and go for a leisurely flight, perhaps try some negatives G's. Change things up. Try to get him to learn outside of a step-by-step lesson.

He is a 40 year old professional and has a master in his field. He soloed at about 130 hours. Not really “bumped around” from CFI to CFI, they just leave for the airlines one by one and he is assigned a new one. He was flying with each one steadily 2 times a week while they were at the school. Its no secret to him that he’s behind the normal pace, and even jokes that he has almost enough hours for the commercial. We’ll spend a good hour reviewing ground reference maneuvers in detail, entries, sight pictures to expect, varying bank angles, etc and after a few flights it starts coming together. If we go away from it for one lesson its like we’ve never done the maneuver before. He has passed the written with a good score and seems to understand the bookwork, but seeing what the aircraft is doing and responding accordingly just isn’t happening. He has said that he enjoys flying with me and appreciates my patience. I'm just debating if having him fly with a different CFI would help. I don't want him to feel as though I am giving up on him because he isn't Top Gun material.
 
Last edited:

coolyokeluke

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 21, 2002
Posts
313
Total Time
2600+
I guess what's worrisome in his case is that if you get away from the material for a lesson it's like he hasn't seen it before. That casts some darkness on him passing the flight portion of the private. Perhaps if you make any progress with him you can just prep the private ride (teach to the test) when it seems he meets standards in all areas.

When I was a new CFI I was given a new student who only had about an hour's solo time in 70 hours of flying. I soon found out why he was passed off to the new guy, besides the bad body odor. He could actually fly pretty well but seemed to lack situational awareness way too much of the time. I was in a tough spot; he was pressuring me to solo but I didn't think he was safe, yet I didn't want to just send him away as the flight school I was working at might not look favorably on a new CFI sending students away. So I pulled out the regs and specifically wrote down the standards to solo a student and was objective about them. He fortunately quit on his own after a while, he covered his embarrasment about the situation by citing money problems.
 

FoxyWhiskey

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Posts
172
Total Time
Fast!
Been There

I had this same problem during my Private course, finished it out at about 100 hours and was bumped around from CFI to CFI at a 141 school because they were getting jobs at regional airlines. The problem was that once a CFI took time to understand my strengths & weaknesses, he would leave. None of the new CFIs took a strong interest in me and just seemed out to log hours and never cared what lesson we were supposed to be doing, my paperwork was a MESS. I finally found a great instructor that took me from end-of Private through CFI. What made the difference for me was that he was a superstar when it came to teaching Ground work. It made all the difference.

Understanding that this student is working FT and possibly has a family may be a first step. Working professionals who pursue flight training can't commit as much time to the lessons as an 18 year old without commitments. But let them be aware of this, so that they put in a little more time. Tell him to "chair fly" at home and have fun.

-FW
 

NYCPilot

Incorporated.
Joined
Nov 29, 2001
Posts
645
Total Time
.00001
Cougar-

The background of your student provides more information concerning his predicament. Soloing at 130 hours is a lot, but not if he’s taken a lot of breaks and has flown with different instructors over the course of time. Whenever you’re assigned a new instructor, they inevitably want to see what you can do and will usually prefer you to do things their way. In other words, relearning to adapt to the instructors preferences. It also takes time to adjust to a new instructor too. So a lot of hours are eaten up during this transitional phase. Especially when there are breaks due to his professional life. Learning at 40 doesn’t come as quickly as it does for a younger sponge-like mind. Personally, I wouldn’t give up on this guy yet. Since you are here seeking advice, I presume you still feel he has some hope. If you think that you’re personally making some strides continue with it. Its important that he knows where he stands in his training which, as you stated, he does. If he has the money to burn, and enjoys going out for lessons, keep it up. In terms of him not recalling procedures from one lesson to the next, that may either be psychological or biological. If he is somewhat a little apprehensive or scared, he won’t be learning or processing information in a normal way. Fear gets in the way of learning. Is he confident with his flying? There may be psychological reasons for his inability to perform maneuvers. Maybe he’s trying to stave off solo. If it were biological, maybe he has some sort of memory retention difficulty or is on some medications you may not be aware of. Then again, it just might be that he’s not cut out for being a pilot. It does sound like he isn’t seeing what the aircraft is doing. Maybe you could suggest one of those video courses to aid him, like the King series. I hear they are boring but they may get through to him. One word of advice, don’t be lenient on this guy. If he’s not safe don’t sign him off for solo or anything else that might jeopardize his life and quite possibly others. Flying, as fun as it is can be dangerous if not managed properly.
 

JediNein

No One Special at all
Joined
Apr 28, 2002
Posts
1,256
Total Time
53 wks
Greetings,
I had encountered three clients that seemed to take longer than most to break through learning blocks. On one guy, we finally pinpointed the problem to the hours the guy was working. He had a job that just beat the stuffing outta him leaving him quite fatigued. I stopped his 'every night after work' lessons and flew with him twice on each day of his weekend. It took two weekends for him to stop playing catch up (four flight lessons, two ground sessions during lunch), and to start progressing again.

Then he came to the checkride. It took four tries and countless training flights with the DPE and me for him to pass. The examiner would step on board the airplane and the poor guy would forget his own name.

The challenging clients do happen. The only question is can you continue to work with them and help them achieve the success they desire?

Fly SAFE!
Jedi Nein
 

viper548

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 30, 2004
Posts
2,090
Total Time
6800
If the guy has 220 hrs and doesn't have the private yet, he probably already knows he's not picking it up as quickly as everyone else. It's possible he's content with not getting his license and enjoys flight lessons.
 

viper548

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 30, 2004
Posts
2,090
Total Time
6800
On the other hand, if he keeps asking when you'll sign him off for the checkride and is not even close to PTS standards, then maybe he needs to be told that given his current skill level and at the rate he is making progress, he may not get his certificate.
 

Fly_Chick

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2004
Posts
311
Total Time
~1300
How long has your student been a student? Could your student be on medication or have had a physical (biolocal change recently) that may have not existed when he went for his medical?

This is a sensitive subject and requires discreet handling, yet I had a student progress very well, then for some reason could not remember anything (wondered about medication, perhaps a mini-stroke - student was older). I have also had students tell me about medication they are taking and do not even realize they should check to see if that medication is allowed.
 

Crossky

A Gentleman and a bother
Joined
Sep 23, 2004
Posts
406
Total Time
7700
I'm with those who say break it to him in person, with a respectful and clear message, that he's not cut out to be a pilot. He obviously doesn't have the right stuff, I'm not big on stereotyping what it takes to be a pilot, but it seems like whatever it is, he doesn't have it. Recommend that he take up a different hobby. It's a hard thing to do, but the right thing to do. I had five older students who weren't making much progress at all (one soloed). Three of them stopped on their own and I took another job, but I wish I had talked to the other two.

I wish you courage and peace.
 
B

bizijet

Everybody knows what it takes to be a pilot. Big Ray Ban sunglasses, A huge watch, and a yearning for barbque alcohol.
 

convair007

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 11, 2005
Posts
62
Total Time
5000+
I had a student, didn't help that it was my second one ever, that after two years of training, had 120 hrs. He was nowhere near solo. I had tried every possible approach I could think of with this guy and yet he couldn't get it. Three times throughout his training, I sat him down and told him where he was at in his training and that flying possibly was not for him. I even had him fly with another instructor. After that particular flight the instructor came to me and said the student was just plain dangerous. He told me to let him fly with the student before I signed him off for solo. Like I said, I was new and this was an experienced instructor.

After about a year of flying with this student we went to another local airport that we had gone to several times before. We were doing touch and go's on 9-27. We landed long so I told him to make a full stop and taxi back. He proceeded to the end of 9 and turned around for departure (on 27). He even made his call out for departing runway 9. I told him to not to depart, and then told him to figure out why I said that. It took 20 minutes, and I finally had to tell him why.

After that, I realized that was never going to work. Again, I sat him down and tried to explain where he was in his training and maybe flying wasn't for him. He kept flying, I admire him for his determination, but after each lesson I felt extremely bad about taking his money.

Finally, I left to go on to a new job and I think he went on to fly at a busier airport.

I definately learned a lot from flying with him though.
 

philo beddoe

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 21, 2004
Posts
167
Total Time
.56yrs
Retention of the basics is the main go/no-go part of deciding whether one should become a pilot. If he can't retain engine-out procedures at the pace of an average human being, then flying is not for him. While you might feel like it is not "your place" to crush his dream, you are probably saving his life. We do not need more of this type of person putting our industry in the public view with an accident. Or flying into the Washington TFR and giving another reason for them to ban GA for a 100-mile radius. Even if you get him to proficiency, you have no means whatsoever to ascertain if he will retain the skills for the period beginning after his checkride. What about 12 months down the road when he has had no dual since? That is why retention is more important than everything else. Without retention, he will turn into a low-time student whenever he gets 'stale', without someone else spoon-feeding him.

I have noticed that many brilliant people make substandard pilots. They are creative, easily distracted, and easily bored. They often like to mull over problems and look for perfect solutions, rather than jsut get the job done. Flying is not for everyone, no matter what they like to say in the magazines.

Do this man a huge favor and politely tell him that he should focus his efforts elsewhere. You are probably saving lives if you do so.
 
Top