Michael Phillips is chief flight instructor at Aviation Instruction Simulator Training Center in Camarillo, California, and a member of the teaching staff at CP Aviation in Santa Paula. He is a Master Instructor and an FAA Gold Seal instructor with more than 5,800 hours of dual given. He says:
Answering this question assumes three important elements. First, the student must understand that he or she is training to be the pilot in command and is encouraged to think and act like the pilot in command. Second, a formal training syllabus must be used as part of the training process. Third, the flight instructor must be available and interested in challenging the student to expand knowledge, in guiding him or her through the multitude of resources available, and in answering any and all questions.
As the pilot in command you will always be making decisions based on the information available, so a good place to start is to take charge of the process of educating yourself. Between lessons, you should do anything that you feel will supplement and complement the adventure of learning to fly.
The choice can be directly or indirectly related to where you are in your training. Are you struggling with landings, steep turns or understanding the difference between a crab and a slip? Read as much as you can about the subject that challenges you. Then sit down with your instructor and other pilots to explore more about the subject and verify what you have learned.
Another way to maximize your training experience is to review the syllabus and plan ahead for the lesson. Search out and identify resources that help prepare you. If possible, ask if you can “ride along” and observe another student’s lesson — preferably one that is ahead of you in the training process.
Learning to fly is a wonderful challenge and should be fun. Look at the big picture and delve into whatever interests you. Read, ask questions, attend local WINGS seminars, and take advantage of the online courses available from the FAA, the Air Safety Institute and others. Meet with other students and share experiences, challenges and success. Pack a lunch and go to the airport and watch airplanes take off and land. When it comes to learning about flying, the sky is the limit and you are the pilot in command.