Teaching Nine Principles

Putting the Nine Principles into practice as a flight instructor can be a struggle. Jason Archer shares his personal challenge in implementing them.

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7 minute watch ·

I'm Jason Archer. I am an eight-year CFI, here in the Connecticut area. I'm the chief flight instructor at Great Barrington Airport.  I also run a planetarium during the week. So I like to tell people I spend my days, either virtually off the planet, or really off the planet.

So what I wanna talk about today is I'm part of this nine principles group and I've been trying to incorporate it into my own flying and my own teaching and I've been struggling with it.

And I wanna talk a little bit about that struggle of incorporating something new into something I've been doing for eight years, which in the grand scheme of things, is not too long of a time, but it is something new.

And while the principles themselves, the ideas and the concepts, are not new.  We as CFIs, we know about them. We play with them, we fly with 'em, we talk about 'em. But putting 'em into practice in a deliberate kind of way, I'm finding a real challenge.  And as I've been thinking about this, these fundamental, these key principles which I happen to believe in and I think I really buy that it's the way to go.

So as I've been thinking about myself trying to process this and the struggle I've been up against, it made me think of an analogy that would be the difference between a cook and a chef, right?  A cook you can think of somebody who knows the recipes, knows the ingredients, can follow a recipe. He puts it together and comes out with some sort of meal.  

A chef on the other hand is somebody who's more of a player, they're creative. They know how foods are put together. They know amounts, they know ingredients, they know combinations. They know the fundamentals of cooking, of temperature and, and spices and all these things and how to put together so they're able to follow the rules of cooking, but they can experiment with them because they know the fundamentals of cooking and out of that you get these new recipes. 

So in my mind, that's like a chef. That's somebody who's up there, high caliber, that is creating these new meals. Then the cooks go off and they try to replicate it.

And I feel like that's a pretty good analogy for what's going on in the flight training industry and I see it every day. That we're putting out CFIs that are cooks.  We’re memorizing all these terminologies, maneuvers, and procedures for maneuvers.  We’re regurgitating why these maneuvers are the way they are and how we’re supposed to execute them.

Perhaps it's a kind of a task thing and it's very much on the rote level, maybe some understanding level, but they don't have enough of a foundational understanding to pull it all together.  And I feel like the nine principles are gonna get us there. It is a great way to do it, and that makes CFIs become not just the cooks, but become the chefs we need.

And if you think about the first principles of flight, they are the rules that govern what we can and what we can't do with an airplane and they make things possible, what we can and can't do with an airplane. They're bound by the laws of physics and aerodynamics, gravity, all that cool stuff.  

And if we can understand this on a fundamental level through these nine guiding principles, then we can create, we can understand at a foundational level, we're able to work with our students better and get into where they're at to help them understand.

I've been finding this really challenging to kind of do this, and I've been working up against what I call my edge of where my understanding and ability to process something is kind of breaking down or I'm hitting walls. And a lot of people run away from that and I've decided that I'm just gonna run right head into the wall, and see what happens.

And if we can start incorporating the terminology for one of the nine principles. Start throwing out energy management where I can, looking at lines and circles where I can and, and whether it be in the pattern or doing a maneuver just throwing out these terms and getting my brain kind of engaged in these concepts and be okay with the fact that, no, I don't fully understand them on a level that I'd like on that kind of expert fundamental level. And when I think about these fundamental levels, I think of people like Richard Feynman, Einstein and Newton.  People who understood the principles of our world on a really simple, fundamental, basic level and were able to interpret and build from there.

And the other thing I, it came to me is that as I'm working up against this edge, it's putting me in the learner's seat again. And I think that's critical 'cause we're here working with learners, trying to get them somewhere. And if we don't understand or if we've forgotten how learners think, 'cause we haven't learned new material in a really engaging way in a number of years. 

Now maybe we've forgotten what it's like to struggle with material, to get stuck to hit those learning plateaus or hit up, but butt up against that edge.  So it's, it's bringing me back to that beginner standpoint, which is a wonderful place to be. So now I can empathize with my students that much better 'cause I'm struggling too.

I think with flight we need to keep ourselves safe. So, that's kind of where I'm at, working up against this edge and trying to incorporate this in my flying.  And with that struggle, by the way, I think you have to be willing to make mistakes, be willing to be soft on ourselves, be able to allow mistakes to happen in aviation, of course within reason and safety.  

And if we keep pushing up against that, we'll continue down the path towards a fundamental level. I mean, one way to do that is you just keep asking why.  Why do we do this? Why does the airplane turn like this?  What are the left turning tendencies? Why does the nose go that way? Why, why, why?

You know, you keep asking why long enough, you're gonna get down to a level where you don't have an answer for that. And that's the level you want to be at, is that level of, I don't have the answer for that and then you go explore it and figure it out.

I think if we have the fundamentals, that is an understanding of the principles, these nine principles, an understanding of how airplanes fly, you can figure out and interpret yourself without having to go to Google or ChatGPT or whatever. Right? I think you can figure it out yourself.

That's mastery, that's understanding material, and that's what I'm going for.  And, you know, I realize that we're working against our own learning patterns, that you're working against being told this is the way to do it and being told not to question it. 

You've gotta get rid of those ideas, because that's, that natural inquisitiveness is what we need to apply here, that open-mindedness and willingness to make mistakes and play with this material because the end game is a safer aviation system, better engagement with the airplane and our students.  And that's all good.

And of course, a lot of fun.

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