It is important to understand what makes a great instructor. Throughout my life I have either taught or have been taught things where a lack of precision and mastery has wildly severe consequence. Out of many, two that illustrate what I need to say about my surgical experience in Africa have distinct parallels, instructing SCUBA diving, particularly deep water and wreck diving, and flight instruction, specifically flight in tail wheel designed aircraft and aerobatics. As an instructor or student of either, the “relationship” between the student and the person with the experience that needs to be imparted is crucial. It is for sure about facts, techniques, and the obvious. But there is much more to it. The instructor needs to possess a mastery of not just the task at hand, but of all the things that can go sideways at the wrong moment. That person has to be completely comfortable and able to salvage the worst of situations before they get out of hand, but the dichotomy of it all; is that they must do so in a manner that allows the student to learn what the edge of loss of control feels like. Allowing a student to travel to that experience over and over safely is what builds not only skills, but equally as important, confidence. Feel is a multifaceted term, but there is definitely a feel associated with things going wrong that precedes the ultimate problem. An instructor who allows the student to build confidence as they touch the edge of control, a place where a stay of a second or two longer likely means that the loss of control is irreversible; over and over and over, until being on the precipice is something that the student recognizes quickly, and secondarily has as many times practiced the appropriate mechanism (out of many possibilities) for getting themselves out of the situation, is too often a rarity. The solution/lesson/technique is something when accomplished successfully enough times through this exploration of the “edge of control” experience, that it has now become a second nature physical reaction; one not requiring a great deal of analysis and thought/time when seconds count and the appropriate decision MUST be made. Without this component, the student gains knowledge, but never mastery, and seldom confidence. They must be comfortable existing on the edge of control, and they must anticipate and feel its approach. Great instructors understand this, and are not uncomfortable with 1. realizing the student is starting to make a mistake, then 2. resisting the urge to immediately correct him/her, then 3. letting the mistake cascade into a much more difficult situation which is harder to recover from, and then 4. when the student fails to process it all and make the proper corrections in time – AT THAT LAST MOMENT BEFORE THE SITUATION IS UNSALVAGABLE – 5. take control of the situation and put life back on the right course. That kind of instructor not only has the skills, but the mentality to build great pilots, surgeons, etc. Imparting where the edge of control is does not happen through the reading of books, listening to lectures… it only happens -hands on- under the supervision of a master instructor to whom the edge of control is just another component of their daily life.

So here is a typical example from aviation. Landing a tail wheel designed airplane, is not hard, but there are a lot of moving parts and things/variables that can make it a significant challenge. I am not going to go into every nuance, but just enough so that you get the idea of the necessary instructor’s mental state and skills, and what has to take place to impart something that cannot be said in words, or learned from a book. The student is descending towards the end of the runway by reducing power, and counterintuitively raising the nose of the plane also, causing it to fly progressively slower. Too slow and it stalls, spins out of control, and augers into the ground; too fast and you run out of runway. The student needs to touchdown and hit a certain spot, at a certai