The most comprehensive book ever written about airline training


for training pilots

This is the first book about airline training that has been written where the book ’s author has not been constrained by being employed by an airline.

This is a refreshing look at training which will inspire any young trainer to be innovative and thoughtful about training, rather than be hidebound by the years of dogma, conventions and rules that restrict ‘out of the box’ thinking and innovative ways to train pilots. There’s no doubt that the best instructors make learning fun, without losing the discipline and high standards required of commercial pilots.

Is there any reason why a trainer shouldn’t sit on the same side of the desk as his trainee? The role of the trainer is not to make sure that his student achieves the same standard as the instructor, but to exceed it. Success in training is that the student can fly more safely than his/her teacher. If that isn’t the aim then we’re doomed to never improve upon the best instructor presently teaching.

Learning is not the certain result of training. The emphasis should be on learning not teaching, and by seeing it that way around, i.e. from the trainee’s point of view more effective learning and safer flying will be the result.

Standby to be wrong-footed and surprised. Standby to have your thoughts about teaching dismantled and rebuilt in a way that you’d never expect. Standby to start thinking differently. But maybe you disagree …maybe you think we shouldn’t adapt what we do. And by adapt I don’t mean change, I mean BECOME INNOVATIVE.

If this had been published in its original form, without complete revision  I’d have been hounded out of training and never allowed to return. But in my original excitement to get it ‘out there’ I had inadvertently made some appalling gaffs. I’d reversed some logic by including words like ‘not’ when the opposite was meant, but my mind had raced ahead of my typing skills and some shocking suggestions would have resulted. So I hesitated and revised it countless times. So here I am 14 years after the first draft feeling less confident about offering it to you than ever before. But with age and experience I can afford to believe in what I say and so a different confidence emerges, and here it is in this book.

I had offered this to a well-known aviation publisher who had it proofread by an experienced training captain who recommended that the publisher reject it.  By fair means or foul, I discovered the identity of the ‘professional’ and concluded that rejection was inevitable because every technique I suggested was the opposite of anything and everything he did. And that’s where we’ve been stuck for decades, bad instructors intimidating potentially good ones. Students are still being belittled, demeaned, discarded and assessed against personal standards rather than those required or laid down. But where would a new instructor start to reject some of the old styles? What can it be replaced with? Innovation, freshness, finding new ways to explain, making it fun and most of all THINKING about how we train. And having thought about how we train, use the same amount of energy understanding how people learn. Put the student in the middle … stand aside, you’re not the star you’re working the curtains and prompting. YOU are not as important as the stuff the trainees are learning. 

I’ve been in classes where my fellow instructors have been aghast at the freedom I allow students, my bosses alarmed at some of the tasks I’ve set students, some of the standards I’ve expected. But why shouldn’t a new co-pilot be expected to manage a flight across the Atlantic single-handed? When would a pilot firewall the levers and disregard the temps and pressures?? Why wouldn’t s/he be prepared for it? Because no-one has suggested it probably. I’m not saying do it, I’m saying train to that standard or suggest it as a possibility. Open a student’s mind. No, first let’s open ours.

“The purpose of education is to change an empty mind into an open mind.”

“Learning isn’t the result of training.”

How many of your teachers from playschool through College and flying training actually opened your mind? How many inspired you? Not just motivated but truly inspired. Einstein, Feynman, Hawkin all say that inspiration, freedom, innovation is at the heart of deep learning. The challenge is to be inspirational if you can’t manage that, try to be innovative. If you can’t manage that, at least be effective. if you can’t manage that, at least try. And if you can’t be bothered, get out. 

Have fun reading, have fun teaching and make sure your trainees have FUN learning.


“The book takes place where a lonely training pilot sits wondering and musing about commercial pilot training. What could have been, what might be. What ought to be…
Sound different?
This book is different!
The arrangement of paragraphs and headings are designed not to conform to normal book conventions but to make scanning the text less demanding than would otherwise be the case.
Sometimes you’ll find the book boring…so just skip those bits
Sometimes you’ll find the book irrelevant …so skip those bits too
Sometimes the book will turn into a novel…keep reading, because there’s an ending
Sometimes you’ll just wonder…keep wondering

Show me how to draw a square
Describe how to draw a square
Explain how to draw a square
Demonstrate how to draw a square
Teach me how to draw a square
If you don’t understand the differences keep reading …”



“If the best student is given the worst teacher and the worst student is given the best teacher what will be the outcomes?
The standard of a course is determined not by the quality of the content but the time that it ends. Don’t kid yourself that anything else is true. Always start by telling your student what time you plan to finish.”

“Why don’t we give perfect scores? I’ll tell you why; because apparently it’ll make pilots complacent. This is the reasoning of the madhouse. This is the aviation version of original sin. We are trained to imperfection by imperfect trainers, tested by imperfect examiners, and therefore we can never be better than imperfect, is the premise. If that’s the case we’re measuring the wrong things against the wrong standards.”




“Everyone is ignorant, but on different subjects.”  Mark Twain.

It’s possible that many trainers, especially pilots, will think that this section is mumbo-jumbo, psycho-babble, touchy-feely, claptrap. Pilots do have a tendency to think that they know everything about flying and about teaching it. However they are also willing learners and despite what they proclaim, they tend to have open minds. Their biggest problem is that they find it hard to admit that they’ve changed their views. I would like readers to challenge and argue every point I make because facilitation stands or falls on its merits. This is not something you can be told to believe in. However, I do ask you to read the complete section before coming to your conclusions. That said, this section is about the skills of facilitating not an argument for its acceptance.

In training, we used to  ask,                    “Is the trainee learning from my thoughts?”

In facilitation, we have to ask,                “Is the trainee learning from his own thoughts?”

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flying without

nothing to lose &
the whole world to gain