Category Archives: Learning to Fly

From Van Halen to Steep Turns: The Learning Curve

Eddie Van Halen ca. 1977 via Wikipedia

by Chris Findley, CFI, CFII

Pilots are perfectionists –the good ones anyway.  They’re the ones you want to fly with.  I mean really, do YOU want to fly with a lacsadasical, whimsical, “don’t give rip” pilot?  Neither do I.

Pilots are hard on themselves –the good ones anyway.  They want to do things right and they want to improve.  They want to grow in their skills and knowledge.

But when you are a student pilot, there is a tendency toward perfection that outstrips your skills.  That is, you may see your instructor do steep turns or make a crosswind landing and you recognize the skill.  You recognize that the maneuver was done well.  What you often forget is that you’re not there yet!  Instructors have typically been flying for a while and have practiced and observed these maneuvers for hundreds or even thousands of flight hours.  Often students despair that in their 3rd or 4th hour they still haven’t mastered a skill.  What they don’t realize is that flying skills take time to develop.

I think this taps into our modern impatience with learning.  We are so used to things moving very quickly and at a fast pace, that we find processes difficult.  We want to know now what someone else has spent a lifetime learning.  We pick up the guitar and if we aren’t playing like Eddie Van Halen in a few weeks, we give up. (If you don’t know who Van Halen is, stop reading, slap yourself, and research him in google)  Likewise, if we decide to write and within a month or so if we haven’t created the next literary sensation we become depressed.

Flying is much like art.  There is a feel, a groove to it, that you have to develop.  There is a learning curve that develops over time.  So if you are a student and not moving as fast as you think you should be, relax.  The key is sticking with it.  The learning occurs in the mistakes, in the flubs, and in the bounces, slips, and stalls of flight training.  Just engage the process.  Push yourself for sure, but allow the learning to unfold.  Develop the skills and the excellence will come –as you stick with it.

Besides, when Eddie Van Halen first started playing guitar, even HE didn’t sound like Eddie Van Halen!


What Will You Remember?

Sunset west of Nashville, 4/2/2011

Yesterday I was flying with a student and we were privy to an awesome Tennessee sunset.  The air was smooth and had calmed remarkably from the gusty conditions early in the day.   In those few minutes I thought about the privledge of flying and how, were I not a pilot, I would never see such an incredible view.

I recalled a student who had just finished a solo cross country.  I was at the airport when he landed and I was a bit impatient.  He was running later than I’d hoped and I had been pacing in the FBO as I watched the sun begin to sink.  Finally I heard him announce his position and enter the pattern.

When he landed he was practically ecstatic.  As I helped him push the airplane into the hangar, he talked about all he had seen and experienced on his flight.  He talked about how freeing it was to be in the plane, navigating and flying with confidence.  I smiled as I remembered his first few flights and how, like many students, he had struggled to manage all the tasks of flying.  Moments like that are just gold to me as an instructor- seeing the undeniable progress of a student.

As the hydraulic hangar door closed, I mentioned to him that for me flying is an adventure every time I leave the ground.  I was glad he was finding that to be the case also.

I thought about these 2 experiences as  I drove home last night and how someday, years from now, when I’m old and my flying days have long since passed, I’ll remember the feel of the controls in my hands.  I have no doubt I’ll smile when I recall the first-solos I’ve seen and the satisfaction of a well-made landing.  Undoubtedly, my heart will race remembering shooting an ILS approach and breaking out of the clouds as the runway appeared through the haze right where it should be.

In the twilight of my life, of all the experiences I may have (with the exception of my family) I think I’ll treasure the hours spent flying the most.  And of all those hours I think I’ll always treasure the sunsets.

What will you remember?

The mFC Podcast |Episode 12 | Stalls and Circuit Breakers

Direct Download >>>

Feedback:  or call 615-669-2359


On today’s show I talk about an impromptu meeting with Jason Schappert of while my family was on vacation in Florida.  I also talk a bit about my friend Mark Jones, who just completed his final flight as a test pilot and C-17 driver.

The bulk of the show is dedicated to a discussion on stalls –why we practice them and how to develop your confidence when practicing them.  Stall training is invaluable, but sometimes produce some anxiety with students.  There’s nothing to fear!  Stalls have nothing to do with the engine (unlike a when a car “stalls”) but they have everything to do with wind and wing.  Our main reason for practicing them is to avoid them!  So I talk about the why and how of stall training.

Finally, I discuss a question asked of me by a student abour circuit breakers and when to reset them.  I’ve had to deal with this a few times and, while it’s not necessarily a major issue, we want respond appropriately to avoid making a minor problem, a major one.

Thanks to everyone who continues to listen!  Please pass the word!

Resources from Today’s Show:

My Blog on Meeting with Jason Schappert

Mark Jones’  Final Flight

Napping Controller Leads to New Procedures

Garmin 650/750

Stalls From the Cockpit with Schappert (below)

The PreFlight

Teaching students about making a thorough preflight check is easy early in training.  On the whole, new students are very conscientious and methodical, sometimes overly so.  As they become more confident and capable, things –including the preflight– begin to roll a bit more smoothly.

It is the student later in training, and after receiving their certificate that sometimes is tempted to cut corners.  The preflight begins to be done as if it were a race and the attention to detail begins to wane.  For probably most of these pilots their oversight will have no noticable consequence.  But here’s the question:  Why rush it?  Is it really worth the risk?

I teach a preflight that is based on the old 70’s era Cessna manuals that was systematic and methodical.  You start at the baggage door on the left side and work your way around the aircraft the same way, every time.  There’s something to be said for routine, especially when conducting a preflight check.

Even (or especially) if the plane is regularly flown, take time to check it over.  You don’t know what happened on its last flight.  Did they, as I discovered on one plane I used to fly, drag the tail down the runway while in the flare?  Did that damage anything?  Did they lock the brakes and damage the tires?  Did they fuel it properly or fail to report something faulty?

It’s your posterior (and that of your family, students etc.)  you are putting in the plane.  Check it.

Episode 11 | The MyFlightCoach Podcast

Direct Download >>>


or call 615-669-2359

On today’s show, I talk about the success of the Discovery Channel’s “Flying Wild Alaska” series as well as the recent rebound in new student pilots.  We talk about the Flight Review–what’s it all about?  I discuss the philosophy behind it, ways to approach it and exactly how I conduct my reviews.

I also talk about the concept for an electric 172, a great book on communications and also answer a question on pattern entry using the mid-field cross.

Resources from Today’s Show:

Flying Wild Alaska On for Second Season

Battery-Powered Cessna Skyhawk

Pilot Population Highs and Lows

Flight Training Article on the Flight Review

The FAA’s Guide to the Flight Review

“Say Again Please” Pilot’s Guide to Communications

Episode 10 | The myFlightCoach Podcast

Direct Download >>>


or call 615-669-2359

On today’s show I talk about the Cirrus/China deal as well as some great things that the EAA Young Eagle’s program has accomplished.   I also encourage you to be a part of the Women of Aviation International’s efforts to encourage more women to participate in flying.

I answer a couple of questions I received on Twitter: “Should I learn to fly in a taildragger?”  and a discussion on the ever-intimidating crosswind landing.

The show finishes with a book recommendation for everyone involved in Flight Training, particularly Flight Schools and CFIs.

Resources from Today’s Show:

Brad’s First Flight

Women of Aviation International

Aviation Hiring Rebounding

Cirrus’ Aquisition by Chinese Company (News)

Cirrus’ Press Release on the China Deal

Cirrus Facing Scrutiny on Chinese Deal

EAA’s Young Eagle’s Program

Tips on Job Search Leads

The Results of the Young Eagle’s Program

Jason Shappert on Crosswind Landings

Guy Kawasaki’s “Enchantment”

Episode 9 | the myFlightCoach Podcast

Chris Holub after his first solo.

Direct Download >>>


Today’s show features an interview with Chris Holub, a student pilot from Peoria, AZ who is learning to fly at one of the busiest general aviation airports in the country.  One thing I just love about Chris is that he is so passionate about flying and very involved in helping other people discover flying as well.

He’s videoed almost his entire flight training process and you can view these on YouTube (see my show notes).  He is also part of a great podcast roundtable  of other students in the process of learning to fly called “In the Pattern”.

He began by flying RC (Radio Controlled) planes and this just led him to learn to fly the real thing.  He’s learning in a great airplane, a Piper Archer III.  The greatest feature to me is the fact that it has Air Conditioning!

Chris and I talk about how he got into flying, what he wishes someone had told him when he started, and some adventures he’s had along the way.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Please email me at or call the brand-new number (anytime 24/7) at: 615-669-2fly  (615-669-2359)

Resources from today’s show:

Chris Holub’s “In the Pattern” Podcast

Chris Holub’s You Tube Channel with all of his flight training videos

Piper Archer III

Deer Valley Airport