Monday, December 26, 2016

12 Tips for Student Pilots!

     Having recently earned my Private Pilot License this year, I thought I would reflect on my flight training experience and share a few tips for Student Pilots. My hope is that by following these tips you will not only become a better pilot, but also save money while doing so. As we all know, flying is not a cheap hobby; nor is cheap to begin a career in aviation. But, going about your flight training the right way can make it as affordable as possible!

#1: Come Prepared
     Learning is free at home, so you should capitalize on it! Before each flight lesson, prepare yourself for the topics that will be covered with your instructor. After each lesson, be sure to ask what to expect next time. This way, you will know what knowledge to brush up on or even what maneuvers to familiarize yourself with. This maximizes your learning in the cockpit and can save you a lot of money by not having to waste time in the airplane!
#2: Fly Consistently
     This tip is dear to my heart. I started flying at age 13, but I was very inconsistent in my training; often taking months off at a time without flying or studying. I highly recommend sticking to a schedule and flying as consistently and as often as your budget allows. It is very costly to take 2 steps forward each lesson and 1 step back by waiting too long between lessons and getting rusty!
#3: Never Stop Flying the Airplane

     Student Pilots often forget that to the fly airplane from engine start to engine shutdown. Flight controls should always be paid attention to not only in the air, but also while taxiing the aircraft! A nasty gust of wind is all it takes to flip an airplane and cause damage to both the airplane and your wallet.
#4: Get a Weather Briefing
     As a pilot, you should prepare yourself as much as possible before each flight. This includes being informed about the current weather, weather forecasts, and any inclement weather in the area. Your instructor will be impressed, and it is a great habit to acquire. A briefing may even cause you to cancel your flight for the sake of safety!
#5: Ask Questions
     Your flight instructor is truly your best friend in the process of flight training. If you come across a topic in a book, ground school, or even in flight that you do not understand, ask! Get your question cleared up before you are off on your own flying solo or come across it during an exam.
#6: Know Your Checklists

     Take no shame in practicing your flying at home. It is broadly recommended that you sit down in a chair and practice going through your checklists and commit it to muscle memory. This will allow you to learn the flow of each checklist while actually in the cockpit and be able to allocate more attention to flying the airplane.
#7: Pre-Flight Your Airplane Thoroughly

     Never assume the airplane you are about to fly is airworthy. As the PIC, it is your responsibility to make sure the aircraft is ready to fly. This includes checking maintenance records and the airworthiness certificate in the airplane. Follow a checklist when preflighting the aircraft or even develop your own routine!
#8: Learn the Fundamentals Before Implementing Technology
     It is the 21st century and an abundance of technology is available for aviation, and that is an exciting thing! However, technology should not be too relied upon, for there is always the chance it can fail. Learn the fundamentals like using a manual E6B before moving onto "iPad flying".
#9: Immerse Yourself in Aviation

     You will find that you will learn much easier and quickly if you spend as much time as possible immersed in the world of aviation. Spend some time around your local airport and meet fellow pilots, and I promise you will be surprised on how much knowledge you acquire in such a casual and fun setting.
#10: Fly a Taildragger
     I was lucky to begin my flight training in a Piper Cub, and I believe it has contributed greatly to my flying skills. Flying in a basic taildragger like the Cub without distractions of complex instruments and focusing on stick and rudder skills will pay dividends in the long run. Your flying will be smoother and your turns will undoubtedly become more coordinated after some time in a taildragger.
#11: Know When to Cancel Your Flight

     As it goes, "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but are no old, bold pilots," (Harry Copland). Aeronautical Decision Making is perhaps the most important skill to develop as a Student Pilot. If the weather is poor, the aircraft is not suitable for flight, or you yourself are not in shape to fly, do not fly. No experienced pilot is impressed by risky flying, so please err on the side of caution.
#12: Use the Internet
     I am thrilled that you found this site, and I hope that these tips have been helpful! The internet is full of tools to help your flight training process go as smoothly as possible. My favorite resource was YouTube in order to familiarize myself with flight maneuvers and complex topics. There are also a number of resources available to help you prepare for the written, oral, and practical flight examinations.

     Learning to fly is an incredible experience, but it does not come without its challenges. My hope is that these tips will make a tangible difference in the outcome of your flight training. Enjoy your time in the skies and never stop learning!

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