How can students recover and learn from lessons that don’t go well?
Dorothy Schick is the owner of TakeWing, a Cessna Pilot Center located at Creswell Airport (77S) in Oregon. A CFI with 2,800 hours of flight instruction given, she is a member of SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) and a FAASTeam representative. She says:
While not all lessons go well, every lesson has something go right. The key is to enforce the good parts and leave the negative components behind as the training progresses. However, at some point, most student pilots suffer through a series of frustrating lessons when one element or several are not falling into place, over and over again. Situations like these will demotivate most students. As an instructor, the first step is to acknowledge the student’s frustration (I feel your pain). The next is to explore a way to fix the problem.
Learning to fly is a little like learning to fish. While you might say there is a lot more luck involved in catching fish, the process of learning how to cast, what flies to use and where the fish lie can be very frustrating to learn. Flying, like fishing, requires putting many bits and pieces of similar and dissimilar information together in order to recognize complex physical and mental patterns. If an area of training is not going well, the pilot is most likely missing some piece or pieces of these essential links. When that happens, I shift the student’s focus to find the missing pieces, either by intentionally changing to another kind of maneuver or by attacking the problem by separating out selected elements of the maneuver.
No other maneuver requires the student to link the primary pieces of aircraft control together more than landings. If a student pilot is having trouble, there is no point in beating that student up with one bad landing after another. The problem won’t fix itself by making more landings (sometimes this takes some convincing — the “oh, please, just one more” syndrome).