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How often do you cancel a lesson?

I was doing a bit of instructing this afternoon, two flights scheduled this afternoon with the same student.

First was okay - nice weather, serviceable aeroplane, student trying fairly hard (if perhaps struggling a bit).

Second got delayed a bit, but deliverable. Pre-flighted, started up, and I realised as instructor, I was getting unhappy.

  • Student was clearly starting to struggle to think through what he was doing
  • For no apparently good reason some avionics that had worked fine were misbehaving
  • ATIS changed to give a descending cloud base
  • And starting to look a bit iffy on daylight.

So, I politely and calmly pulled the plug, told my student to taxi to the overnight parking, tied the aeroplane down, and we went for a cup of tea instead.

I and the school lost some money, student actually seemed fairly relieved, a lesson was thrown away - but actually I'm sure that I did the right thing. There was just too much stacking up against us, and at best the student was just going to throw money away on a flight he'd have learned little useful from, and possibly seen some poor judgement from me that I didn't want to show him.

But I'm curious - it's not something I've done often, but have done once or twice. How often have other instructors just decided that a flight was going nowhere useful and pulled the plug during what technically where flyable conditions with a ready student, and why?


Boffin at large
Various, southern UK.

It is always better to cancel the lesson before you get airborne rather than waste the student's money. Unless you can guarantee getting some useful training completed leave it until another day.

I frequently cancel a lesson because the weather isn't suitable for the students current training requirements. So if I'm teaching circuits and its 15 knots across I would cancel and take the financial hit.

What I have seen in the past and continue to see at other schools (and I'm not saying all) is that when its not suitable for circuits then the student will then do something different eg nav so the school gets some money.

Of course come April 2015 (if we decide to continue) when the costs of becoming an ATO come into force and we will be forking out something like 8 grand a year in charges, manual righting fees etc. We will probably have to the same. But of course all these changes are supposed to improve standards.

Currently we also work on two hour slots. One hour pre and post flight briefing and one hour airbourne time. Of course with all these charges on the way that might have to be revised as well.

So much for progress.

G of E

I did almost exactly what you described yesterday. The students head was just not in the game and wx conditions, although doable, were going south.

I am lucky enough to instruct part time, on my schedule and with students I have selected. If the lesson is not going well it is no more fun for me than it is for the student and money won't make up for it.

Low time students get tired easily and performance falls accordingly so pushing on is self defeating.

Wine, Women, and Airplanes = Happy

I am no instructor, but I wonder whether any instructor here would consider asking the student whether he/she is happy to "have fun" or trying to do the cheapest possible PPL.

Or indeed establish whether the student wants to fly, or is just ticking a "lifestyle achievement" box.

While a large chunk of GA is utterly skint (and I knew many students who had to save up for each individual lesson, so predictably their PPLs worked out expensive due to constant poor currency) there are many for whom money is not an issue.

I think most of those who carry on flying long-term are from the latter category...

In the latter case, if the wx is no good for circuits, why not fly off and do some radio nav, perhaps above the clouds? Let's face it, a PPL without radio nav is a chocolate teapot.

I was never happy with the structure of the PPL... banging of circuit after circuit until one can wring out the sweat from one's T-shirt, the mad rush towards going solo, etc. But that's a wider topic

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I tend to try and ask these questions - what does a student really want? What will they do with their flying? Beyond passing the test, what are their real flying objectives? It does help inform the decision making - if they really just want to fly and I've explained that they'll probably get little learning benefit from it - I'll explain it, and so long as they're happy, and I'm content that I can deliver the flight safely, I'll go ahead. In reality however, that's rare as most people are cash-limited and prefer to save their money and use it another day. Like BPF - whilst I take the same money as any other instructor, I don't need it and can afford the luxury of not flying. I'm really quite glad that I don't earn a major part of my living as an instructor - the stress of choosing between what's best for my income versus what's best for the student, I could live without.

I agree that those for whom the money isn't just there automatically tend to be those who really stick with flying. Hardly surprising - if something was harder to achieve, you tend to value it more.

What I have certainly found for myself, albeit that I remain a relatively new and inexperienced instructor, that jumping into the circuit and banging around it for hours, is a dreadful way of learning. My experience has been very much that getting all the basic exercises right, generally in upper air, is paramount. Do that, and the period in the circuit becomes short and enjoyable for everybody. Go into the circuit too early and the results are largely negative - slow learning, lack of fun, and not particularly good pilots. (In my own flying, I really enjoy circuits and practice them on my own regularly.) This seems to match the experience of most of the experienced instructors I've talked to and whose opinions I respect. I don't actually know of any syllabus which says you have to spend hours in the circuit - that's just some school / instructor interpretations.


Boffin at large
Various, southern UK.

hi gents,

i have read all the above comments and would like a few words of wisdom from yourselves.....

my situation and circumstance are as follows....

i am living in Norway for 9 months and am going to do PPL license, i have separately sourced an instructor and arranged my theory coursework in English, i rang the CAA today they advised me i could do a conversion to british when a move back ( at a small cost, and minor effort, as its very similarly taught in both countries)

what i want to know is in your opinions.... if i dedicate myself fully how many hours per week would be most suitable? could i complete all within the 6 month timeframe if i wanted to?

i aim to do 3/4 hours per week on a sat or sun and do all my theory work during the week.... does this sound adequate.....

bearing in mind i have a good income of about 15k per month and am aware of the costs, is their a particular structore or order i should do things in order to be most effecient with the learning and the costs.

look forwad to hearing back from you gents ,

thanku in advance....

bristol, oslo

Hi Nate

Glad you sorted out some of your questions regarding licensing. I don't see why you couldn't do it in 6 months. The success of that is partly a mix of time, money, aircraft availability and your competence (oh having passed the theoretical exams at the appropriate time during the training). Most people struggle (as I did because it took me a year to pass I think) because they can only fly weekends, and you have to book one slot per weekend, four weeks in advance, and then occasionally the weather, the plane or the instructor let you down, leaving you with maybe only one or two lessons per month sometimes. If you can combat that by flying during the week or at short notice, and do 3 or 4 hours a week then you will probably be alright :-)

Best of luck

bearing in mind i have a good income of about 15k per month and am aware of the costs, is their a particular structore or order i should do things in order to be most effecient with the learning and the costs.

I am not an instructor but merely have opinions on training, based on myself being another high income individual (well, I was at the time!) who "suffered" a lot of poor training which was mostly geared up for people who have little money.

I think the structure of the PPL is designed for the lowest common denominator i.e. for people who

  • have little money (hence the emphasis on completion in minimum hours, etc)
  • are not going to go anywhere afterwards (true for perhaps 90%)
  • are not very critical of incompetence and don't much mind a disorganised school (most successful professional people are very critical of incompetence)

If you have money, why not get yourself an experienced instructor who is a real pilot and knows about real flying, and get yourself trained to plan and execute real flights from A to B. Do very few circuits; the learning value of loads of circuits is low (due to intensity of the work) and you can learn landings during other flying.

It will take you more hours in total but you will come out with real ability.

There are pilots who did the FAA IR using a trip around the USA. David here is one of them. You then come out with the full capability.

An IR instructor I know tried to do this with the JAA (EASA) IR but could not get UK CAA approval for any flights not terminating at the FTO's airport! This more or less makes sure that you have to come out with little operational experience.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

There are pilots who did the FAA IR using a trip around the USA. David here is one of them. You then come out with the full capability.

For VFR this is certainly true. For IFR however, I can't see any value at all in doing this kind of thing. I can teach my thirteen year old son to fly straight and level in less than an hour - and this is what 95 percent of IFR flying from A to B consists of. But it will take a week to teach a proper NDB approach in crosswind conditions (and another do do it single-engine with a twin). Mind you, I did all my IFR training (including the 30 hours on the Frasca that was hardwired to the same airfield) at EDDS and I never had the feeling that I didn't come out with the "full capability". I did my first IFR A to B flight on my own once I got my license and didn't get lost, the VORs were exactly where they printed them on the map :-)

An IR instructor I know tried to do this with the JAA (EASA) IR but could not get UK CAA approval for any flights not terminating at the FTO's airport!

Very strange. Our homebase is quite busy now compared to 25 years ago (when I did my training), so every IFR training flight we do with students now (JAA, soon EASA) will be away from homebase to one of the training airfields in the vicinity. Often we go with two students who swap seats in the middle so there is even a remote chance of a student never doing an approach at the FTO base.

EDDS - Stuttgart
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