Flight School: Making the Most of Your Training

What can students do between lessons to make the most of their training?

Flight School

Flight School

What can students do between lessons to make the most of their training?

Ken Wittekiend is the president and founder of ProMark Aviation Services (promarkaviation.net). He is a Master CFI and designated pilot examiner and was the 2009 FAA Southwest Region CFI of the Year. Ken also teaches for the Bonanza Pilot Proficiency Program. Ken was a founding member of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE). He says:

Successful flight training requires skilled, motivated aviation educators who are committed to their students’ success. But students must understand that they have a critical role to play in the process of learning to fly. They must actively participate in their training in two specific ways. First, following every lesson, the CFI and student should set aside time for a careful and thorough post-flight briefing during which both review the lesson and the instructor asks leading questions such as “what was the most challenging part of today’s lesson?” or “how will you use what you learned today once you complete your training?” This allows the CFI to provide feedback and analysis of the student’s performance.

Second, the student should be given specific assignments to help prepare for the next lesson. Reading assignments, quizzes, online short courses, etc. are part of any comprehensive training program, and the student should be held accountable for completing these on time.

The student’s experience in the airplane during the lesson is intense and, at times, overwhelming. With the CFI talking, the radio blaring and the student trying to perform the tasks required, much of the information is missed. This is where technology offers a huge benefit. We are now using in-cockpit cameras that capture the audio from the intercom and radio as well as video of the flight. After the lesson, this file is copied for the student to review at home. We see a marked difference in the rate of progress for students who do this review. They tell us they learn a great deal when they can listen to the CFI’s comments and truly understand how their performance compared with the completion standards. Plus, they can share their training experience with friends and family, which provides encouragement and support for the students’ efforts.

So, a few of the keys to getting the most out of the training experience between lessons comes down to immersion, engagement, review and preparation.

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.