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#167 “Don’t Rip Off the Students”

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Written in 2016

That’s really not a great title for this article.  It’s just that I remember that quote from George DeMartini when I think of him.

George DeMartini

One of my friends tipped me off that George was getting ready to hang it up.  So I dropped George an email and asked if it was true.  He replied that it was and also muttered something about not putting up with crap any more.  That was George!

When I was taking dual to become a Flight Instructor, George was my teacher.  He gave me a lot of little gems during that time, but one has really stuck with me.  “Don’t ever rip off the students”, he admonished.

Wow, was that ever good advice and I’ve never forgotten it.  You see, time is the commodity an instructor can waste and that is the number one way in which he can “rip off” the student.  I’ll give you an example:  I was in the pattern at a Central Oregon airport.  We were flying our usual tight pattern, nice and close to the runway and at a fairly low altitude on downwind.  We turned crosswind as soon as we’d passed the departure end of the runway and didn’t waste much downwind, turning base with no power in order to keep it tight.  As we flew our short final, I looked down to see another plane obviously waiting at the hold short line to take the runway we were landing on.  I didn’t think much of it until we completed that landing and came around for another.  He was still there.  Three or four times we went around and that plane was still there, it’s engine running and the CFI just yakking away while the Hobbs meter ran and the student’s bill kept increasing.  Do you get my point?  That student was being ripped off.  Another way I see students being ripped off is during much tailwheel training, when so much importance is placed on their ability to stop. Every landing is to a stop, with a taxi back for the next takeoff.  I get asked all the time why we do so few of those “land and taxi back” maneuvers, preferring the “touch and go”.  I reply that a chimp can be taught to stop…. I just don’t place as much importance on it as most Acme instructors do.

George forms up with my glider for a photo pass after towing me to altitude in the Pawnee tow plane.

If there is an operation which doesn’t require much practice, to spend a lot of our time practicing is to rip off the guy paying the bill.  Maybe that’s why in a Tailwheel Endorsement course or a Master Class, I often introduce a maneuver but don’t spend a lot of time allowing the applicant to practice it.  I want him to practice it on his own time with whatever airplane is available to him, but not while he’s paying for the course he’s taking with me.  Yup, ol’ George gave me some very good advice back then.  He was the guy who invented the “ratcheting elevator”, he was the guy who first questioned the practice of teaching to “minimum standards”, but more importantly, he was the guy who made me realize how important it is not to rip off the students.

Oh, and if you see George, don’t say anything about this article.  George doesn’t like publicity.

As I said in “Brian’s Flying Book”, thanks, George!