‘I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it’

Pablo Picasso

The simple application of a little human psychology will enable you, as the simulator instructor, to ‘prime the pump’ and ensure the course gets off on the right foot. Remember you are, above all, a teacher and your job is to help the student to achieve a good performance during what can be a long and arduous training course. The personality of the people in your care may be more fragile than you realise. You are there to help, support and facilitate, not to abuse, or terrorise.

I have always followed the philosophy that I am there to help the student and not to show him who’s boss, who’s best or who’s calling the shots. It’s never about the instructor, always the student. Real instructors see it as a vocation. However, too many regard it as an opportunity to earn more money or career progression. Those motivated in that way seldom make effective instructors. It is so easy to humiliate absolutely anybody when the flight simulator is the tool and the simulator instructor is poorly motivated.

Helping the student means that you must find ways to deliver success. In the first instance this may mean conjuring a little success for the student who may be struggling. Why is this so important? I labour the point about dealing with success because it is the key element in the virtuous circle that is the teaching of piloting skills.


To be clear this means that if (when) you identify a manoeuvre that is beyond the student’s current capabilities you should not dwell unduly on it. The Law of Diminishing Returns dictates that, assuming the instructor has provided adequate fault analysis and feedback, there is a point at which, after several attempts, you must move on to something the student can manage and above all you must try to end with a manoeuvre or exercise that is in all respects satisfactory, (success!) If you cannot do that try not to end on something that is an out-and-out failure. The lasting memory when departing the ‘box’ needs to be a positive one if confidence is to be enhanced and so that motivation follows.

Tips and Tricks – The first lesson of a type rating invariably includes work inside the ground cushion. Great care should be taken with those new to full flight simulators and any kind of ‘spot turn’ in the hover should be avoided. This manoeuvre is one that has the ability to act as a trigger and set off the slippery slope to motion sickness.

We must remember that once motion sickness steps in the student’s ability to take in your instruction is greatly diminished and without some remedial action on your part the lesson will have to be abandoned if sickness prevails. Remedial action may consist of any of the following:-

Move from the dynamic elements of the syllabus to those that allow the minimum interaction with the motion system. Stop flying around, stabilise in the cruise or on the ground and move to teaching the on-board systems.

Change to IFR conditions to remove the visual system from the equation. In extreme situations I have even switched the motion system off* put the sim into IFR and been able to deliver some foundational teaching that was meaningful and valuable and a million times better that a lost sortie.

The student must play his part in any tricky situation so you must brief him/her to be honest about how they feel and tell you EARLY if they don’t feel well.

*Yes I know that the sim is not ‘Level D’ when the motion system is OFF but at this stage of the course (Lesson 1) it was a valid response to the needs of just the one guy who needed my help out of the 400+ I have taught so far.