Emphasize the Debrief

When you’re learning to fly, the cockpit experience can be overwhelming. Precision maneuvers for the Private, Instrument, Commercial and ATP certificates require certain parameters that can, at times, be difficult to achieve. For the Private Pilot applicant there are many new components to learn in the cockpit: instruments, radio communications, airspace and weather, not to mention simply flying the airplane. And for the Instrument student there is constant communication and a laundry list of tasks that need to be completed during the flight.

While the cockpit is a great classroom, it is important to review the lesson after the airplane is parked. No matter what certificate you are training for, you should insist that your instructor does a full debrief each time you fly.

You may think that debriefing is a waste of time and ground instruction dollars. But it is likely to be the opposite. The debrief is an opportunity to reinforce the components of the flight that went well and discuss the best way to correct the segments that were not so successful. There are no distractions during the debrief, making it a great time to ask your instructor questions about things that came up during the flight. While flying there are too many distractions for questions to be answered effectively.

Jot down each question that comes up during your training flight on your notepad, unless it is a simple question that can be answered very quickly. Don’t think that you will remember the question after the flight. You may or may not. It is much better to have the questions in front of you when you debrief. A good instructor takes notes during the entire flight. It is the only way for him or her to enable a thorough and effective debrief. You should also take notes during the debrief and review those notes at home.

And once the debrief is complete, you should expect your instructor to tell you what you can do in preparation for the next lesson. If you take the time to follow his or her instructions and thoroughly review the notes from your debrief before your next lesson, your training experience is likely to become much more effective.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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