Category Archives: CFI Chatter

What is Flight Coaching?

by Chris Findley, CFI

A few months ago I began working on an idea of integrating webinar-styled teaching and ground school for pilots.   For those of you who have been gracious enough to follow me on Twitter or who read this blog I wanted to explain a little about the vision of myFlightCoach.com.   The idea had its genesis in receiving professional coaching myself.  I have been very blessed by the work of Kent Julian, a life &  career coach, nationally-known speaker & author, and all around great guy.  My work with him has brought more clarity to my life and career goals than anything I have done before now.   While working through his process I became intrigued with his method, and the method of “coaching” that has been in use in many training and counseling scenarios.   I began to wonder if there might be a way to integrate this type of training to aviation.  So I began working on myFlightCoach.com.

I use the term “Flight Coaching” very deliberately because that is part of my philosophy of training– I want to do more than “teach” or “instruct”.  I want to “coach”.   My goal is to be an encourager, partner, facilitator and trainer…all the things that make up a great coach.  I aim to do this whether I’m doing a webinar or am sitting in the cockpit with a student.  It is vital to me to add value to your flight training that will make you a more knowledgeable, competent, and safe pilot.

The idea is simple: to provide intensive ground-school training to anyone, anywhere.  I want to be a resource that can be utilized by anyone with a PC and a phone line and a willingness to learn.  Students and pilots that would otherwise be trying to absorb material in a self-study situation now have an instructor on the phone with them to answer questions, explain concepts and clarify teaching.  This is the next step beyond simple book work or watching a video.  Those things are great, but how much better to have an instructor on the line with you?

Currently I have set it up to work with Yugma conferencing software.  This is a free download, and allows me and the client to see the same screens on our computers as I present material.  I also provide an outline of each course and books for the student are shipped directly to them and included with the cost of the sessions.

This is not meant to circumvent the CFI working with the student, but to enhance the student’s absorption of the material.  Just as a CFI might ask a student to watch a video or suggest a conference to a student, I’d love to be a resource that partners with the CFI/Student to help them progress to the next level of their training.

Currently I offer 3 different coaching options (but also offer hourly options as well):

Flight101 is geared toward the pilot just getting into training and covers the basics of regulations, requirements, flight instruments and controls.  I also seek to answer common questions about cost, process, and even anxiety.  Flight101 forms the basis of their knowledge and can be a great jump-start to their training.  They can climb in the cockpit of their first lesson thoroughly versed in the fundamentals- they’ll know what the altimeter is and does.  They’ll know an aileron from a flap and what they do, etc.  If they do not currently have an instructor I offer to do the legwork in helping them find a professional school or instructor that will meet their needs.

Pass that Written is designed to help the student master the material for the Private Pilot Written Exam.  I work through the Gleim/ASA software (included in the cost of the sessions) with the student.  They email me their practice results and I develop a plan of instruction based on their test results.  Again my purpose is to clarify and explain the material in such a way that facilities a faster mastery of the material so they can move forward in their training.

Return to Flight is for those who have been out of flying for a while and are looking for a refresher course.  After an initial (and free) short session where I assess the pilot’s background, experience and length of time out of aviation, I develop a personalized plan.  This plan will cover material that will help them with any changes in procedures or regulations that may have occurred since they last flew.  I also cover the basics to insure they are well prepared to begin flying again.

Other courses are in the works.  You can read more detail about these at course section of mfc.com

My charges for the course are at my normal freelance rate of $50/hour plus expenses and shipping for materials.  This is roughly in line with the going rate in most places for flight instruction, which is usually between $40 and $60/hour.

If you are interested in myFlightCoach.com or know someone who is, please contact me at chris@myFlightCoach.com to learn more. You can also visit myFlightCoach.com for more information.

Advertisements

Why We Practice Procedures: A Cautionary Tale

by Chris Findley, CFI

It started out as a routine training flight.  I met my student at the airport and, after reviewing the procedures we’d be working on in the air, we went out to preflight the airplane.  Preflight was normal.  As he is a new student on his 2nd lesson, I walked through the preflight with him.  He did fine and soon we were starting and beginning our taxi.

I noticed that the engine seemed to run a bit rough below 1000RPM, but not excessively so.  At 1000RPM it smoothed out.  Run up was normal.  The only thing I noticed was that the suction gauge was reading a little low.  Again, nothing that would cause alarm on a VFR flight, just something to tell the mechanics when we returned.  We taxied out to the runway and began our takeoff roll.

My routine is to have the student call out, “Engine Instruments, in the green” once at full power, and then “Airspeed alive” when the airspeed indicator begins to register.  Everything appears normal.  At 55KIAS, the 172 lifts off, new student doing fine.  At about 300′ AGL things begin to get, well, interesting.  That’s when we both heard and felt the shuddering of the engine.  It started out simply like rough running.  I quickly check the fuel selector, mixture, throttle, carb heat, mags, master, primer.  All ok.  The roughness starts increasing to what I would call “moderate”.   This all of this happens in about 5-7 seconds.

Sensing that Murphy is about to become a third passenger, I pitch us up to Vx and tell him simply, “Climb” We still have power, rough and weak though it is, and we’re way too low to turn back.  I want pattern altitude and more options.  I realize there are not a lot of places to set down in front of me.

As we turn crosswind, I hear another plane call base.  I mentally note it.  I may have to butt in line…

I held my breath and prayed for pattern altitude, 1600 feet.  Good.  Got it.  “Level here.  Leave the power alone.”

So we gain speed and about midfield, I give the OK to ease back on the throttle. I am hesitant to change power settings, sometimes that’s when more problems begin to show themselves.  I was right, because as  he eased back a few hundred RPMs…

WHAM!  The engine bangs, then coughs, and sputters and catches again.

“I’ve got it,” I say.  Keying the mic I announce a precautionary landing and ask my friend (I happened to know him) in the other plane now on final to break it off.  He gladly does as I reduce the power to idle.  The vibrations diminish.  Luckily now I have altitude and options.  Since I’m past mid-field this becomes simply a power off approach. Except I know it’s real.

I want to turn base early but fight the urge, “Too high. Fly it RIGHT” I mutter to myself.   I wait a few more seconds and turn base.  I have the field made and begin working in the flaps.   Turn to final. Crap.  I’m high.  I begin a forward slip and the glide path begins to look better.  I keep the slip in until the very end.  The airspeed is on the money.  Round out and flare are just the way I want them to be.   It was good to be on terra firma.  As my father-in-law is prone to say, “The more firma, the less terra”  (Get it?  “The more firmer, the less terror”…he’s a pun guy, what can I say?)

I recount this because it shows us why the fundamentals are so important.  Sometimes students (and maybe instructors too) feel a little bored by the basic maneuvers.  But look at the basic skills used in this flight:

Maintaining Vy then Vx.  Flying a precise pattern.  Understanding the “key” position.  Judging glide path.  The forward slip.  Radio procedures.  “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” A memorized checklist.

I don’t know what’s up with the engine.  Things could have been a lot worse if all power had been lost at 300′.  I feel lucky.  Fortunate.  Blessed.  All of the above.  But I’m really thankful for my instructors who taught me many years ago to stay calm, work the problem, and fly the plane.

A Delicate Subject: Saying “No”

by Chris Findley, CFI

There’s an  old aviation cliche that says, “Flying is hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of stark terror.” I don’t think that was written by a Flight Instructor.   The CFI version would be sure and note that there aren’t hours of boredom, maybe, maybe :40mins.   Because it usually gets interesting at some point, every hour!

It can get particularly interesting if you are the instructor responsible for giving checkouts in the school’s airplane.  Why? Because when you go to the airport to conduct a checkout, the words of Forrest Gump go ringing through your ears, “You never know what’cha gonna git”.   You may have an avid pilot who just moved to the area who just needs the perfunctory checkout and the flight is as smooth as silk.  Or, you may get the newly minted Private Pilot ready to got out on their own.  Or, you may get the pilot who has 800 hours but they were all 15 years ago.

Finally, you may get the pilot who seems to have watched “Top Gun” way too much as a kid.  They just want to putter around in your school’s 172 and figure they’ll just come over and get this little checkout “thingy” done.  They aren’t engaged and aren’t too interested in anything other than showing you in no uncertain terms that Lindbergh and Yeager were wusses.   And you, lowly checkout CFI, know little about real flying.  If this is who you see looking back at you  through the lenses of their $400 sunglasses, go ahead and call AOPA and increase your insurance coverage before you takeoff.

Now that’s a caricature of course.  But an apathetic, macho, know-it-all, to me is far more of a hazard than a conscientious, but low-time pilot. In any case, when you are checking out a pilot for rental privileges or givng a BFR, you have to be prepared to say, “No.”

Recently I flew a check-out with a high-time airline guy.  He was a really nice fellow and from the first moment was professional to the hilt.  I smiled as he made his radio calls.  Each call on the small airport CTAF was as baritone and authoritative and commanding as any call to Dulles Tower.  His flying was great.  But on his landing, it got interesting.

You see, he was used to sitting some 20 feet above the runway.  Therefore his roundout and flare were quite high.  He’d come in on target airspeed and then starting to round out and flare some 50′ AGL.  He just couldn’t bring himself to fly the Cessna that close to the runway.  He kept saying, “I feel like my butt is going to drag the runway!”

We did a number of touch and goes and I tried several different methods for him to get “the picture”, but alas it never came.  I really felt for him.  Super nice guy.  Great pilot throughout the flight -safe, competent, professional.  But he just couldn’t land.  And I couldn’t give the sign off for him to rent the 172.  I had to say, “No.”

Luckily, what could have been pretty awkward (or even with some, confrontational) was not.  He understood and knew the results intuitively before we finished the taxi back to the ramp.  I offered to fly with him again soon and do some pattern work to help him make the transition to the little guys from the big ‘uns.

Sometimes we have to say, “No.”  For those of us who don’t have 10,000 hours logged with 4 type ratings, and a closet full of epaulet-equipped shirts, it can be a bit unsettling.  We may feel pressure to ok someone who isn’t really ok.  We have to have the courage to say “No” and make the professional offer for more training and assistance.

Making the difficult call is part of being a Flight Instructor.   You and I have a responsibility for the protection of the pilots we check out, for their passengers and the well-being of our flight schools.

At the end of the day, would you put your mom/wife/child/or other loved one in the plane with them?  If you answer anything other than “yes” then seriously examine the situation and consider your options.  “No” may simply be the right answer.

Be a Great Pilot

by Bill Cox, Plane and Pilot Magazine

The sheer enormity of the subject is a little intimidating. You probably could name several thousand characteristics of a “good pilot.” But how do you summarize those attributes in 2,000 words? You can’t. Entire books have been written on the subject; I won’t try to describe those efforts here. Over the years, however, I’ve known or interviewed many folks who I’ve considered indisputably “good,” some with names you’d recognize (Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, Patty Wagstaff, Duane Cole, Rod Machado), and many others you probably never heard of. Someone once said (or should have), “You’re always either the beneficiary or the victim of your sources,” and I consider these sources to be impeccable. On reflection, their suggestions often were far from conventional, more typically the result of experience than formal training. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the benefit of such excellent tutelage. Here are a few of their comments for various levels of flight. Make no mistake—these are only a very small sampling of the procedures practiced by “good” pilots.

Flight Planning

With the extraordinary proliferation of GPS, pilots often consider flight planning to be little more than jumping into the airplane, pressing the “Go To” or “Direct” button, entering the destination’s identifier and committing aviation. While it’s true the shortest distance between two points is a great circle (unless you happen to own an earth-boring machine), intelligent planning may demand other considerations. If the terrain below is especially intimidating and you’re flying a piston single, you might consider routing above a major interstate highway, if one is available. If you’re flying over mountains, should you plan to cross the low passes rather than fly direct?

Similarly, pilots tempted to use GPS as the ultimate shortcut should consider restricted airspace. While the GPS probably will warn you of possible incursions, it’s smarter to plan around them in the first place. MOAs also are a factor in flight planning, especially when flying on a weekday. You can fly through them, but you’d be wise to route around them if possible, or at least plan to check on their use before entering.

Preflight Plus
Too often, it seems pilots consider that only the airplane needs a preflight inspection. All aviators have had preflight procedures drilled into them since their student pilot days, but how many appreciate that the pilot and passengers also need a certain amount of attention?

Pilots should be especially aware of their own physical state, particularly regarding anything that affects the sinuses. A partially blocked sinus can cause a major distraction during descents, and the demands of piloting an airplane should include a minimum of distractions. Hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar) is another major concern for some pilots. I once flew in a new airplane with a check pilot who complained that he really needed to eat something, then proceeded to pass out halfway through the flight. Fortunately, he came around before we landed, I fed him lunch and he was fine. Passengers deserve the same attention. A nervous passenger might best be seated in the copilot’s seat where he or she can watch what the pilot is doing (in turn, the pilot can more easily observe the passenger’s reaction).

Continue Reading>>>

Getting the “Right Stuff” for Training

by Chris Findley, CFI

Now that you have made the great leap into flight training, you are faced with a dizzying array of stuff:  manuals, sunglasses, kneeboards, headsets, plotters, computers, bags, boots, and software.  But frankly, you don’t need most of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love stuff.  I don’t mean that in a greedy, hoarding kind of way, but I love gadgets and have a weakness particularly for watches and sunglasses and time management ‘solutions’ (Franklin Planner, Day-Timer etc).  I love new pilot supplies and I really enjoy reading the catalogs that come my way.   Heck, I’m waiting to renew my AOPA membership so I can get the free headset bag (which I don’t really need).

But when you are a new student, the amount of pilot “stuff” is overwhelming.  So here’s my take on A FEW of the best and most helpful products for the new pilot trainee.   This list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers the basics.  I’ll break the list down into what I think are “essentials” and what I think are “good ideas”.  Just know that my list is just that: my list.  Your instructor will probably have their list.  But I’ve seen too many students simply go crazy buying stuff they didn’t need or they later discovered wasn’t useful.  Better to get what you need now, and then learn what you might like and use.  Save your money for now for actual in-the-air training!  If you’re a pilot…email me and help me make this list even better!

(ESSENTIAL) A primary flight training textbook. I suggest one of the following:
The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual – This is the book I used to begin my flying back in the 1980’s.  It’s been updated over the years and is a great and economical book.  Provides step-by-step ground and flight information for student pilots working toward Private or Sport Pilot certification.

Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual – My favorite Private text.  It’s a bit pricey, usually in the $70-$80 range.  But well worth it.    The Private Pilot Manual is your primary source for initial study and review on your journey to becoming a private pilot.

(ESSENTIAL) FARs/PTS You’ll need a copy of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and Practical Test Standards (PTS) 2010 FAR/AIM Book – ASA – The most pertinent 14 CFR Parts combined with the Aeronautical Information Manual. In a convenient, handbook-sized 6″ x 9″ format.  Practical Test Standards: Private Pilot Airplane (Single-Engine Land) – The fundamentals to a successful checkride.

(ESSENTIAL) Headset: Headsets come in a variety of prices and styles.  Some go up to $1000 range.  If you’re just starting out and money is no problem, the go with the Bose X or Lightspeed series.  If you’re like me and have a more modest budget, try one of the ones listed below.  The major price difference comes between ANR (Active Noise Reduction) and PNR (Passive Noise Reduction) models–PNR is less expensive.   Here are my suggestions in the PNR price range, that will get you in the air without breaking the bank:

Sigtronics S-20 Headset – A great entry level headset and the value leader of the Sigtronics headset line.

Flightcom 4DLX Headset – This is the headset that I currently use.   Great value in quality and performance

AV COMM AC200 Headset – Low cost, dependable headset that is easy to operate and comfortable to wear.

(ESSENTIAL) Flight Computers: I like my students to learn both the long-hand (manual E6-B) and the hand-held calculator versions.  So I usually point them to a really low cost manual E6-B for training.

E6-B Paper Flight Computer – Economical, but sturdy, E6-B flight computer.

ASA CX-2 Pathfinder Flight Computer – Comprehensive pocket-sized flight computer.  Sporty’s Pilot Shop also has a great electronic calculator here >>>

Fixed Plotter – Easy to read numbers and scales

(GOOD IDEA, MAYBE) Private Pilot Kits: These are not a bad deal if you want to go with a bulk order approach.  Just look at everything and make sure that the kit has what you need and not a bunch of stuff your instructor doesn’t use.

Jeppesen GFD Private Pilot Kit – Part 61 – A comprehensive kit for private pilots in Part 61 training.

The Complete Private Kit Plus – The Plus Pack also includes the Pilot Test Prep and a FAR/AIM

(GOOD IDEA) Accessories

ASA VFR Kneeboard – Attractive, brushed aluminum VFR kneeboard

The Flyboy’s Kneeboard is my favorite.  Paul Volle at Atlanta Sport Flight turned me on to this beauty.  It’s a bit more ($33) but it’s compact size and versatility is well worth it.

(GOOD IDEA) Flight bags are popular but I’ve seen a lot of my students by a $90 duffel bag to haul all their study material to and from the airport.  My recommendation is not to buy a flight bag based on lugging your books around…you won’t do that once you get your license!  Buy something that can hold maps, approach plates, a flight computer, a plotter, a headset, a couple of powerbars and a bottle of water.  I have 2 bags, a small headset bag that also holds a kneeboard, a small flashlight and a couple of maps.  This is for instructing and moving in and out of the planes quickly.  Then I have my IFR/Cross Country bag.  This is a bit larger to hold more maps, approach plates, and other stuff I use more on cross-country trips.  My suggestion is to go to Target and get a cheap backpack to lug your books to the airport.  Then buy a small flight bag that you’ll actually keep and use.  Here are a couple of good ones:


Noral Student Flight Bag – Plenty of room for all that student pilot needs to carry and more.

Noral MACH 1 Flight Bag – Outstanding value in a new bag from Noral.

When you just starting out in flying, it’s like entering a whole new world.  There’s a new experience, a new vocabulary, and lots of new stuff.  Some of it is expensive and most of it is indeed great stuff to have.  But my hope is to try to balance performance with budget and steer you toward some good products that you can use now and in the future.

I’ll review a few more products soon and if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please email me:  chris@myflightcoach.com

Catching the LSA Fever

by Chris Findley, CFI

I had the privilege recently of spending some time with Paul Volle of Atlanta Sport Flight and taking an orientation flight in the Czech Sport Cruiser.  The Sport Cruiser has been recently selected for exclusive distribution by Piper and renamed the “PiperSport”.  The Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category has become quite the topic of conversation these days, with many believing that LSAs are the last great hope of general aviation.  I’m usually suspicious of such sweeping praise, but LSA flying has a lot going for it.

First,  it is cheaper to operate on almost every level –purchase price of new airplanes, fuel burn (doesn’t 4 gal/hr sound nice?), insurance, and maintenance.   Secondly, with the limitations of LSA flight (VFR, day only) and the low hour requirements for licensing (20 hours), this puts flying within reach of many more potential pilots.  Training cost for an LSA Pilot Certificate is in the $4,000 range vs.  $8000 or more for a typical Private Pilot.    Third, it’s the planes.  There are some sharp aircraft being produced.  They sell themselves.  But more than that, I think LSAs like the CubCrafter SportCubS2 and the Sport Cruiser (PiperSport) bring back the emotional and adventurous feel of flying.   I believe this appeal is crucial (whether LSA or not)  for flight enthusiasts to share.  Very few of us fly because it makes economic sense to fly.  We fly because we love it.  But I digress…

Paul Volle greeted me right on time at the Fulton County Airport (KFTY) in Atlanta.  We spent a good bit of time just talking about flying and about his background as the founder of the school.  Paul is a former Naval Aviator and instructor pilot with over 150 carrier landings.  His day-job keeps him in the air as an airline pilot for a major carrier.  But talk with him five minutes and you’ll find a passion for flying, particularly for developing new students,  great flight instructors and a truly classy flight school.  All indications are that he’s off to a great start.   ASF’s SportCruiser is kept busy and so are Paul and his three three instructors.   At the Atlanta Sport Flight website you can get an explanation of the Dynon  EFIS, get a virtual tour of the practice area, download the POH for the plane, and watch a cockpit video of a typical traffic pattern.  It’s clearly designed with the customer in mind.  In conversation and operation, Paul Volle is aiming to run this school professionally.  Now off to the plane!

The Flight

The winds were light and variable and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as Paul and I walked across the ramp to the plane.  One thing that struck me was that the plane does look small, but in a sporty way.   It’s like the way a sports car looks small– you notice, but you’re certainly not repelled.   On the contrary, you’re attracted to it.  You want to drive it, or in this case, fly it.

Preflight on the SportCruiser is similar to preflight on any light plane.  Control surfaces are standard.   Only the rudder is operated by cable, the other surfaces are manipulated by actuator rods from the control stick in the cockpit.  The seats are reclined with four-point harness restraints instead of the typical lap belt.  The large bubble canopy offers a great view.  After preflighting and climbing in, we began the start procedures.

The Rotax engine fires right up.  Unlike the typical Lycoming engine the Rotax just “turns on”.  There’s not a real cranking phase.  In the SportCruiser, turn the key, and the engine fires up immediately.  One thing you’ll notice (especially when reading the POH) is that the RPMs with a Rotax engine are much higher.  After starting, idle is set at 1400RPM.  Depending on your prop pitch, you’re looking at a whopping 5500RPM or more on take-off.

Taxi out and runup was uneventful.  After being cleared to depart, I took the runway and advanced the throttle.  Paul cautioned me, “You’ll be at Vr before you know it”   We were, and here I must brag because  I made what has to be THE ugliest takeoff in aviation history.  As we moved past 35 KIAS, I began a gentle rotation.  Nothing.  At 40KIAS, I applied more back pressure.  Not much pitch change.  As we approached 45, I gave a bit more pressure and UP we go (FAST), I nose over, too much, pull back to correct, oops too much.  I was all over the sky.  I finally established the climb attitude and airspeed and and sheepishly turned toward the practice area.

After making clearing turns in the practice area, I tried some steep turns, slips, stalls, and straight and level cruise.   As the hour wore on, I began to get used to the controls.  The way the seats recline, the view over the nose is a bit different.  I found myself wanting to sit higher in the seat.   The plane is nimble, if not a bit sensitive for those used to bumping along in Cessnas and standard Pipers.  That “wounded duck” takeoff was evidence of that.  In flight, my most noticeable mistake was not holding altitude.  This was probably due to the view difference over the nose, but also my lack of experience with scanning a glass panel.

Upon returning to the airport area, we were cleared for a right downwind entry for Runway26.  Our first pattern ended with a go around to avoid a G-IV (I think it was) that seemed to like hanging out on the departure end of the runway.  My second trip around the pattern was more stable than the first.  Airspeed and altitude were on target.  Power goes to idle on downwind abeam the numbers and you basically glide it in.  Stall speed is really low (Vs0 is 32) and with the memory of my lame takeoff, I was anxious about how my landing would go.  But roundout and flare were fine, albeit with a little lateral overcontrolling.  Touchdown was uneventful and my bruised ego was repaired slightly.  This was a touch and go, and takeoff this time was better as well.  This is probably not a testimony to my flying, but to the “learn-ability” of the plane.  You’ll pick up the control characteristics pretty quickly.

Last trip around the pattern to a full stop went well.  Touchdown was not as smooth (ie little bounce) but not horrible.

Paul resisted the urge to laugh during the flight and for that I am grateful!  He was an encouraging instructor and noted that my flying was typical of pilots transitioning to the LSA from other aircraft.   We taxied to the ramp and raised the canopy.  It was a great flight.

If you’re toying around with the idea of flying an LSA and live within reach of Atlanta,  I’d highly recommend Atlanta Sport Flight.  Overall, I think the enthusiasm about LSAs is good for the industry.    There are a lot of questions that remain, especially long-term questions that only will reveal themselves over time.  But it is clear that LSA’s have the potential to fill a niche and ignite some renewed excitement around flight training.  It has for me…I’m looking forward to my next Sport Cruiser flight.

Reducing the Cost of Flight Training

by Chris Findley, CFI

Everyone is looking to reduce cost these days –businesses asd well as individuals.  My family certainly wants to save money and we reguarly look for deals to make the most of every dollar.  Pilots in any phase of flight training are also looking to stretch their training dollar.   I took some additional training last year in a Cessna Cardinal (177RG) and felt my wallet lighten each time the hobbs meter ticked off another tenth of an hour.  As an instructor, I believe we must be conscious of giving our students the most value for the dollar by approaching each lesson with a purpose and a plan.  As a student (and all of us ultimately are) here a few ways to help stretch the training dollar.   I’d welcome your comments and ideas to add to the list!

1.)  Conserve. You are the best advocate for your money.  Conserve it by using what you need, not what you want.  That is, you may want to fly the G1000 DA-40, but you can get more hours for less mulah with the 1977 172.  As long as it will allow you to finish your training safely and make you a competant pilot, then conserve your money.  You can transition to the G1000 later and beleive me, when you do, you’ll really appreciate it!  Also, if you are a new student pilot, you don’t need every book on the subject, the latest computers, ANR headsets, flight bags, sectional subscriptions of the entire U.S. etc.  Ask your instructor to give you a list of the basics you need.  As you fly, you’ll learn more about what you want and what is comfortable for you.

2.)  Plan. Make sure you and your instructor have a plan.  Have a syllabus and work it.  Moreover, make sure your instructor communicates it to you.   I’ve found that my students really appreciate an email a day or so before the lesson that outlines the upcoming flight.  This gives them time to prepare mentally, do some reading, and think through what they will do.  Sometimes I give them chapters in the Airplane Flying Handbook to read and/or a video I want them to watch.  If you’re not following a plan then the efficiency of the training decreases, which means the cost will increase.

3.)  Study. This is a common issue among many students.  I’ve had students reach a learning plateau because they simply neglected their studies.  Sometimes a student can be developing wonderfully –they have a “feel”, their coordination and operation is solid, but the progression through flight training simply “stalls” because the knowledge base is not there.  Sometimes people just enjoy flying so much that they just want to fly.   Failing to study will increase the amount of  explanation time needed in ground sessions.  But it will also increase the time spent with the prop spinning while receiving an explanation for things that you could have learned much cheaper with a cup of coffee at your kitchen counter.

4.)  Rehearse. Visualize your upcoming lesson, walk through it, speak aloud what you’re going to do and when.  For instance while rehearsing for stall practice you might say, “I will maintain back pressure while the airspeed bleeds off.  I will have to increase back pressure as the plane slows.   As it slows below 50 knots, the stall warning horn will sound.  I will check to insure I’m coordinated, and that I’m maintaining my heading.  As I run out of elevator, I should feel a loss of control effectiveness, followed by the first buffet of the stall as I near 42 knots…..etc.”  You get the idea.   But do that for your next lessons, anticipating the things your instructor will do based on your plan (see #1.).

5.) Practice. This is akin to #3, but I’m talking about using tools to help you practice. You might pull a cockpit photo off the internet (even better, snap a picture of your plane’s cockpit) and blow it up large enough to fill your computer screen.  Then make a copy of your checklists and procedures just as you have them (same format) in the plane.  Practice walking through your procedures with the picture as a reference.  You’ll learn the layout and understand the flow–without the hobbs meter chipping along.  I also think this is where a Flight Simulator on your PC can really help.  Make some practice flights on the sim, but you’re not focusing as much on flying the sim as much as practicing your procedures.   I did this for refreshing my mind with the procedures for the Cardinal.  I paid $10 bucks for an old version of MS Flight Sim and used the 172RG selection.  The difference did not matter for my purposes.  I was practicing the mental rhythm of the checklist –gear operation, manifold pressure changes, RPM, cowl flaps.  This helped tremendously.  Because the procedures were in my head for my lessons, I could concentrate on the maneuvers.   It’s also a good idea to stop by the airport and just see if they will let you go sit in the plane and work the checklists there on the ramp.  Practice like you play (fly)!

Conserve, plan, study, rehearse, practice.  These are five ways you can stretch your training dollar.  There are many more.  I’d love you to share ways you’ve found to make the most of your money in flight training.   Comment below!