Flight School: Maintaining Motivation

How can students recover and learn from lessons that don’t go well?

Flight School

Flight School

Cessna Aircraft

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).

Low approaches often help unearth which pieces of control the student may be missing. I often start by allowing the student to control only the throttle or just the yoke and rudder pedals before relinquishing full control. After this type of practice, as if by magic, the landings start to improve. But it's not magic. The student has created enough physical and mental links for the many bits of similar and dissimilar events to become recognizable physical and mental patterns. Like fishing, flying is a sport that requires patience and determination, and sometimes it requires a little bit of luck.
John King, along with his wife and business partner, Martha, owns King Schools. John and Martha have been learning about and teaching flying full time since 1975. They both have every FAA category and class of rating available for pilots and flight instructors. John and Martha have received numerous awards and were inducted as a couple into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame. He says:_

Lessons that don’t go well are a normal part of flying. When you have a lesson that doesn’t go well while you are learning to fly, you shouldn’t be concerned. Flying is deeply rewarding, and one of the reasons that it is so rewarding is that it is so challenging.

Flying is thoroughly engaging. Learning to fly means employing many aptitudes all at the same time. The process requires physical and mental skill, emotional self-control, three-dimensional spatial orientation and stress management. Putting all of this together at once requires enormous concentration and determination.

When you are learning, you can’t expect to make all this happen successfully on every single lesson.

All who learn to fly have times when they say to themselves, “You know, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do this.” So if you get discouraged about your ability to fly, tell other pilots about your feelings. You’ll find that they have felt exactly the same way you are feeling. That’s why there is such a strong sense of camaraderie among pilots. When you meet someone who has learned to fly, you know that they have experienced these same feelings that you have, and that they have made the commitment to persist over an extended period of time to achieve success.

In fact, even highly experienced pilots can never claim to have had a flawless flight. Nobody can finish a flight and say, “That one was perfect.” There is always something that could have been done better on every flight.

So why does anyone make this great commitment to learn to fly? Because when you fly above the earth in an aircraft for which you are totally responsible, and view the earth from that perspective, you will experience what is known as “the overview effect.” It changes who you are and how you feel about yourself forever.