Aviation underwriters develop a unique perspective on things that go wrong in and around an aircraft. We see most of the accidents that are reported to the FAA and many of the incidents that are not, and I can tell you that we pay numerous claims where there is a CFI in the right seat. Many of these events have one thing in common: The accident chain started in the habits and attitudes that were formed early on, often during primary flight instruction.
That’s where you come in. You may have the ability to prevent an accident before it ever happens by planting the seeds of safety and caution from Day One. You might teach a student pilot something that will keep him or her out of trouble ten years from now. In a very real way, your students continue to learn from you long after their check ride is over, even if you never see them again. In fact, the attitude that the check ride is the day that a student is done with flying lessons is part of Wish #1.
Please teach your students that skills deteriorate over time, and recurrent training is a must (and one that helps with insurance premiums!) Encourage them to go for other ratings, even ratings they’ll never use. A seaplane rating teaches a lot about wind intensity and direction; a tailwheel endorsement teaches the importance and use of the rudder, commercial maneuvers improve precision and encourage smoother flying. An instrument rating sharpens skills that will serve a VFR pilot well on even the most beautiful of days. Even if they don’t get the rating, just learning something about flying on the gauges could be a lifesaver when the weather unexpectedly goes bad. If you can instill that belief in your students from their first lesson, you will have performed one of the most essential services you can imagine, along with the fact that you have a customer for life!
Wish #2 Reinforce that as a pilot, THEY are in charge of the flight. One of the things many new pilots have trouble with is knowing when to say no. ATC is their friend, not their boss, though it may not sound that way when a controller is issuing an instruction. As an experienced CFI, you know you always have the right to say, “Unable”, but students and less experienced pilots are easily intimidated. We see a number of landing claims because the tower asked a pilot to change runways on short final, and the pilot didn’t have the confidence to say, “Unable,” even if it meant a go-around or leaving the pattern and coming back for another try.
Wish #3 Practice landings! You know how they say the secret of success in real estate is “location, location, location?” Well, in aviation, it should be, landings, landings, landings. I recently reviewed 19 accident claims, and 12 of them were landing mishaps. Some of the comments read, “Lost it on landing.” Or “Got hit with winds on landing.” Frequently, what didn’t need to be said was “Too slow.” or “Too fast.”
Wish #4 Fuel and flight planning vs. fuel and reality. Instill the need to carefully calculate fuel consumption for the planned trip and then honestly monitor and measure fuel consumption vs. flight time. Don’t let your student be the pilot “that lost engine power” because there wasn’t any useable fuel left in the tank(s).
Wish #5 This may be the most important one I have to offer. In all things related to aviation, please teach your students to crawl before they walk and walk before they run. Those are tough attitudes to implant in the kinds of people who want to become a pilot. Pilots are, by nature, driven. They want to get from point A to B as fast as possible. They want to challenge themselves to reach the next level, then the one after that. They want to fly in more kinds of weather and land beneath lower ceilings. They want to impress their friends with their stick and rudder skills or take their family on long, cross country trips. It’s easy for them to get in over their heads. You can change that before it happens. Your students look up to you as the seasoned professional who knows it all. Please take the opportunity to show them from their first lesson what it means to fly like a pro.
Marci Veronie is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing and has been with Avemco since 1987, serving general aviation aircraft owners and pilots. Marci has extensive knowledge of aviation insurance and the aircraft that Avemco covers. Additionally, she is active in Avemco’s loss prevention efforts, developing educational programs and training for her staff. In March 2015, Marci was elected to the Women in Aviation International Board of Directors and was elected as Vice-Chair of WAI in 2017. In March of 2018, Marci was elected to serve a 2-year term as Chair of the Board of Directors of WAI and in April 2019 she received the prestigious Good Company Award from Tokio Marine, and in April 2020, was nominated for the Geneva Association’s “Women in Insurance” Award.