For my Workplace Writing class in 2015, I was tasked with interviewing a professional that worked in my future career field, and asking that person some in depth questions, most of them being about things we were curious about, but at least one of these questions needed to be about the type of writing that was done in our future field.
My interview was with one of my current flight instructors. During the interview, I was able to glean some information that I was unable to get from the classes at college. I was also able to assuage some fears that I had about becoming a flight instructor.
Due to the limitations of WordPress, I was unable to directly insert the original memo onto this page. I have, however, copied the memo and allowed it to follow the default WordPress formatting. I have also included a link to download the PDF version in it’s 100% correct formatting.
Interview of a Professional Memo
February 19, 2015
To: Dr. Jo Ann Thompson, Instructor, Applied Professional Writing
From: Steven T. Butler, International Dispatch, Executive Jet Management
Subject: Interview of a Professional
A Brief History.
For as long as humans have been flying man-made machines, there has been a need for a group of people to know as much as possible about flying, and be able to impart their knowledge to those that dream of flying an aeroplane. A teacher, a guide, a walking aeronautical encyclopedia, and a back-up mind for those incredibly difficult decisions is an accurate description of the job of a flight instructor. While not all those with “head in the cloud” dreams of flying will tell you they want to be a flight instructor, the job of a flight instructor is crucial. One man that understands the extreme importance of his job is John Michael Clark.
John Michael Clark is a Flight Instructor at Sporty’s Academy. At 23 years old, John has been flight instructing for nearly three years. Not a long time all things considered, but John Clark is an example that length of time doing something is no guarantee of experience. In the three years he has been able to fly on a commercial basis, he has logged nearly fifteen hundred flight hours, and flown a variety of aircraft as small as a Cessna 162 and as large as a Cessna Citation 550 business jet.
John has a background in Information Technology as well. His father is employed at Microsoft Corporation, and John had started school looking to pursue a career at Microsoft himself. Two semesters in, however, he decided it wasn’t for him, and changed his majors.
As many people may assume, flying does involve a level of risk that is statistically higher than that of any other means of transportation. John counts himself lucky that in his three years of flying, he has never personally had an emergency situation, nor has he been involved in an accident or an incident. When asked what the most harrowing experience he has encountered has been, John will tell you that any time he sees an accident is a harrowing experience. He recalls one event three weeks ago where an aircraft crashed while landing at Clermont County Airport. One pilot was a close friend, and at first appearance, the accident looked much worse than it turned out to be. Neither pilot was injured in the accident. Even though the aircraft was a loss, there was a huge sense of relief.
The Blind Leading the Blind
Aviation students are required in most programs to learn large amounts of data. Information for a pilot pursuing a professional pilot career involves everything from basic flying techniques to advanced knowledge of Federal Aviation Regulations and technical precision approaches. Many times a flight instructor is hired and sent right into the field after just having completed all the required training. John learned very quickly that when a person first becomes an instructor, it is very much a case of the blind leading the blind. The instructor is so nervous and excited to get started teaching that they often do not approach those first lessons with the appropriate amount of respect, and they find themselves quickly stumped by even he simplest of questions. Almost immediately, John began re-studying the material that was going to be covered by his students the next day, and formed a lesson plan beyond the guide created by Sporty’s. As time progressed, John found that not only was he able to teach a lesson without needing to spend a lot of time studying the night before, but he was soon able to quote regulations like his instructors were, and that it is simply a matter of time an repetition to gain the breadth of knowledge required to be one of the best instructors a person can come by.
Let Us Reap Rewards
Each person will choose a career for different reasons, but one reason is common amongst almost al professionals. They desire to feel some satisfaction from the job they do. Having a rewarding career is what helps many people fight the tedious aspects of many jobs and show up for work willing to tackle whatever may come. For John Clark, while the rewarding aspect of being a pilot was always visible, there is a new aspect that he never considered before, and is very glad it surprised him with its existence. As a flight instructor teaches a student, the student progresses through various elements and milestones, such as a first solo flight, with no instructor sitting next to them, or earning their first license, no matter what level it may be. For John, the most rewarding aspect of being an instructor has turned out to be watching his student’s progress from people frightened of the machine they are supposed to command, to pilots that are confident in their abilities and have a healthy respect for the aircraft they walk out to every day on the Clermont County flight line. And when a student earns a rating or goes for a solo flight, there is no better reward than seeing the look on that students face after the accomplishment, and knowing that the instructor was a key part of making that moment a reality.
Do You Copy, Over?
One issue that John has discovered working as an instructor is that not every student learns the same way. Some people are visual learners, while other people need to physically do what they are trying to learn. More still can simply learn by reading information. This vast difference in students is a major hurdle for instructors to overcome, and one that John has developed a clever system to handle. John had three primary teaching methods that he will bounce between when trying to learn how a student absorbs information. For students that have a hard time grasping all the information, it may take some time to find the appropriate method, or maybe even a combination of all three in order to get the student to grasp the materiel. John has rarely had a student that has been unable to learn anything from the concepts he uses. However, there have been three occasions where John was not able to get the information to the student in a way the student could retain it. In those instances, John has had to use his knowledge of the student and his fellow instructors to find the correct fit for that student, so that the student’s dream of flying stays alive.
The Pilots Flight Log and Record
All careers to some degree utilize writing, whether it be a creative style or a professional and buttoned up approach. When it comes to flight instructing and being a pilot, John knows that keeping it short and simple is the best way. Clean shorthand is the most widely used form of writing for pilots. Writing down the bare necessities, such as what kind of approach, where a pilot flew from and to, and how long the flight was usually comprises all that a professional pilot has to write. When writing logs for maintenance technicians, the same applies. John has learned that most maintenance techs in aviation want to know what is broken, when it broke, what was going on when it broke, and whom the pilot in command was when it broke. According to John, mechanics will get a feel for each pilot, and will learn that some pilots just get jittery when something isn’t “just so,” or that some pilots truly know their airplanes, and that if something has been written on the log sheet, it isn’t something that can be legally deferred to a later date.
E-mails are common ways to communicate as well. John recommends always keeping it professional. Use common aviation language, and state clearly and concisely what the purpose for the e-mail is.
For pilots who are looking to become professional pilots in some manner, being a flight instructor is traditionally the fastest way. It will also provide many opportunities for learning, working with others, and dealing with aviation’s many glitches. It can also be a massively rewarding experience, and is something that John Clark recommends all pilots looking to fly professionally at least try. It can be a demanding job, but for John Clark, it has already built a foundation for solid aviation knowledge, a sense of pride, and an incredibly amount of memories that will last a lifetime.