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Training Tip: ‘Asking for a friend’

General comments seemed fitting as I had not flown with the questioner or the inquisitive acquaintance.

Beyond preparing students for checkrides, I said, instructors assess pilots’ flying against applicable benchmarks, as when giving rental checkouts at the FBO or granting a pilot endorsement to fly a complex or high-performance airplane or a taildragger.

Despite differences in skills and standards, each assignment faces a CFI with one question: Is this person qualified to command the aircraft with innocent souls aboard? It’s a question not answered lightly.

You (and your friend) are already in pilot training, so most of these responses about readiness should feel familiar.

  • I expect someone being evaluated to show up briefed and able to explain the briefing.
  • Once we walk onto the ramp I want the individual focusing on the subject airplane, not chitchatting or gaping at fancier aircraft parked nearby.
  • If the person preflights grudgingly or solicits tolerance for skipping preflight chores, I hope their friend has better judgment.
  • If the pilot seems uninterested in determining the fuel quantity aboard and whether we would need more, I wonder if he or she will think that’s what friends are for.
  • If our loading permits us to take on more fuel, I want the pilot to know how much more.
  • If someone aboard breaks the sterile-cockpit rule during taxi, I want the pilot to hush the person expeditiously, friendship notwithstanding.
  • In flight I want to feel the pilot’s feet working hard, especially during slow flight and stall recoveries. Making me slip around in my seat would be more than unfriendly.
  • When the pilot sets and trims any assigned flight condition, it shouldn’t take all day.
  • In a simulated engine failure, I want the angle of attack reduced smartly and a safe speed established immediately.
  • I want the pilot looking around for emergency-landing fields before one is needed.
  • I want to observe that the pilot can anticipate wind conditions for landing, exhibit patience during roundout and flare, be poised to go around, and brake gently but firmly if needed—and be assured, we will do at least one go-around.
  • Taxiing to the ramp, I don’t want the pilot’s concentration to break until we are shut down.

“That’s what you can tell your friend,” I said.

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