For students pursuing a degree in the aviation field, these three study tips can help you excel in your education this year.
If you are an aviation student and determined that your 2021 is going to outshine your 2020 (although let’s face it—the bar is not that high), there is plenty that you as a flight student can do immediately to excel in your training, both on the ground and in the sky.
When you balance confidence with humility and put in your best honest effort, success usually is not far behind. Do not be afraid to ask your certified flight instructor (CFI) for an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Having a clear idea of how to proceed is key, so give yourself the New Year’s gift of sitting down for a few minutes to think about these study tips, how you would like to excel—and why.
1) Be realistic
Few aspects of aviation derail flight students like cold reality. Unexpected dashes of cold water include unexpected costs such as fuel and landing fees. Other students are frustrated by the time it can take to master basic aviation concepts and then execute them well enough in the air to pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical test.
Some do not plan for enough time in their flight training, thinking they can visit a flight school once a week and still progress in their training. Another common dashed expectation is thinking that they are showing fine control when they actually have some work to do when it comes to coordination of controlling the flight surfaces of the aircraft. Still others do not study enough for their FAA written knowledge tests, thinking that they can guess their way through it.
Having a frank conversation with your flight instructor(s); those who make a living preparing students to fly safely can give you a better idea of time frames, areas of improvement, and opportunities for growth than a friend who has never touched a cockpit or the opinion of a random person on an online message board.
Slow progress or a failed check ride can be discouraging, but it is a part of life most pilots face at some point (the first American in space, Alan Shepard, began his Navy flight training by taxiing down the runway in the wrong direction.) What separates a certified pilot from someone who took a few flying lessons a while ago is perseverance. The stability of knowing you can shake off a bad experience while taking aviating seriously will take your farther than the fastest jet.
2) Practice Self Care (and Go to Bed Early)
One of the most important study tips for aviation students is to practice self-care. Especially as we continue to battle our way out of the COVID 19 pandemic, it is important to care for your health as you train. This does not mean it is necessary to live on protein powder or live in the gym. However, one of the best remedies for stress is exercising a few times a week. Low-impact movement such as walking or yoga are fine. Studies show that regular exercise keeps us more alert, lowers stress, encourages brain cell growth, and aids in retaining new information.
One of the easiest aspects of self-care to fall by the wayside is sleep, especially if you are undergoing training while balancing many other responsibilities. However, just like exercise, getting enough sleep is vital, not only because it keeps the pilot alert and safe, but because it plays a major role in fusing new memories and complex information. There is a reason why the FAA has issued regulations on rest requirements for airline pilots. Lack of sleep has played a role in several aviation accidents, and it simply makes sense to avoid fatigue by resting your body and mind.
It might be tempting to crash through plenty of cookies and caffeine while trying to hold down a job, meet family responsibilities, and meet your flight training goals. However, a bit of planning can knock out the tendency to hit the drive-thru. If you know you are about to face a long day at the office and then an important ground lesson, take a moment the night before to throw a sandwich and a few healthy snacks into your flight bag. Your blood sugar and waistline will thank you (and remember, you do have a medical certification to pass and maintain.)
3) Set Attainable, Actionable Goals
What its it you want to achieve in your flight training—and why? Ask yourself this in a quiet moment, because the answer that will serve as your touchtone when the training becomes difficult or you are discouraged. Honoring your actions and mental expenditure is easier when the reason why you are continuing is obvious. If your answer is “Because I want to impress someone,” “Because my parents want me to,” or “I don’t know,” then perhaps it is time for some soul searching.
Answers such as “I enjoy the sensation of flying,” “I’m retired and I have always thought about being a pilot,” and “I’m eager to better my life with a new skill” might not seem like earthshaking reasons to engage in university level flight training, but they are all perfectly valid. (So is “Because it is fun.”) As long as you have undertaken the training for a healthy, self-actualizing reason and have crystallized it, you stand a better chance of completing your rating or certification.
Having a specific goal as well as a “why” in mind will also help to keep you committed. If you’re aiming to definitely complete your private certificate or instrument rating rather than “just see if I like it,” you are more apt to be consistent in your training, which is a big part of seeing it through to the end. Breaking larger goals into smaller, more attainable ones is also helpful. If you want to be an astronaut but are struggling with basic ground maneuvers, your eventual goal can seem far away, but not if you pace yourself with smaller, bite-size achievements. These three study tips can help you understand your aviation goals, and create a plan to attain them.
Tamu Smith-Kohls serves as the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing for California Aeronautical University. She has worked in the aviation industry in various roles for 24 years. As a United States Air Force retired veteran, she has a unique appreciation for the aviation industry. Tamu has served in Information Systems as a Network Administrator, Aerospace Flight Medicine as a Health Services Manager, and Air Force Recruitment and Marketing. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology; a Master’s in Business Administration and is a Certified Neuro Linguistic Practitioner. Her passion is motivating, training, coaching and serving others to reach their best potential.