Thursday, May 19, 2016

Quality vs Cost

"Flight training is too expensive."

I've heard that phrase so often in the years that I've been flying that it is engrained in my psyche. Flight training is too expensive, flying is too expensive. We must make things cheaper so we can get more pilots in the air. It costs too much to pay $125 or $150 every two years to see a medical examiner. Requiring a flight instructor to work with an instrument pilot on instrument currency requirements in a simulator is a "burden". AOPA and even the FAA use these terms and herald any chance to make flying and flight training less expensive as a win for the aviation industry. The Sport Pilot Certificate and the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 are two examples. In the latest NPRM from the FAA says, "it can be expensive to hire a flight instructor".

Like a good soldier I march forward, with those words burned into my brain. Now, as a CFI, I feel responsible to provide a successful training experience to my students. I realized recently I am so deeply programmed by the "flight training is too expensive" mantra that I have unconsciously compromised on my training plans to try to make the training cheaper for my students. I've tried to combine training that shouldn't be combined, for instance. Or not told them I felt additional training was needed because it was not directly related to the instruction I was hired to provide.

Today I feel my students and I are very fortunate because in the occasions where I tried to compromise in order to make things cheaper, circumstance forced me to end up doing what I knew was right anyway. The resulting situations forced me to opt for separating the training tasks as they should have been in the first place and suggesting additional training because I could no longer deny the students really needed that training. You know what happened as a result? They were happy to accept the suggestion of additional or separate training without the slightest argument. Not once did they say, "this is too expensive". I was bending over backwards trying to make flight training less expensive when I should have been focusing on making the training I provided as valuable as possible.

Frankly I'm tired of the "flight training is too expensive" mantra. Yes, flight training is expensive and we would all benefit if it was less so. But focusing on cost alone is missing the mark entirely. AOPA's been trying to figure out ways to reduce the cost of flight training for decades. To what result? A pilot's certificate with limited privledges that you can earn in half the hours which everyone knows still takes way more than the 20 required. What would happen if AOPA and the FAA focused on ensuring the time spent flight training was better spent? What if we focused on creating quality flight instructors who provided real value with every flight. Who created safe, proficient and constantly learning pilots? What if the FAA insisted on CFI's interjecting real life scenarios into ATD instrument currency work instead of removing the CFI from the equation because it's "too expensive"?

One thing my brief experience in flight instructing has taught me is (and yes, my flight instructor told me this too) never compromise my standards. If I compromise my standards to reduce cost, I also reduce the safety and proficiency of the pilot I'm training. I reduce the value I'm providing.

I am glad that I've discovered this bias in myself and can guard against it now. I wonder how many other well meaning CFIs are doing the same thing? I wonder if pilots would fly safer and smarter if the CFIs training them were hounded to increase the quality of the training they provide rather than to find ways to cut corners every way they can to reduce the cost?