Jeff Mallory of Rosamond, Calif., recently answered our call for student tips, noting, “Having been a CFI and corporate trainer for eight years, I’ve noticed that most student issues boil down to a few main areas that can be addressed in a straight-forward way.
That being said, it’s easier to write these tips than it is to implement them. CFIs would do well to use these same tips to keep themselves polished in whatever area of instructing they need to work on.
First, let me preface the tips by saying that there are no shortcuts to hard work and personal discipline. While it helps to have a good instructor and nice equipment, there is no substitute for putting in the time and effort needed before getting in the airplane for each lesson.
Students need to be curious about different areas of becoming a pilot, and their instructors need to encourage this by getting to know their students. In this way, instructors will know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and can direct training to improve students’ knowledge and skills.
Here are some tips:
- Chair-fly in the actual airplane: Sit in the airplane by yourself (after your instructor has demonstrated correct procedures), and practice what you will do at every phase of the flight. If you mess up, start again until you get it right.
- Visualize yourself doing procedures and maneuvers correctly. This can be done in or out of the airplane. If you’re in the airplane, do the visualization as you’re chair-flying; talk yourself (out loud) through each maneuver/procedure. If you’re not in the airplane, close your eyes or use a cockpit poster on the wall in front of you.
- Learn basic procedures in a simulator of some kind. The simulator doesn’t need to be full motion or have multiple screens, but it should be representative of the aircraft you’ll be flying. You want to get things like checklist usage, looking outside, and principles of control (on the ground and in flight) down before you start burning holes in the sky. If you don’t have access to a simulator, you can start with a cockpit poster. Do this at any point during training — just practice, practice, practice.
- Free up your brain. There’s a lot going on in the airplane, especially at the beginning and when learning approaches and landing. Getting your mind off of the mechanics of flying will let you think more about other important things like making good judgments and decisions, so you’re in the right place at the right time — not the other way around. Training this way makes the transition to the airplane easier by freeing up some of your brain to think ahead of what’s happening at the moment.
- Motivation: When students get discouraged during a learning plateau, or too focused on the details they may need to realign themselves with the reason they started training. I have had success keeping students motivated by: reminding them of their goals; presenting new challenges as they master the previous ones; and reminding them of their past successes to fuel future ones.
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