334 Making Flight Training Safer – Tips for CFIs and Pilots with John Fiscus + GA News

Max talks with John Fiscus discuss about strategies for flight instructors when teaching in the traffic pattern. These tips are also useful for pilots flying by themselves.

John begins by addressing a fundamental issue he has noticed among new John highlights a common issue among new CFIs: teaching based on qualitative feelings rather than quantitative data. He emphasizes the importance of providing concrete numerical guidance to students. John introduces the concept that “energy equals time,” stressing that the amount of energy (airspeed, power, altitude) affects reaction time, especially as the aircraft gets closer to the ground.

John recounts how he was invited by Cirrus to give a presentation focused on accidents involving CFIs during traffic patterns. The positive feedback from this presentation led him to create a more detailed 54-minute video to expand on the subject. While the initial presentation was tailored for Cirrus instructors, John clarifies that the principles he discussed are applicable to any CFI, regardless of the aircraft they teach in.

Max and John both stress the continuous learning aspect of being a CFI. They agree that even seasoned instructors can learn new techniques and perspectives from both experienced and new CFIs. John shares how he constantly updates his teaching methods based on interactions with other instructors.

A key concept John introduces is “energy equals time.” He explains that in the context of traffic patterns, the amount of energy (in terms of airspeed, engine power, and altitude) directly correlates to the amount of time available to react to any issues. He emphasizes the need for CFIs to monitor the total energy state of the aircraft constantly. As the aircraft gets closer to the ground, the available reaction time diminishes, requiring more precise control and quicker correction of errors.

Max concurs, adding that CFIs must strike a balance between allowing students to make mistakes and ensuring safety. He shares an anecdote where he allowed a student to struggle with starting the engine during a phase check, highlighting the importance of letting students experience and solve problems independently.

John expands on this by describing the different “hats” an instructor wears: teacher, coach, and evaluator. The evaluator role is particularly challenging because it involves observing without intervening unless absolutely necessary. This approach helps students build confidence and competence.

The conversation then shifts to the practical aspects of flight instruction. Max asks John about the “ready position” and “guard position,” where an instructor is prepared to take over the controls if needed. John explains that while it’s essential to be ready to intervene, being too visibly prepared can distract students and make them nervous. Instead, he suggests a more relaxed position, where the instructor’s hand is close enough to the controls to act quickly but not so close that it’s obvious to the student.

John also discusses the importance of setting specific tolerances for errors at different stages of the traffic pattern. On the downwind leg, for instance, he allows a greater margin for altitude and airspeed deviations, using these moments to gauge a student’s awareness and response time. As the aircraft moves closer to the runway, he tightens these tolerances, particularly on the base and final legs where the consequences of errors are more critical.

John advocates for allowing minor deviations and observing how quickly students correct themselves. If they don’t, he makes verbal corrections, and if those are ignored, he physically takes over the controls. This method not only ensures safety but also reinforces the importance of precise flying.

The discussion also covers techniques for physically guarding the controls, especially in critical phases like takeoff and landing. John shares strategies for subtly positioning hands near the throttle and control yoke, ready to intervene without alarming the student. Max adds insights from his own experience, including an instance where he had to take over when a student’s seat slid back during takeoff. Throughout the podcast, Max and John emphasize the dynamic nature of flight instruction and the necessity for CFIs to remain adaptable, observant, and committed to continuous learning.

If you’re getting value from this show, please support the show via PayPal, Venmo, Zelle or Patreon.

Support the Show by buying a Lightspeed ANR Headsets
Max has been using only Lightspeed headsets for nearly 25 years! I love their tradeup program that let’s you trade in an older Lightspeed headset for a newer model. Start with one of the links below, and Lightspeed will pay a referral fee to support Aviation News Talk.
Lightspeed Delta Zulu Headset $1199
Lightspeed Zulu 3 Headset $899
Lightspeed Sierra Headset $699
My Review on the Lightspeed Delta Zulu

Send us your feedback or comments via email

If you have a question you’d like answered on the show, let listeners hear you ask the question, by recording your listener question using your phone.

News Stories

Mentioned on the Show
Buy Max Trescott’s G1000 Book Call 800-247-6553
Buy Max Trescott’s G3000 Book Call 800-247-6553
Netflix: Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?

Free Index to the first 282 episodes of Aviation New Talk

So You Want To Learn to Fly or Buy a Cirrus seminars
Online Version of the Seminar Coming Soon – Register for Notification

Check out our recommended ADS-B receivers, and order one for yourselfYes, we’ll make a couple of dollars if you do.

Get the Free Aviation News Talk app for iOS or Android.

Check out Max’s Online Courses: G1000 VFR, G1000 IFR, and Flying WAAS & GPS Approaches. Find them all at: https://www.pilotlearning.com/

Social Media
Like Aviation News Talk podcast on Facebook
Follow Max on Instagram
Follow Max on Twitter
Listen to all Aviation News Talk podcasts on YouTube or YouTube Premium

“Go Around” song used by permission of Ken Dravis; you can buy his music at kendravis.com

If you purchase a product through a link on our site, we may receive compensation.