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10 Keys to Being a Great Flight Student, Part 1 (1-5)

1.  Find a great school or instructor – After you decide to earn your license, this is the first real step in your training.  Don’t rush this decision.  Talk to several instructors and several flight schools and pay attention to your impressions.  Are they helpful?  Are they encouraging?  Do they seem knowledgeable and do they seem to have the heart of a teacher?  Is the equipment clean and seemingly well-maintained?  These are the types of questions you want ask yourself as you look for the right instructor for you.

2.  Fly often (2 to 3 times a week) –Learning to fly requires that you become proficient in two broad areas: procedures and techniques.  Procedures can be learned by reading and memorizing.  Techniques are learned by flying and developing your coordination, motor skills and experience.  To solidify your training you really need to fly regularly, preferably 2 to 3 times a week.  This will help you learn your procedures, but will also really help  you develop your technique.  You’ll see more progress, faster by flying regularly.

3.  Learn everything you can about your airplane –Become a student of your training aircraft. Obtain a copy of its Pilot’s Operating Handbook.  Read it (I know it’s not exciting).  Learn about the systems, it’s limitations and performance.  Know everything you can about the plane.  This sets a great precedent for you as you move to other aircraft.  But it’s of fundamental importance that you know your aircraft.  You entrust yourself to that aircraft everytime you fly.  Know how it works!

4.  Be teachable–  This is one of the most important points in this list.  If you are teachable then your flight training will be a joy to you and to your instructor.  If you are not teachable then you and your instructor will stay frustrated.  This means taking honest feedback without being defensive, knowing your instructor wants you to be a great pilot.  This means learning what you think might seem irelevent (say, pilotage when you have dual Garmin GPS or a glass cockpit).  The means trusting in the training and insight of your instructor.

5.  Be Patient –You must be patient.  Patience fosters good decisions.  Be patient with yourself.  You will have plateaus when it seems your training is going nowhere.   Be patient in the various situations you will face.  From unforeseen weather and scheduling conflicts to maintenance issues and delayed checkrides, be patient.  I can’t think of a single area in flying where the virtue of patience won’t pay great dividends.

Numbers 6-10 will be coming tomorrow!  Got a suggestion, email me >>>


Episode 10 | The myFlightCoach Podcast

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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”

First Flight: Brad

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I’m always excited to take someone on their first airplane ride as a flight student.  Brad found me via Karlene Petitt’s excellent blog where Karlene had written a very kind article about my book.  He picked up on the fact that, like him, I live in Nashville and we soon connected via email.  On Monday he took a Discovery Flight with me through Wings of Eagles School of Flight

It was a great flight!  He learned a bit about airport operations, taxiing and maintain heading and altitude.  We circled over the Nashville skyline a couple of times before heading back to the airport.

He seemed to have a great time and is set to begin his training with his first bona fide lesson on Sunday.  Here’s to another future pilot!  Looking forward to working with you Brad!

Actual IMC for Private Pilots

I recently did a IFR trip with a Private Pilot friend of mine. I had been his instructor through his Private training and we had done all the required work for that license. This included 3 hours of flight by reference to instruments only. As a Private Pilot, this is mainly to allow you to survive an accidental flight into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). It is in no way designed to make you a proficient instrument pilot. The main idea is to teach you to maintain aircraft control and reverse course to fly to clearer weather.

On this trip I promised myself that I would not train another Private Pilot without taking them in actual IMC. He didn’t do bad at all, that’s not it.  In fact, he flew well. It was the realization (and I know it’s obvious) that flying with foggles or a hood is simply not the same as flying into a cloud. The sensation is different, the feeling is different, the way your inner ear and body react is different. Psychologically it’s simply a different experience altogether.

He kept turning right. I kept correcting. He said, “Why am I doing that?” And I reminded him about the inner ear and the disorientation that can occur. There before my eyes I saw exactly how a spiral accident forms. The instruments are subtly ignored, and the pilot feels like they are turning. So they bank (and enter a turn). Because of the loss of lift in the turn, they pull back on the yoke, tightening the turn. If not corrected the spiral steepens and the disorientation escalates until control is lost.

There’s something very different about being in actual IMC. So instead of talking about what would happen “If” you flew into a cloud, I’m making a resolution to actually show my students what that feels like and how to handle it.

In no way do I want to encourage them to go scud running and punch holes in the clouds. It’s just that I don’t want their first experience in the clouds to be when they are on their own. I want them to have the confidence of knowing that they can handle the situation and fly their way to clear skies and a safe landing.

10 Steps to Passing the Private Pilot Written

Every CFI I know has some thoughts about how to prepare students for the Private Pilot written exam.  There’s really no magic to it, but I think there are some ways to maximize your preparation and your grade.

First, realize that the goal of this is to pass the written exam.  The real testing of your knowledge (in my opinion) comes at the practical test, specifically the oral exam.  Passing a multiple-choice test of 60 questions is really insufficient to test your knowledge and safety as a pilot.  I tend to treat the written as a rite of passage and an exercise in building a student’s knowledge base.  It is also a huge confidence builder and gives a student a sense of moving forward in their training.  But it really has a limited effectiveness as a testing tool.

Secondly, realize that all the questions are in the public domain and are published to the public by the FAA.  (Another reason, but not the only reason, why I say it has limited effectiveness as a testing instrument.)   Get over feeling like you’re cheating if you make use of this fact.  You’re not.

Given my first and second points, here’s how I reccomend students prepare for the test:

1.)  Get a copy of Gleim’s TestPrep Software. To me, it’s the best $54 bucks you’ll spend.  Download it here>>>

2.)  I’d suggest getting a paper copy of Gleim’s Private Pilot Written Exam Prep also.  I kept it handy for those times I didn’t have my laptop.

3.)  Using either/both the book and software, study the section outlines.  Each section deals with a particular topic, for example “FAA Regulations”

4.)  In the software, create a study session of the section you just reviewed.  If they are short, combine a couple into a single session.

5.)  The study session will give you acutal FAA test questions and the answers.  As you answer, the software will indicate if you got the question correct or not.  If you didn’t, then you’ll be given the right answer with an explanation.

6.)  Repeat 4 and 5 until you know it cold and you have gone through all the sections.

7.) Once you have gone through all the sections, create a “Test Session” over 1/4 of the chapters in the book and make it a 60 question test.    This gives you exposure to more questions and causes you to solidify more of the material.  A test session won’t tell you if you got it right or not until the end.

8.)  Use the test performance report to find your weak areas.  Create study sessions of those and repeat 7 and 8 until you know it…cold.

9.) Find out what testing company will give your test (LaserGrade or CATS).

10.)  Then create a testing session that exactly mimics your Private Pilot test.  60 Questions, timed.  Start taking multiple tests.  When I prepped for a test I took 1-2 tests a day for a couple of weeks prior to my exam.  When you’ve done these steps, you will be more ready than you know to ACE your FAA Written Exam!

You Can Be A Pilot! Ebook is Now Available!

I’m really excited to announce and make my book “You Can Be a Pilot!” available in Ebook format.   For $10.99 you can start reading about what it takes to earn your wings.  Start reading about your new life in aviation today!

Great Video: Why Learn to Fly?

Great video introduction to the world of flying!  Hat tip and thanks to for calling it to my attention!