The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook

Free short course in how-to-teach

This old-school government manual for flight instructors is the best how-to guide I have come across for teaching, learning, communication and professionalism about any subject. It says almost nothing about aviation, and everything about how to teach. It’s called “The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook”; the full text is available for free as a PDF download.

— Ronald Fuller

It’s really pretty good. Covers all kinds of pedagogical approaches, and is especially good for teaching material where both head and body skills are needed. Think of it as a general “Instructor’s Handbook.” Short of signing up for a teacher’s degree, I haven’t seen anything else as thorough, explicit, and succinct in how to teach teaching.

— KK

The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook
Available from the FAA

Sample excerpts:

Student Tells — Instructor Does
This is a transition between the second and third steps in the teaching process. It is the most obvious departure from the demonstration-performance technique, and may provide the most significant advantages. In this step, the student actually plays the role of instructor, telling the instructor what to do and how to do it. Two benefits accrue from this step. First, being freed from the need to concentrate on performance of the maneuver and from concern about its outcome, the student should be able to organize his or her thoughts regarding the steps involved and the techniques to be used. In the process of explaining the maneuver as the instructor performs it, perceptions begin to develop into insights. Mental habits begin to form with repetition of the instructions previously received. Second, with the student doing the talking, the instructor is able to evaluate the student’s understanding of the factors involved in performance of the maneuver. According to the principle of primacy, it is important for the instructor to make sure the student gets it right the first time. The student should also understand the correct sequence and be aware of safety precautions for each procedure or maneuver. If a misunderstanding exists, it can be corrected before the student becomes absorbed in controlling the airplane.



Trick questions, unimportant details, ambiguities, and leading questions should be avoided, since they do not contribute to effective evaluation in any way. Instead, they tend to confuse and antagonize the student. Instructors often justify use of trick questions as testing for attention to detail. If attention to detail is an objective, detailed construction of alternatives is preferable to trick questions.


Questions containing double negatives invariably cause confusion. If a word, such as “not” or “false,” appears in the stem, avoid using another negative word in the stem or any of the responses.


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