10. Role Play
Scenario-based training has become a catchphrase for instructors presenting real-life situations to students during a training flight. Take a trip with your favorite safety pilot and play a bit of "what if." You can take turns coming up with situations that require a response. Questions to pose could include: What would you do now if the engine started running rough? Where would you make an emergency landing? Where would you divert to if for some reason we can't land at our destination? Digging deeper with a "why?" will increase the value of the exercise. Different questions may apply to an instrument flight.
11. Stay Ahead of the Game
Anticipate, anticipate and anticipate! If you get behind the airplane to the point where chores that should have already been accomplished are delaying responses that need to be made right now, you're in for a bumpy ride. A flight will go a lot smoother if you anticipate what's coming and what you'll have to do next. If you listen on the frequency to airplanes ahead of you on the airway, you can get a pretty good idea of what frequency you'll be given next. Tune your standby radio and if you're correct, you'll be that much further ahead. Listen to the ATIS far enough out so you know the airport conditions, whether you're likely to have to make a missed approach, and what approach you can expect so you can get the chart out and begin to review it. You can calculate (or use your GPS) to determine when you want to begin your descent. Although the controller won't always be able to approve a descent when you want, you'll know when to ask.
12. Good Housekeeping/Using Checklists
If you've gotten sloppy about using checklists, you need to get back in the habit. There's a reason for using them, and as we age, we're more likely to miss something if we're trying to rely on memory and familiarity.
Although my home office is a mess, I've always been obsessive about keeping a neat and well-organized cockpit. If you need something in flight, particularly if you need it in a hurry, you'd better have it handy; otherwise, you're going to be scrambling and that's not good. Have those things in reach that you're likely to need — things like charts (sectionals, approach or en route), the POH, a flashlight, a pen, pencil or marker and extra batteries for all those electronic devices.
13. Fly VFR Without Using a GPS
GPS navigators, as long as they work, have made navigating almost too easy, to the point that many of us have lost the ability to find our way without them. How 'bout making a flight without using your GPS? Pilotage (comparing landmarks with the sectional chart) and dead reckoning (holding a heading over time) worked for the early piloting pioneers. Get out a sectional, draw a course line, compute the course and magnetic heading and go fly it. But before you do, check the airspace along the route and check if there are any active TFRs in the way. Try flying at least one long leg by dead reckoning instead of pilotage and see how well you do.
Your instructor probably told you that you're not done flying until the airplane's engine is shut down. I'd suggest you're not done flying until after you've shut off the engine and spent some time reviewing the flight and exploring what you could have done better, safer or more efficiently. As students, our instructors always (or should have) conducted a debriefing with us after each flight. If you want to become a better pilot, then you need to evaluate each flight for what you did wrong, what you could have done better and what you did right.
15. Be Risk Averse
Finally, the best way to improve your flying — and your safety — is to be serious about assessing the risk involved with every flight. Be realistic about your own ability and that of your airplane, in order to complete every planned flight with prudent safety margins.