Can Better Flight Instructors Really Turn General Aviation around?

In a podcast with AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Mel Cintron said that the agency, growing uncomfortable with the fatality accident rate in general aviation (GA), has launched a five year plan in the hopes of largely reducing those fatality numbers. The FAA has put together a joint steering committee made up of agents from the Federal Aviation Administration, members of the GA industry and “hopefully” others within the community.

Mr. Cintron is hoping that the steering committee will be able to not only figure out what should be done, but also get the message out to the General Aviation community. They seem to be walking a thin line between bringing the fatality rate down, and doing their best not to over regulate within the General Aviation community. While the number of accidents has been on the rise, the GA community has been shrinking, with less and less new members each year.

“We’re certainly all aware that we’re in trouble in General Aviation,” Doug Stewart told Paul Bertorelli. Stewart is the President of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) and his group believes “the flight instructor is really the fulcrum point…” Stewart and SAFE believe that sub par flight training and instruction have played a huge part in both the rising fatality rates and the shrinking of the General Aviation community. “We need to change the way we’re teaching… the way we’re teaching instructors, and if we can achieve this, as a group, we can start improving things.”

In early May, 2011, SAFE brought together more than 150 instructors, examiners and industry experts in the society’s first symposium on how the General Aviation community can stimulate industry growth, as well as drive down the accident rate. The focus: Raise the bar on instruction in flight schools and flight training all around.

These are lofty goals, and likely to take some time. Jennifer Storm, a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) reported that both student starts and completions fell dramatically, as much as 64 percent in completions, from 1990 to 2010. Vice President of Redbird Flight Simulations, Jerry Gregoire, explained that this was no surprise. Apparently, flight training is still scheduled around the availability of certified flight instructors, rather than the desires or schedules of the students.


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