Procedure vs. Technique

From NAFI's Chair

Procedure vs. Technique

Like many of you, I perform stage checks for other instructors, helping them evaluate and validate their students' progress. I also ask other instructors to do the same for me. Doing this helps ensure that there is objectivity in the process, allows the student to experience flying with another instructor in the airplane, which will be beneficial during the practical test, and provides both the instructor and the student fresh perspective.

I was recently reminded of this when I conducted a simulator session with another instructor's student. Although an advanced aviation training device is not the perfect substitute for the real thing, it did allow me to observe and evaluate the student's procedures, situational awareness, and their ability to handle situations under pressure. This particular student did very well, with a minimum of suggested corrective actions, mostly about more efficient emergency procedures.

What I always find interesting and sometimes difficult to distinguish is procedure versus technique. For example, I have a very specific way that I teach my students to clear the area in vicinity of their aircraft and prepare to perform an approach to landing stall. It's one that I inherited from my instructor as I was working toward my private pilot certificate, and I suspect he learned it while he was in the University of Illinois aviation program. That is not the way the student I evaluated performed her set up, but it accomplished the exact same task of clearing the area, preparing to demonstrate the task, and then actually performing the task.

Does that make me right and the other instructor wrong? Of course not! Did I squirm in my seat a little while the student didn't do it "my way?" Of course I did. But the fact of the matter is that the procedure she used is just fine. Of course this something FAA inspectors, designated pilot examiners, chief pilots, check airmen, etc. all have to cope with all the time. And some operations, such as air carriers, have to be more rigid and structured, not allowing for much variance due to crew/cockpit resource management standardization.

That said, even in the most standardized of operations, the opportunity to learn and share knowledge is always available to us. I enjoy flying with other instructors' students because I often learn something new that might not come up in a peer-to-peer environment. So, if someone asks you to take a look at their student's progress, avail yourself of the opportunity. When you do, everyone gains.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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