Sunday, February 24, 2008

Teaching and learning, and learning about teaching

This week our club started a 6-week ground school course, primarily for license candidates but open to students of all levels. We do this every year about this time. Since several of us are working on becoming instructors, we've been asked to help with the teaching. The way the schedule worked out, I was up the first week, doing segments on Weight & Balance, and Preflight Inspection (about 30-40 minutes each). So I did complete lesson plans, handout materials, exercises and answer keys, etc. We have eight or nine students in the class, many of whom I had never met before and many of whom are brand new to aviation. I think it went really well, other than having not quite enough time to complete the W&B segment. I've done some teaching before (technical stuff, mostly to people within my companies, but sometimes to strangers). So although in school and early in my carrer I hated to get up in front of people to speak, now I'm very comfortable with it - as long as I know my material. The instructor thought I did very well. I felt like I was going too fast, because there was a lot to cover in a short time.

Which brings up one major side benefit of getting my instructor rating: in preparing to teach something, you have to learn it really well!

Every year, we are required to do a checkride with a club instructor, and I was due, so I did that yesterday too. We turned it into an instructional flight as well. There were several aspects to this flight that made it quite interesting and challenging:
  • I had never flown with this instructor before

  • I had not flown a Blanik since May!

  • I have not done a wing-down takeoff in any club ship, so I asked to do that on this flight. (I've done it twice in a Grob 103 on a grass field, but this was in a Blanik on a runway with a gravel shoulder, so a lot more opportunity for drag and damage.)

  • He suggested we do some spins, since that's something I'll need to teach. (I've done spins only one other time.) I have been planning to work on them, but not quite this soon.

The spins went pretty well, but not perfect. CFI wanted me to do a full turn, but my first was only 1/2 and my second about 3/4. The first one I really didn't know was a 1/2 turn until I saw where I was pointed when I came out. The second one, I paid attention to the ground rotation but still came out early. I guess once I was looking straight down, I wanted to get out of the spins ASAP. Plus the Blanik recovers really quickly! Full opposite rudder straightens it right out. On one of them I came out with some excess speed... I think the ASI showed about 100 knots. I think that means I did not hold my pullout long enough. But it worked out fine. Then CFI did one himself to demonstrate some more points. Back on the ground, he told me he had never spun that glider before! Must be pretty confident to let another pilot (whom you've never instructed) spin a plane you've never spun!

Although it was a very cloudy day (storm coming in), it was really beautiful as a scenic flight. We're at the beginning of the very short season when the valley is all intensely green - it's brown for probably 9 months of the year. The mountains were covered with snow. And at one point the late-afternoon sun caught just the top of Mt. San Jacinto and turned the snow to gold. Very nice!

The rest of the flight went fine. Some stalls, some steep turns. My coordination and speed control weren't perfect, but then I haven't flown a Blanik for 9 months! The amazing thing was the approach. The Blanik holds its airspeed rock-solid compared to the PW5. Landing was pretty good, a little bounce.

He thought I did very well, thinks I'll be a good instructor. But I do have several months of work in front of me. For the last week (off and on) I've been working through the ASA instructor study guide. That'll take a while.

1 comment:

smiss said...

I'm finding this interesting Roger. Good luck with your instructor training and keep posting stuff like this!

I may have missed it in a previous post, but what's made you want to be an instructor? Is there a choice you make between wanting to go the competition route, the cross-country route, or instructing, or do you see it as a natural part of your development as a sailplane pilot?