The Road to Calcutta

Well folks, here is what has transpired since my last post:

My CFI and I talked and despite my request to have more control of the plane she explained that in a few more lessons we would be introducing the elements we talked about (taking off, using the radio, and taxiing) but landings would not be introduced until somewhere between lesson 6-10. We are currently STILL on lesson 3.

So I fired her.

She was unbelievably cool about it. She completely understood and even gave me the names and contact info for some other CFIs she thought would match my learning style better. She recalled having an instructor she didn’t mesh well with during her private and took no hard feelings from my decision.

I began making calls to these other CFIs. I also made a call to the admissions office to see if they could give me some more contacts, specifically asking for CFIs that were go-to folks for information and were known for taking on struggling students.

Instead of help from the admissions office, I have received a stream of random phone calls from people saying “hi, my name is _____ and I’m your new CFI.” I interviewed the first one and found he was new, I would be his first student, and he had the confidence of a turtle on a fence post. In more polite words I told him like hell he would be my new CFI but thanks for the call.

Meanwhile I interviewed one of the CFIs my previous instructor recommended and was very impressed. He offered to let me sit in on an IFR lesson with one of his students and I loved his laid back flying-should-be-fun attitude. It was an international student that struggled with English more than aviation and the CFI never lost his temper, never seemed annoyed and kept everything on track the whole lesson. He also gave me contact info for another student of his as a reference. After a glowing recommendation from this student (that had coincidentally also started out with the first CFI I had just fired) he was clearly the front-runner. He had a history of taking on struggling students and an average of soloing them somewhere between 20-30 hours.

I called admissions to ask for the procedure to switch to this other CFI. When I gave his name you could hear a clear switch in demeanor. Instead of getting information I was being interrogated. Did he approach me? How did we find each other?I sat in on a flight with him?! Preposterous!!!! By the end of it I was certain I had somehow gotten him in trouble. I was told I needed to meet with the chief flight instructor about all of this and that I probably wouldn’t get him as my new flight instructor because his schedule was full.

What just happened?!

This morning I was awoken by a call from an assistant chief instructor who had gotten my info from admissions and had a great instructor he wanted to recommend for….wait for it…these were his exact words…”problem students.”

I’m a problem student?! That’s the label I’ve gotten myself for trying to be an educated and proactive consumer? Without mentioning any names, I said I had already selected a CFI and I wasn’t sure why I was getting the run-around from admissions. The fellow on the phone had already been briefed, knew exactly who I had asked for and said his schedule was full and as a flight school they want to make sure all of their CFIs are getting a good load of students.

I explained to him this CFI that I wanted had already discussed availability with me and we are both wide open 9-11am most days. To placate him I agreed to call this other “problem student” instructor but I would be interviewing him, sitting in on a flight lesson and requiring a student recommendation before making a decision.

He said that would be fine, apologized for all of the trouble, and asked me to call him back after I spoke with the “problem student” instructor.

I have left a message with the newly recommended instructor and am waiting to hear back.

Now I am split 50/50. If this “problem student” instructor is good and I am happy with him, I’ll just go with him. It would make things easier. But the other half of me is furious. I’m already labeled a problem so why not get what I want? I’ve done all of the leg work and it’s not my problem a flight school wants to be sure all of their bad instructors have as many students as their good instructors.

Thanks to all of the fantastic pilots that have commented on my blog and helped steer me in the right direction. I’ll keep you guys posted, and would love to hear what you make of all this.

Below are pictures I took from the IFR flight I sat in on….my first IFR flight in a cockpit ever!



8 thoughts on “The Road to Calcutta

  1. This is what you get at a Part 141 school. Lots of red tape, the loss of control and extra hours of not so free flight while you complete their syllabus that is designed to extract every penny out of your pockets not to help you be a better pilot.

    I am not there and I have no idea of what type of school you are seeing. I just cant help but believe that if you drive to a local FBO and ask for an instructor, any instructor to teach you to fly that you will be far ahead of where you are now. You are not a problem student, you are in a problem school house.

    Here is a link of a new site that I have found. Please listen to some of the podcasts so that you will know that you are not lone in this world. I have listened to Patty Wagstaff and Karlene Petitt’s entire interviews so far and looked at all of the profiles of the other pilot interviews. There is so much information and motivation here, it makes me cry.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. My only hesitation with driving to an FBO and asking for an instructor is that I would run into the problem I had before – no plane for training. I do like the structure I have at this school, and I think with a better instructor I would get somewhere. It has been a ridiculous headache but as of today I think I might have spoken up for myself enough to get the instructor I want. Here’s hoping!


      • Do you know for sure there is no plane available? Do you see what the extreme structure and lack of flexibility is getting you? Just saying that the key to training is flexibility and i am not seeing it from your writings.


      • I am very glad that they are listening to you and you got the IP that you wanted. Now get your butt in the air!

        Concerning flexibility, what I mean is that if you need extra practice on abc but the syllabus requires that you practice xyz, which you have already mastered. Then the syllabus must be followed and the IP must follow the syllabus or vey very creative in how they instruct to get you extra practice on abc. In a less structured format, the IP has more freedom with how to instruct and can tailor the lessons to what you need..

        Working with a 141 operation, they must plan on a average student who will take the private pilot license at the completion of the syllabus because what they are working towards is the commercial license and the extra time will count towards that. In the 61 world, if the student meets the FAA minimums for experience, then they can go to the exam assuming the instructor and student feels they are ready because the goal is the private license and cutting you off on your own.

        It probably washes out because in either environment the student will go to the exam at about 60 hours.

        The real issue that I have is that you you should be doing all the take-offs and landings after your second or third flight. Of course your IP will be on the controls with you, but you should be doing them. Not watching more demos, just because that is what their syllabus calls for.


      • I don’t think the problem she’s experiencing is due to 141. I taught 141 and would have the student doing all the takeoffs from day one, even in a demo flight. And as for landing, is always have the student fly until we were in final, and usually do some part of the landing itself–working the rudder, for example. Even in a tailwheel.

        What she’s been dealing with is bad instruction, period.


      • That is very fair and i am willing to agree that a bad IP is the real problem here. As far as the comparison between 141 and 61, i was a 61 guy and am probably too biased towards that tract of training. I do like the flexibility of 61 and i think it can be less expensive assuming the student is constantly flying and is proactive with their training. I would never bash a 141 program and i think they turn out a more consistent and safe pilot overall. Thank you for correcting me.


  2. Thank you both for your input! I am glad to hear from both camps and the 61 or 141 debate has been running around in my mind for a while. I decided to go 141 since I’m not sure where I want to ultimately go with aviation. Right now my mentor tells me if I like to fly just focus on getting my private, there’s plenty of time to decide from there and a Part 141 has the structure I lacked and jumps me ahead in the game if I do decide to go on to another license. That’s what ultimately made the call for me. But I’m not against switching back if the rigidity of it is too much. I’m going up for my first time with my new instructor tomorrow. I’ll keep you guys posted.


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