Should you teach your spouse to fly?

Ron Rapp, the blogger behind the House of Rapp blog, has written about an interesting question that has no doubt come up in the minds of many married pilots: Should I teach my spouse how to fly?

To begin with, Ron mentioned how he has been married more than 3 1/2 years and his wife is now starting to show interest in learning more about flying as she has been doing stick-and-rudder work on their flights and on her own initiative. In fact, it sounds like she would like to have Ron or has been pressuring him to teach her how to fly.

Since Ron is an instructor, learning how to fly is expensive and the Rapps live in Southern California where air space restrictions make flying complex, it makes sense for him to give his wife most of the basic instructions she would need to learn how to fly. In fact, he figures it would save them over $6,000 if he did the flight training himself. And then there is the ease of scheduling a lesson and the fact that he knows his wife better than any flight instructor would – meaning he probably knows how to best teach her something potentially complicated.

However, Ron also pointed out there is a case against teaching a spouse how to fly that was outlined by Flying columnist Lane Wallace with the summary: “Is it possible to teach your spouse to fly and stay married? Bob Sharar says yes.” In the piece, Lane wrote:

On more than one occasion, I’ve written that if there is an iron-clad piece of advice I’d offer to anyone, it would be that under no circumstances should ANYONE attempt to teach their boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other or spouse how to operate ANY piece of heavy machinery, let alone an airplane. And that people violate this dictum at their peril.

He also added:

The reasons for this advice seem obvious. Intimate relationships entail so many loaded dynamics of power, acceptance and rejection, vulnerability and baggage that attempting to impose a teacher/student relationship on top of that — especially where performance is critical and misunderstandings can be catastrophic — is generally a really bad idea.

Nevertheless, Bob did teach his wife how to fly and they stayed married, but he added:

“I just made it clear, and she understood, that when I was instructing, I was in charge,” he said with authority. But after Phyllis got her license, the person who was “in charge” was whoever was in the left seat. “We trade off legs,” he said. “So it balances out.”

With that said, Ron did note that it seems quite common for a parent to teach a child or grandchild to fly, but that’s a bit different due to the nature of such relationships not being a “marriage of equals” as one is a figure of authority.

Near the end of his post, Ron wrote that his inclination is to “teach her myself, but with a clear understanding that if we encounter problems or it doesn’t seem to be working out, either one of us can suggest switching to a third-party instructor before any unpleasantness destroys her enthusiasm for flying.”

Ron’s inclination seems to make the most sense to me, but what about to you? Moreover, have you or anyone you know faced the same dilemma Ron is facing over whether or not to teach a spouse to fly?

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