From the National Association of Flight Instructors' (NAFI) Mentor...

Items that make teaching easier

Author: Scott M. Spangler

One thing that places humans higher on the food chain than other creatures is our ability to develop and use tools to make our lives easier and more efficient. Just as mechanics couldn't provide the service they do without their huge rolling chests of Snap-on implements, flight instructors can also benefit from creating their own toolboxes.

Mechanics often don't enter their profession with a full complement of tools. They begin with a starter set of tools that enable them to provide their basic services, and add more specialized tools as the jobs they do require them. Flight instructors are no different, and as I march slowly toward my initial CFI practical test, I'm stocking my toolbox with things for which I see a perceived need.

What's in my toolbox may seem a trivial topic, but I hope it will create a dialogue on these pages and in e-Mentor that will allow the membership to benefit from its collective knowledge. No one person has all the answers on any topic, including the contents of a CFI's toolbox. Most likely there are a number of instructors like me, who could use a particular tool but don't yet know it, or they don't know about a particular tool that will help them do a specific job.

Here is what I have in my toolbox so far, and perhaps it includes items you might not have considered, and I hope to hear about the contents of your toolboxes. (My snail mail and e-mail addresses are on the masthead on page two.)

Training Aids

There seems to be few training aids developed specifically for flight instructors and those that exist, such as the "classroom size" E6B computers, belong more to schools than an instructor's toolbox. One item I found earlier this year that's helped me in the practice lessons I've been teaching my instructor is the AlphaTrainer, made by Alpha Press International.

Angle of attack (AOA) plays a large part in learning to fly, and until I found the AlphaTrainer, teaching it required me to do a lot of drawing on the board and scraps of paper (and I'm not much of an artist). The AlphaTrainer is a combination text and training aid. The text is comprehensive and concise, but it's the training aid that has really helped me.

It shows an airplane in profile and has a button at its center of gravity. As you change the AOA the elevator moves up or down as appropriate, and the airplane moves on a "bar" that lets you set the flight path for climbs, descents, or straight and level. An arrow in a window about the CG shows how the center of pressure (or lift) moves with AOA changes, and another adjustable tab has a pilot on it and allows you to show that where pilots look affects their visual perception of the airplane's AOA.

I've been using the AlphaTrainer to teach AOA and everything related with it, including stalls and spins. It's saved me a lot of time because I don't waste time drawing things that illustrate what I'm trying to teach, and it was well worth $24.95. [The AlphaTrainer measures 10-inches wide and 5.75-inches tall. For more information, contact Alpha Press International, 112 Edwin Circle, Franklin, PA 16323; or visit its Web site at]

Copyrighted, Thomas Shefchunas.