Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
  Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio

Site Map


Private Pilot
  Learn to Fly

Instrument Pilot
  7 day IFR Rating
  IFR Adventure

Commercial Pilot

Multi-Engine Pilot

Human Factors/CRM

Recurrent Training

Ground Schools


Privacy Policy
About Me


Support this Website

How Do We Rate Pilots?

by Darren Smith
from PocketLearning, August, 2006
IFR Navigation:   General Info Instrument Rating | Instrument Rating Lesson Plans | 7-day IFR Rating IFR Adventure | Instrument Ground School | Safety Pilot | Holding | IFR Risk | Trip Reports | Flight Profiles | Rating Requirements | After the IFR RatingCheckride Reviewer | Are you really ready for an instrument rating?

A recent flight with a young impressionable student made me think of my favourite topic again:  communication in the cockpit.  This young man came to me specifically because he wanted to get some airline-style training to give him a feel for his future career choice.  He proceeded to mumble through the before starting checklist, confusing some of the items and mixing the order on other items.  This 73 hour private pilot was stunned when I told him speak your checklists clearly, announcing the title of the checklist and the completion of the checklist.  His primary flight instructor had done him a disservice by not teaching him to do so when he is flying with another pilot (of any level).  I pointed him to the verbal callouts in the Training CRM article on my website.   I told him before we fly again, study those callouts because you'll be expected to use them next time.  Some of the other things he did incorrectly, like not looking and clearing the area before turning would be corrected when he realizes that he should call it out, "Clear left." 

He asked me an important question which led to the creation of this article.  He asked, "How do you know if a pilot is good?"  In my typical ground school professor mode, I had a list of five traits of good pilots ready.  I told him, good pilots are rated in their ability to:
  • Communicate effectively, both to ATC as well as fellow pilots in the cockpit
  • Smoothness in their flying skills
  • Error management, recognizing, announcing, and correcting errors
  • Safe, disciplined decision making
  • Continuing education
The ability of a pilot to communicate effectively really reflects his ability to manage the cockpit properly.  Managing the resources of ATC and other pilots in the aircraft is a higher order skill which if done properly makes a good pilot even better.  Using standard phraseology on the radio, making callouts, and thinking ahead to whats needed will go a long way to making a flight efficient & safe. I pointed him to these articles on my website:

When I talked with my young student about flying skill, I mentioned to him that jerking the throttle forward, pumping brakes, stomping rudder pedals, and doing the "Andretti" to the yoke was all indicative of a pilot's inability to properly control the airplane.  I then pointed out that its the pilot's responsibility to not only provide a safe flight, but also one that is comfortable and doesn't startle passengers.  When flying, think smooth and sensual and don't use a rough handed approach to flying.  I've found some interesting personality features in people who get too "macho" with the aircraft.  I pointed him to these articles on my website:

Next came a discussion about error management.  Since errors are inevitable and part of being human, our success in flying aircraft is measured by our ability to recognize and correct errors.  Part of recognizing errors is instrument cross check but it also includes making a call out so other pilots in the cockpit know you see it and are correcting it.  Pilots who have no shame in admitting and calling out an error tend to do better on checkrides because the examiner doesn't wonder if the pilot has a clue.  Those kinds of pilots are easier to teach because the flight instructor doesn't have to wonder what the pilot/student is doing, because he just called it out.  I asked the young student to look at this article on error management from my website:
Then came a discussion about choices in aviation.  Choices related safe decision making.  Most pilots would always make a different decision if they had a chance to go back in time to prevent an accident.  If JFK had that critical piece of information that would have saved his life, I bet he would make a different set of decisions. When passengers observe decisions that a pilot makes, they quickly form an impression of the pilot's skill.  The combination of poor decision making and failing pilot skill is deadly so the NTSB starts collecting stats.  I jogged his memory about the hazardous attitudes, the IM SAFE checklist, and the personal minimums checklist.  I offered him these articles to help him get started on a new path.
Finally came a discussion about continuing education.  He said, "What?  Continuing education?  I just spent all the money I had getting a pilot certificate."  I then told him thats when the real work starts.  I told him that expanding his skills will not only make him a better pilot but could save his life.  He didn't have to get an instrument rating right away, but there were things that he could start doing immediately that would make him a safer pilot.  I offered him this list of resources to get him started:
We closed our discussion with the completion of his FAA Wings Proficiency Award and aircraft checkout.  He is now in the process of building that precious cross country time for his instrument rating.  I know I'll fly with him again soon.  

Your Thoughts...

Name: (Anonymous posts deleted)

E-mail: (if you want a reply)

How did you hear
of this website?
Message:  (What should I write?)
Business Card
News Group
Safety Seminar
Word of Mouth
(Required) Enter number from image to send:


Check this out...
   Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio
All content is Copyright 2002-2010 by Darren Smith. All rights reserved. Subject to change without notice. This website is not a substitute for competent flight instruction. There are no representations or warranties of any kind made pertaining to this service/information and any warranty, express or implied, is excluded and disclaimed including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose. Under no circumstances or theories of liability, including without limitation the negligence of any party, contract, warranty or strict liability in tort, shall the website creator/author or any of its affiliated or related organizations be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages as a result of the use of, or the inability to use, any information provided through this service even if advised of the possibility of such damages. For more information about this website, including the privacy policy, see about this website.