Power Struggles – What CFIs Need to Know

Crisis Management: When and how to overpower someone

In the world of aviation, flight instructors play a pivotal role in training aspiring pilots. They impart knowledge, instill skills, and foster confidence in their students. However, there may arise rare instances when an instructor must exercise their authority and physically overpower a student to ensure the safety of everyone on board. My presentation will give a personal experience and a general experience of the circumstances and methods in which an instructor might need to take control and save lives during a flight.

My personal experience happened with a student who overreacted to wake turbulence. I was totally shaken up as I had only been teaching at that time for a bit over a month. After consulting with an Army Special Forces member, a Master Instructor, a DPE and my local FSDO, I learned some valuable lessons about how and when it might be necessary to overpower someone. 

In critical moments, such as when a student pilot demonstrates impaired judgment, panic, or confusion, the instructor’s intervention becomes crucial. By promptly taking control, instructors can prevent the situation from escalating into a catastrophe. 

While flight instructors strive to empower and guide their students, there are rare occasions when they must take charge to save lives. Their training, experience, and ability to make split-second decisions play a crucial role in preventing disasters. By overpowering a student when necessary, flight instructors demonstrate their dedication to aviation safety and uphold their duty as guardians of the skies.