Poll: Poll: Do You Think Pilots Today Are Better Trained?


Pilots being trained today have more resources, technology and oversight than ever. But are we making better pilots as a result? This week’s poll asks this very question. Tell us what you think.

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  1. As a pilot for 59 years–a CFI for 55 years, and with over 50 years in the FBO business–I’d say “yes–some no.”

    Pilots are better versed in aeronautical theory–and the FARs (though not in how to properly interpret them).

    Pilots have a broad spectrum of information and opinions–but the average pilot doesn’t fly enough to interpret the information–average flight hours per student or Private Pilot per year are WAY DOWN compared to years ago. The result? LOTS OF EMPHASIS ON THEORY–LESS PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE.

    Example: Student pilots used to be required to complete 10 hours of cross country time–with the “long cross-country” long enough to find and land at a strange airport–how to buy fuel and take care of the aircraft. That’s no longer true–pilots today have little experience in actually USING THEIR AIRCRAFT TO GO PLACES–we see it in the FBO business every day–even at rural airports. Pilots don’t know how to park and secure their aircraft–or how purchase fuel or add oil–or how to get to their destination. I believe that the lack of confidence and knowledge of how to use the airplane is directly responsible for the decline in flight hours. The U.S. has become the “European model”–light sport and very light aircraft utilized mostly for local fun flying. As a result, pilots are less confident in their ability to fly the aircraft–either locally or cross country.

    While the FARs require more and more knowledge–aviation publications further stoke fears with articles like “Never Again!”–articles mainly about bone-headed mistakes by poorly trained pilots. Even many of the major University programs feature hidebound “THIS is the flight lesson you must do today” instead of opportunities to learn. As a result, there is a divide among pilots–those that learned in a highly structured environment to prepare them for a career in aviation and where their every flight is strictly controlled–and those who just want to fly for fun–who gravitate to LSAs and recreational pilots. The “businessman pilot”–or pilot that used to utilize his/her aircraft to GO PLACES and DO THINGS–is declining–and new aircraft sales have declined with them. Most of this breed will no longer be flying in the next decade or two. The U.S. USED to be the “aviation provider for the world”–now, airliners, commuter airliners, business aircraft, sport aircraft, and LSAs are foreign made.

    Perhaps we should make it official–two separate pilot learning tracks–one for “Sport” pilots–with less regulation (as well as airspace access)–and a “commercial” pilot. This isn’t as draconian as you might expect–very few Private Pilots operate off airports with commercial service–partly due to delays, traffic, and complexity–and partly due to cost. I’m in favor of TWO classes of “Private Pilots”–(or to simplify, returning to the original Private Pilot curriculum–as well as returning to the original Commercial Pilot curriculum. Over time, the two have melded–there is little difference.

    Save money and have more fun (and additional lower-cost aircraft that CAN’T be used for “commercial purposes”) for the reconstituted Private Pilot–and a true “Commercial Pilot” certificate with the additional training to operate higher performance aircraft from higher-density airports.

    Let’s get back to what these certificates were originally meant for–instead of trying to meld and conflate them.

    • IMO less flying hours is a direct result of $5/gal + avgas and the relatively low cost of airline ticket. As an example

      San Francisco area r/t to Portland Oregon area in C182 just fuel costs approximately $500 compared to airline ticket of $150-170. And when you get to your destination getting from the GA airport to your hotel is more difficult than from PDX.

      Even with all four seats occupied in a 182 the airline is cheaper, shorter time door to door and certainly safer.

  2. That may be true if going from one major hub to another. Try going from mid-Iowa to mid Kansas–the GA airplane is far faster any time it doesn’t have to stop for fuel. In my own case, I life about 90 miles from Minneapolis–it takes me about an hour and a half to drive to the airport–another half an hour to park the car and catch the shuttle to the airport–a minimum of 15 minutes to check in and check luggage, another half an hour to make my way to the terminal and go through security–and of course, 15 minutes to get to the gate AND I need to be there half an hour before departure. That’s 3 1/2 hours MINIMUM from the time I leave home. And on the other end, I have to disembark, pick up my luggage, and call for ground transportation. Once again, I can beat the airline for time anytime I don’t have to stop for fuel–even in the aforementioned 182. That doesn’t even MENTION having to make connecting flights and MORE time in the terminal.

    No, the old “Avgas is the cause of decline in GA” has been the whipping boy for as long as I’ve been flying–nearly 60 years. Instead, it’s the over-regulation that pilots have to go through that causes pilot dropout. Look at the percentage of student starts vs. those completing even a Private license. These people knew the costs going into flying–they actually STARTED flying, but dropped out due to the “hassle factor.”

    There are those pilots that just enjoy flying–LET THEM fly inexpensive airplanes with minimal training (and restrictions that keep them out of “high-density” airports. It cuts the cost of training–and lets those pilots enjoy the sport. Let those who want to travel to GO PLACES (including an instrument rating) take the harder rating. Sport Pilot and LSAs were on the right track, as well as the “simplifying” of regulations that they FAA has been working on for years, and promises to be “right around the corner.” As Capt. Jean-Luc Picard said–“MAKE IT SO”!

  3. At the GA (PPL thru CFI) level I have most definitely seen slippage in the quality of training and the resultant pilots in the past 10 years. I’m ATP rated (Flying King Airs) and have been teaching 20+ years. I’m less surprised at the student pilots because I can clearly see the the source of their training flaws come from their flawed instructors. I’ve had more than one CFI argue that it is better to use your aircraft type and color instead of your N-Number in radio calls “because I can’t see your N-NUMBER at most distances”. Can’t blame the student when the CFI taught them such crap. (Don’t get me started on teaching a student to say “Cleared the Active” when exiting a runway or “Any traffic in the area please advise”).

    I agree with Mr. Hanson on the declining depth of knowledge on aircraft and engines as well as how to go to from A to B using all the resources we have. “Oh I didn’t know this wasn’t transient parking” – You mean you didn’t 1) Read your AFD, 2) Listen to the AWOS, 3) Look at the BIG SIGN, or 4) Ask UNICOM?

    I also see much less prepared pilots on the higher criticality maneuvers like go-arounds, stall recoveries, misses approaches, and engine failures in both singles and twins. I used to see rust build up on pilots but now am finding they never learned proper technique. “Don’t trim in the pattern because you need to feel what the plane is doing” WTH?!?

    While on the topic, I am also seeing fewer good DPE’s (and DPE’s in general) in our region. In my view, the DPE’s don’t just check the work we are doing as CFIs– they create a standard that the CFI’s know to teach too (yeah, in addition to the ACS). Have only a marginal DPE in a given area and the CFI’s will eventually teach to the lower standard, and the pilots coming out will be substandard and not even know it.

    I realized recently that I am now one of the ‘Silverback’ CFIs at my local airport. While I think I am a good instructor with a lot of real world (91/135) experience to share I consider myself chopped liver next to some the CFI-Gods that floated just off the tarmac when I was coming up around here.

  4. I also have decades of flying under my belt, to include flight instruction in taildraggers to commercial airliners. Having flown with pilots fresh out of the “puppy mill flight schools” I observed great proficiency in programming the technically advanced aircraft in which they learned to “fly”, but stick and rudder skills are poor at best. Ask them to perform a simple coordinated dutch roll, and you get a blank stare. Foot work is not in their repertoire. Initial flight training should be done in an old Piper Cub, sans instruments, to learn coordinated flight and real crosswind landings! It is easy to tell if a pilot has spent some time in a tailwheel aircraft as his or her ability to fly any other aircraft is infinitely better. Add a few hours of aerobatics and true flying skills are learned.
    Button pushing on a G1000 is not flying.

    • It is interesting to think of what old school aviation skills still matter, still might justify their place in the syllabus, and which ones we should throw on the scrap heap. Given that avionics (like the G1000) aren’t just an instrument in the airplane THEY ARE the airplane and they demand proficiency. Would anyone give up a little proficiency practice on their glass panel for maintaining your NDB approach skills? Not me. There are around 60 Loc Backcourse approaches left in the U.S. Are they next?

      I recall Barry Schiff recounting a story about losing their electronic navigation system on a trip to Hawaii. Schiff recalled some crazy arcane celestial rule of thumb about the latitude of the observer with relation to the angle of the sun with relation to the time of day in china or some such thing. Phew… turn right 10 degrees, Hawaii is over there.

      I agree with Martin, FLYING a plane with control surfaces and power attached to your hands and feet and brain in winds and weather should always define us first and last as pilots. (Well, after good judgement, maybe). What other apparently ‘old school’ skills should we be teaching and doing when we are not turning knobs or looking for traffic on a screen?

      1) Chart reading AND looking out the window knowing the cities and lakes and roads you are flying over.
      2) Weather
      3) All the goofy maneuvers we’ve ever made up — slow flight, lazy 8s, chandelles, all of them.
      4) Good radio/traffic pattern skills.
      5) Raw data Attitude Instrument Flying (for IFR folks)

      Formerly necessary skills most of us can dump?

      1) Hand Propping
      2) Most Celestial Nav (as much as I hate to lose it)
      3) Siphoning fuel
      4) Tuning in a baseball game on the ADF
      5) Baseball (How is this still something people watch?!?)

      Open to suggestions