There is a lot to think about regarding flight training. Those who take on the challenge of becoming a student pilot are beginning an exciting and exhilarating new period in their lives, whether they have the ambition of being lifelong private pilots or spending an entire career in the cockpit.
No matter the goal at the beginning of flight training, there are certain aspects of student flight training which should remain the same.
Some of these essential tips are precise and technical, like paying attention to trim tab orientation. However, most are a matter of “soft skills,” which are just as important but not necessarily part of a structured lesson plan.
Pay Attention to Using the Radio Correctly
One of the most important aspects of flying is speaking with air traffic control (ATC). Sometimes this gets lost as the student pilot concentrates on aviating, staying ahead of workload, and ensuring they are taking off or landing safely. There is so much to concentrate on that using proper terminology and focusing on ATC etiquette is sometimes the first item to fall by the wayside. Some pilots have a hard time catching up on the correct way to speak with controllers in towers, centers, and TRACONs.
Pilots at every stage of their learning should be sure to pay attention to using the radio in a professional matter, whether an aviator is paid to fly or not. Communicating clearly is a matter of safety and helping pilots, as well as controllers, do their job as best as possible. A major aspect of this is speaking when necessary, but as little as possible. Air traffic controllers are often enormously busy, or other pilots could be waiting to use the frequency. Knowing what to say and how to say it is essential.
Studying and using the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA’s) Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) is the best way to commit the language of aviation radio phraseology to memory. Section 2, which is called “Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques,” is extremely helpful. Having these calls memorized or at your fingertips can go a long way to increasing your confidence when communicating. In addition, identifying yourself as a student pilot to the controller is generally accepted practice and can alert the ATC professional that you might need some extra assistance.
Stay Patient and Communicate
Using the radio is not the only way to communicate in the aviation world. It is also important to concentrate on other forms of speaking to others. One of the main aspects of this is to talk openly with your certified flight instructor (CFI.) Your flight instructor will do his or her best to work with your knowledge level and your learning style. However, if you do not understand any aspect of what you are learning, it is vital to speak up, and speak often. Informed questions and requests for additional examples or explanations are sometimes necessary in order to fully grasp a concept.
Learning to fly an airplane requires the ability to process a great deal of information as well as put it in action. It demands a lot of concentration and study. To put all of this to work, the student pilot must understand what he or she is doing. If you are struggling with any aeronautical realities or technical information, be honest with your flight instructor. He or she has been “taught how to teach,” and may have additional resources or different ways of learning to share with you. It is best to fully understand these concepts on the ground before attempting to put them into practice when in the air.
Patience is also important. It can sometimes require a few attempts to understand what is taking place during a lesson, so in addition to communicating with your flight instructor, remember to be patient with yourself and the complex process of learning to fly.
Realize Most of the Work Takes Place on the Ground
Study is a major aspect of learning how to fly. While the popular image of immersing in flight training is spending most of your time next to your flight instructor in the cockpit a great deal of work also takes place on the ground.
Pilots must carefully study the weather, check the airplane to ensure it is safe (known as “the walk around”), plan the flight, and look over aeronautical charts to become familiar with the airspace the flight involves. When a student pilot is aiming for his or her private certificate, a check ride with a certified examiner is only part of the testing procedure.
Part of advancing as a pilot, whether as a brand new student or a longtime aviator adding a new type rating, is rote memorization. Pilots must pass a written knowledge test. This involves a good understanding of FAA regulations, aircraft systems, and weather meteorology. Student pilots with the goal of earning their private certificate must complete a test consisting of sixty questions within two and a half hours. The test is presented as multiple choice, and a passing score is considered 70%.
Budget Your Time: Remember Why You Started
Pilots tend to advance better and more quickly in their flight training if they are committed to a regular schedule. Every student pilot is different, and each dynamic with a flight instructor can take various paths. Sometimes students are interrupted by personal life events, illness, or inclement weather. While flight instructors are adept at working around such frustrations, sometimes students let their motivation slip away, particularly after hitting a learning plateau or having a frustrating session in the air.
Budgeting time for study while still attending to professional, student, and family obligations is essential. Students who understand that flight training can be difficult and frustrating are better armed to push through these temporary distractions. Keeping focused on why you began flight training to begin with is usually the best way to get past these blocks. Preparing ahead of time for potential disturbances, if only by knowing that they might occur, is helpful.
Mr. Matthew A. Johnston has over 23 years of experience serving various roles in education and is currently serving as the President of California Aeronautical University. He maintains memberships and is a supporting participant with several aviation promoting and advocacy associations including University Aviation Association (UAA), Regional Airline Association (RAA), AOPA, NBAA, and EAA with the Young Eagles program. He is proud of his collaboration with airlines, aviation businesses and individual aviation professionals who are working with him to develop California Aeronautical University as a leader in educating aviation professionals.