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The 6 Hardest Maneuvers To Teach As A CFI

Teaching complex maneuvers will test your knowledge and skill as an instructor. Sometimes setting up the maneuver is even more complicated than the maneuver itself...

1) Soft-Field Landing Technique

This might come as a surprise, but teaching a proper soft-field landing technique is tough. As you enter ground effect, it's OK to use a small amount of power to level off and make sure you touch down as slow as possible (though power isn't necessary). Many students struggle with using too much or too little power. Plus, holding the airplane off the runway isn't how you train students to hit their touchdown spot.

2) Eights-On-Pylons

Setting up the commercial pilot maneuver eights-on-pylons is the hardest part. Calculating the proper pivotal altitude based on groundspeed and ground elevation is a brand new concept to students. Plus, you aren't supposed to adjust the power throughout the maneuver or use the rudders to "cheat" by keeping your wing on the point.

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3) Aileron Use In Stalls

If a wing starts to drop and you lower the aileron on that wing to raise it, you increase the wing's angle of attack. You can quickly push the wing over the critical angle of attack - stalling and dropping the wing. This can lead to a spin.

This is one of the most common errors students experience during training. The natural reaction when the airplane begins to bank is to use the aileron. To teach students out of this habit, you might have them sit on their hands and use only the rudder and power, while you manipulate the yoke.

4) Power-Off 180s

Headwinds, tailwinds, and crosswinds provide unique challenges when flying power-off 180s. Unlike a normal approach, you don't have the backup of adding power to adjust for poorly anticipated wind conditions. The power-off 180 is the perfect way to learn how to control your descent path, while adjusting to compensate for wind. Since the point at which you turn base may change on every flight due to varying wind, this is a tough maneuver to teach.

5) Single-Engine Approach (Multi-Engine Training)

Unlike approaches with two working engines, you take huge performance penalties when single-engine. You also don't have the same ability to correct for being low on the approach, especially when fully configured for landing with flaps and gear down.

Getting students to understand this significant performance loss is nearly impossible without demonstrating the error itself.

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6) Steep Spirals

Again, setting up this maneuver is tough. Finding a good spot to spiral around is critical. Plus, if you start the maneuver at 4,000 feet with 30kts of wind and recovery at 1,500 feet with no wind, you'll constantly be changing your corrections throughout the maneuver.

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What was the most challenging maneuver for you to learn or teach? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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