‘Waste no more time arguing what a good Sim Instructor should be, be one’

(With apologies to Marcus Aurelius)

You are the teacher, for some you may be the butt of the trainees’ attempts at humour but for many (most?) you will be accorded a big chunk of respect from the outset and you will have to work hard to maintain that and not show ignorance, ineptitude and poor teaching technique. That can be a big ask when you are new to the teaching profession and perhaps devoid of meaningful support from mentors and colleagues. We generally work alone so only self-criticism will deliver self-improvement.

The new SFI will almost certainly lack the full spectrum of skills required for the job. The training provided to the SFI imagines an ideal world where all candidates are high quality and very competent aviators. It is my personal experience that you will be lucky if 20% of them are at that level. Another 20 % will be safe and capable but out of practice and the majority, 60% will be good in parts but overall lacking in quality basic training and certainly lacking in recent and frequent practice, especially under IMC.

It is easy to imagine that all commercial licences are pretty well equal. The paperwork may look the same but that’s where the similarity ends.

When candidates arrive with less than the levels of competence required in the ‘Course Definition’ your efforts will have to make up the difference if they are to achieve the required standard. You will have to work out what they are doing wrong and why and in the end if all else fails be prepared to climb into the left hand seat and use a demonstration to achieve a satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes this is the only way of providing the best possible example. You may not be in practice but nonetheless your ‘demos’ should be devoid of excuses and bullshit about your personal ‘currency’.  This means being prepared to set yourself up for criticism or ridicule if you cannot deliver a convincing sample of how it should be done – welcome to the world of the flight instructor.

The skills you, the new SFI, arrive with after the compulsory ‘Instructor Operating Station’ (IOS) course will almost certainly not be enough so you will need to develop the kind of skills found in the inventory of an experienced ab initio flight instructor. You will also need to master the art of super-multi-tasking because you will simultaneously be: –

·      Monitoring PF (including facial expressions and hand positions).

·      Monitoring PM (including facial expressions and hand positions).

·      Managing the weather (eg. wind direction against runway heading).

·      Managing the lesson progress in accordance with the syllabus.

·      Planning your next move.

·      Adjusting the reference airfield when necessary.

·      Preparing and cuing the malfunctions.

·      Constantly changing the displays on your IOS to optimise your information flow.

·      Working out how to get the lesson back on course when the trainee takes things off in the wrong or unexpected direction.

·      Writing notes for your debrief and for your peace of mind.**

·      Managing all Air Traffic Control issues and delivering effective and correct ATC protocols.

·      And lastly, keeping on eye on the passage of time.

**When one of my trainees crashed in an accident involving a tail rotor failure I was able to go back five years to my notes and there was the entry that proved that I had taught that failure. Maybe this was not important for the investigation but it was vital for my peace of mind.

As an SFI you are the veritable ‘conductor’ of an orchestra with just two musicians but a lot of other things to keep in tune and on track.

In an ideal world an ‘SFI course’ – that is, a course designed to deliver the teaching skills required by an SFI – as opposed to a simple ‘knobs-and-switches’ IOS course – would be mandated by all regulators. We do it in the UK but not elsewhere it seems.