Accelerated Instruction - Is It For You?
October 1, 2019
Jim Hanson runs the airport at Albert Lea, MN. He sells and leases airplanes-and among his clients is Accelerated Aviation Instruction-a flight training operation also based at Albert Lea. Jim writes from experience-he has had a Flight Instructor rating for 53 years, and has operated numerous flight schools. Though he mentions Accelerated Aviation Instruction, Inc. (based in Albert Lea) to illustrate points, he does not operate the flight school.
Want to start a brawl at the Pilot Lounge? Ask the people gathered there-- "What do you think of accelerated flight training?" Opinions are all over the place-usually depending on the background of the "opinionator." Those that have experienced it usually are advocates-those who have spent a considerable amount of time (and money) doing flight training the traditional way don't like it.
There are REASONS that the airlines, corporate operators, and the military use accelerated training-it's because it WORKS! Only in General Aviation do we think it's a good idea to spread training out over a long period of time. Some of the reasons everyone else uses accelerated training are:
COST: The faster you can move through the training, the lower the cost. You don't have to spend time re-learning something you last practiced months ago.
TIME: Each block of instruction takes time to master. Instrument instruction is a good example: You need to be able to make the airplane do what YOU want it to do before moving on to the next task. YOU don't want to spend hours doing attitude instrument flying, but you MUST-it makes no sense to introduce instrument approaches while the student is still fighting to control the airplane. Ask any instrument instructor-if the student is having a hard time flying an ILS precisely, they will usually go out and spend more time going back to reviewing attitude instrument flying-and the ILS will magically start behaving.
CONSISTENCY: Whether looking for a lawyer, a surgeon, someone to work on your car, or flight training, it pays to use a specialist. Find someone that specializes in the rating you are looking for-whether it is for aerobatics, instruments, or other rating. The specialist knows HOW to get you through-they've done it many times before-no wasted expensive air time. They know what has to be done. They recognize problems you may be having, and can make recommendations. If training in your own airplane, they can tailor their presentation to your own aircraft, equipment, and operations.
EXPERTISE: With the Instrument rating, for example-the majority of the people that come to Accelerated Aviation Instruction started someplace else. They came because they felt they weren't making progress-or their instructor went to the airlines-or there were no backup airplanes. Instructors in these programs are specialists-if you have problems, they recognize them-they've seen them before. As full-time instructors, they probably have seen the equipment installed in your airplane. If your flight experience has unique requirements, they can integrate that into your training.
THEY HAVE BACKUPS: If you don't have your own airplane, you'll have to rent one. You'll be putting a lot of time on the airplane in a short period of time-and airplanes rented for flight instruction need 100 hour inspections. They usually have backup airplanes to avoid delays. Though you will usually have your own dedicated instructor, sometimes emergencies happen-and your instructor isn't available. A backup instructor insures that your dedicated time isn't wasted.
THEY HAVE SIMULATORS: Yes, there are instructors that will tell you that "Nothing is better than the real airplane." (Those are usually the instructors without a good simulator)! Think about it-would the airlines, the military, or corporate training people invest in simulators if they didn't WORK? In this day and age, simulators are valuable for ANY rating, and especially for instrument work-where a student must develop not only a sense of space and position, but must develop a sense of cockpit management-managing the aircraft, the radios, the procedures, work load, information gathering, ATC, and cockpit management of the flight. Unlike "the olden days"-that's almost impossible without a good simulator. As a side benefit, you'll save money. For example: unlike the Private Pilot rating, instrument sessions tend to be as much as 3 hours long-after all, you are now USED to the airplane. You will brief the flight for procedures-fly the flight in the simulator, and then in the airplane-the information is presented 3 times, in 3 different ways. Have a question or a problem? Put the simulator on HOLD, and talk it through.
Who SHOULD do accelerated instruction?
• People that are short on time: We're all busy these days-but most of us don't want to waste time and money by taking a year to get a rating.
• People that have an immediate or specialized need: Sometimes it is someone that buys a new airplane, and needs either an instrument rating or a number of hours of time in type for insurance. You can just as well make the best use of your time, rather than "burning holes in the sky and burning avgas."
• People on a budget: There is no doubt that it is cheaper to get ratings done as soon as possible-concentrating your time to prevent "retraining." Save up your money, then do the rating.
• People that are coming up on a flight review: This is my 58th year of flying, and I've never taken a formal flight review. I've updated the flight review through mandated check rides for a charter operation or for an insurance-mandated training session for turbine airplanes, or I've added a new rating. Why waste time and money going through the motions of a flight review, when you can LEARN SOMETHING NEW and "get re-upped" on your review for another 2 years?
• People that don't have access to a good instructor: This is an increasingly frequent problem due to the pilot shortage-instructors are getting hired by the airlines at a torrid pace. (side note-Accelerated Aviation Instruction is seeing a lot of interest from older pilots-"there isn't an instructor available at my local airport-so I'm getting my instructor rating)."
• Pilots with an agenda: Increasing- ly, AAI is seeing pilots with job offers already in hand-several students lately have been people getting out of the military-they have a firm job offer from the airlines in hand IF they have the required airplane time and ratings. There are others that need a Commercial or multi-engine rating to qualify for a right seat on a charter or corporate aircraft.
Who SHOULD NOT do accelerated instruction? (Believe it or not, they DO exist!)
• "High Powered Executives:" Some people insist on directing every aspect of their lives. When I did accelerated instruction, I usually told them "How many times have you taken these ratings check rides? I've prepared HUNDREDS of students-and you've NEVER done this. Let me get you through this." Fortunately, MOST senior executives are smart enough to let the people that KNOW the job DO THE JOB.
• People that can't dedicate the days to do the training: There are no shortcuts-you will still be putting in the hours-it's the DAYS that are condensed-not the hours. Yes, AAI will split the courses-an Instrument Rating can be done 5 days on-5 days off-5 days on (to include weekends)-but then the course guarantee is off. You MUST make yourself available for training to put in the hours-no phone calls-no "emergencies."
• People that bring in an airplane that has issues with radios or inspections: In spite of AAI's warnings, I'd say that over 1/3 of the airplanes that show up have issues that prevent instruction or check rides-pitot/static checks, transponder checks, ELT checks, inoperative equipment, Airworthiness Directives not done, or general unairworthiness of the aircraft or engine.
• People who are long out of date with their Flight Reviews: AAI sees people whose Flight Reviews have been cursory at best-no knowledge of airspace, procedures, flight manuals, etc. This can be dealt with as part of the course-but you have to make an effort to get up to speed prior to arrival.
What do I need to do to be prepared?
• Total up your logbook, so you can tell the instructor what hours you already have.
• Call the instructor. Be prepared to tell them exactly what rating(s) you want, and what time you have available. Tell the instructor about your flight experience-how many hours of instrument time, cross country, night, time in category and class, time in aircraft type. It will help the instructor design a program for you-"Here's what you HAVE-here's what you NEED-and here's how we are going to get you there."
• Talk to the instructor about your currency, your expectations, and about any other ratings you need. Often, you can combine instructions for more than one rating-for instance, you may be able to log complex aircraft time, night time, instrument time, and cross country time on one flight-IF YOU ARE APPROPRIATELY RATED. Another example:-though you can only log 20 hours of simulator instrument time for the instrument rating, you can log a total of 50 hours in an approved simulator for the Commercial-those additional 30 hours are cheaper than the airplane time!
• Similarly, you may train for the Commercial and the Flight Instructor at the same time-you are developing proficiency in the aircraft and the maneuvers. If your goal is the airlines, you may elect to get your multi-engine instructor rating as your initial CFI rating-THEN add the single-engine CFI rating-it saves money if you are going to get both ratings anyway.
• Talk to your instructor on HOW YOU LEARN BEST. Some people can read a book and absorb knowledge-some learn best from a video presentation. Very few professional courses use the old style ground school for the written preparation-it's often inconsistent, and besides, you won't have time to take the ground school on an accelerated program. You need to have the written tests done when you show up for class.
• Talk to the instructor about local living accommodations. Unless you live VERY close by, you will not find it convenient to commute. Some operations have a "crash pad"-others have negotiated rates with a local hotel. At Albert Lea, we even have hookups for camping.
• Talk to your instructor about weather flying. It's surprising how many people come in just to get weather experience-though they have an instrument rating, they got it in Arizona-and have NO actual instrument time. If the instructor won't fly actual instruments, RUN THE OTHER WAY!
• Got a buddy that wants the same rating? Talk to the instructor about a "two-fer" deal-a discount for both of you if you sign up together. The Army called them "stick buddies"-it really helps if you have someone to study and compare notes with-especially with the instrument rating-you learn a lot by watching someone else make the mistakes!
Jim Hanson is the long-term operator of the Albert Lea, MN. airport. He has been flying for 58 years and over 30,000 hours-with an FAA Master Pilot Award. He knows a thing or two about flight instruction and taking check rides, (he says "I told Orville and I told Wilbur......)!"-having run both Part 141 and Part 61 flight schools. He is rated for airplanes, instruments, multi-engine, helicopters, gliders, single and multi-engine land and sea, type rated in 6 jets, flight instructor airplanes, instrument, multi-engine, and glider, all 3 ground instructor ratings, and holds an FAA Gold Seal Instructor rating. Jim can be reached at 507 373 0608, or firstname.lastname@example.org.