10:28 PM

The Right CFI Makes
all the Difference

As most of my readers know, I am head and heels into earning my instrument rating, and anyone who has been down that road knows the complexities of learning to fly with that level of precision in a system that is as unforgiving as it is difficult.

When I decided to go for this rating, I knew I needed to find just the perfect Certified Flight Instructor, because I have a history of less then wonderful experiences with CFIs:

There was the kid in Ithaca, New York fresh out of CFI school who had a point to prove. I had about 100 hours at that point, with about 70 of that in Cessna 150 and 172 aircraft. All I wanted to do was rent the flight school's 172 for a quick joyride Upstate to see the Finger Lakes from the air. But this kid had to prove me wrong at every turn, wringing me out like a damp washcloth trying to get me to beg for his mercy. Didn't happen. He failed to ruffle enough feathers to make me screw up too bad, so he cleared me to rent the plane and off I went in search of Skaneateles Lake.
At least that outing with a questionable CFI went better then this one:
I was trying to get an insurance clearance to rent one of the spiff new Cessna 172SPs at a flight school at Fresno Air Terminal, or FAT. As we returned from a check ride that did not go well, I set up for a nice approach to 29L. As I turned base to final, the CFI would not shut up, correcting every move I made...like I had never successfully landed a Cessna before. In between her chastising me, I barely made out what sounded like Tower telling me to initiate an "immediate" go around, as the National Guard SHORTS cargo plane was still on 29L. I saw the SHORTS, but was waiting for her to close her pie hole long enough for me to make sure I heard them right and acknowledge the go-around. As my hand was pushing the throttle to MAX, she screamed...GO AROUND, GO AROUND!!!! Of course, I had already started the maneuver, but when we returned to the FBO, she nailed me for this dangerous flying and refuse to sign me off.
Which brings me to my current CFI situation. My instructor, Jim Hunt from Eugene, has been great to work with, for three very important reasons.

First, he lets me know if I do something right. Not that I am looking for flowers on every flight, but it is always great to hear you nailed it if you thought you nailed it. Hearing a compliment now and then builds a student's confidence, and it is a very rare occurrence among the CFIs that I have flown with, the exception to that being Dorothy Schick out of Creswell, who "gets" this part of teaching very well, and Steve Murray, who got me to my private ticket at FAT.

Second, Jim is not out to prove who is smarter, he or I. Well, DUH, is it any surprise that a guy who flies helicopters for the Sheriff's Squadron and right seat in a Citation 550 while holding an ATP rating has forgotten more then I'll ever know? But while he knows this stuff every which way, he never acts like he does. Two words for that: Class. Act.

But the most important fact about this particular CFI is that he is not rigid...today was a perfect example:
The email assignment I received for today's training flight included two different ILS landings, one to a missed approach, and the VOR Alpha at Eugene, which I had not flown before. After staying up until midnight trying to figure it all out, I did not feel prepared, and told him so as we taxied out. So without missing a beat, he changed up the lesson to include three identical approaches, two ILSs to 16R followed by a missed and the same ILS to a full stop. He pushed me to minimums, but he instinctively realized this was my style of learning. So the day was a huge success because Jim was not the kind of CFI that lives by that flawed "my way or the highway" mentality.
Things are going well during my training, and credit goes to both student and teacher. This stuff in incredibly hard, but is being made easier by a patient instructor. Too bad all CFIs can't follow that same code of conduct.

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