Goooood afternoon from sunny Edmonton, where it is currently -13C without any wind!! Got a busy afternoon ahead flying 4 legs, but I thought I could write a little post about one of the most COMMON questions I get from my Instagram posts/direct messages. One thing to keep in mind is that my experience and perspective comes from flying in Canada and I hold a Canadian ATPL. I’m sure most tips can apply around the world, but there may be some differences wherever you happen to be reading this from!! I put a little something together, so keep on reading below if you’d like to know about my Top Ten Tips for success with flight training!
Tip #1: Do Your Research!
When you’ve decided that getting your pilot’s license is for you and you’ve made it your next life goal, start researching different possible flight training possibilities! There are so many options out there, from going to a full-time aviation degree program, to ‘pay-as-you-go’ set ups designed to fit your schedule (especially if you already have post-secondary education) to investing in your own aircraft and hiring an instructor (if you are interested in time-sharing your aircraft, this can work well for time-building too!). Go check out the school in person, check out their Open Houses if they are hosting, or go for an introductory Familiarization Flight! You can get a feel for the place, and see if you’d like to commit spending time there.
Tip #2: Set Up Your Finances
There is no doubt that getting your aviation licenses, whether only getting your Private License, or going the whole way through to become a Commercial Pilot, Flight Training is generally EXPENSIVE! One of the biggest struggles in completing licenses tends to be students’ financial situation. Trying to pay it all for yourself as you fly is a courageous feat, but not ideal. It tends to slow your training right down as payment is the limiting factor. Apply for a loan, borrow money from your parents, or get a line of credit to ensure your training is continuous and not affected by low funds. Formulate a re-payment plan as promptly as possible and know that aviation debt is truly an investment in your future self!
Tip #3: Find A Mentor!
I personally found that having a few people that could coach me along my journey was a life savior. I was the only person in my family that took on this aviation challenge, so it felt a bit overwhelming at times. Having a mentor that could encourage me, and bring me up when I faced obstacles really helped me, knowing they had gone through similar struggles in the past. It makes the challenges seem ‘normal’ and less daunting to undertake. A mentor could be an Instructor you connect with, someone in your flying club, a retired or long standing career pilot in your field of interest or someone within your flight school that is a few years ahead of you. Don’t limit your scope and remember to keep assessing all advice with a critical eye; ultimately, you know what’s best for YOU.
Tip #4: Ground Preparation
Flying is tons of fun, there is no question about that! But remember that the most successful pilots are those who review and prepare themselves well ahead of the actual flying portion. The knowledge required to safely and effectively handle an aircraft is more than most recognize. Preparatory Ground Instruction or PGI as you will eventually get to know it, is the lesson taught by your Flight Instructor which includes the What? Why? And How? of an exercise or procedure. You learn on the ground and then practice the skill in the air. The more you are competent in what will be involved in your upcoming lesson, the more proficient you will tend to be once airborne. This also helps you to save money, and time in your overall flight training adventure!
Tip #5: Don’t Underestimate Weather!
Understanding weather and its’ impact on my flying is something that was a bit of a challenge to me when I first started my Flight Training. I am grateful that my Instructor started exposing me right from the get go and helped coach me along in my decision making as to whether or not to fly that day. New pilots can under estimate adverse weather and it can be quite an uncomfortable or scary situation if you ever find yourself airborne while a thunderstorm is nearby causing severe turbulence, or experiencing windshear on short final. Learn from more experienced pilots and be a safe pilot. It is always safer to be on the ground wishing you were airborne than flying and wishing you were not. Apply the graphical area forecasts to the current conditions and ask yourself WHAT is causing the conditions. This will help you learn about weather patterns in your area and get you anticipate adverse and unsafe conditions.
Tip #6: Know Your Aircraft
Mastery of your airplane is something all pilots should strive for. This of course does not happen until you have numerous hours of experience on your aircraft, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start studying and knowing it well right from the beginning. Sticking to one type of airplane at the start of your licenses helps with this. Study and know your Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) in and out; use the graphs for calculating your aircraft performance, know where to find information about your plane and apply your knowledge by quizzing yourself on its systems and operations. Get familiar by asking questions to your school’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME); this is an opportunity to witness things under the cowlings and get into the smaller details! Discipline of knowing your aircraft helps build confidence, promotes a safe flying environment by understanding what the plane can and cannot do and supports your growing as a well-rounded pilot.
Tip #7: Practice Chair Flying
Chair or couch flying as it is sometimes called, is something recommended (I would even say, required!!) for all students and even experienced pilots as they are learning new skills. Just as you should review and prepare for the ground work, so should you be practicing the maneuvers before actually stepping foot in the aircraft. Your ‘hands and feet’ flying skills come from repetition and having the associated mind-to-muscle connections of doing the skill over and over again. Sitting yourself down on your couch at home and going through the drills for a procedure (for example: a takeoff, or an engine failure drill), helps solidify the maneuvers and prevents you from freezing or forgetting once you are exposed to more stress while flying! This often happens as your brain is much more overloaded when you are flying and we easily start to make mistakes that we would normally not do on the ground. Flying from the couch obviously does not replace actual aircraft handling, but can help link one flight to the next during your training stage.
Tip #8: Don’t Let Technology Take Over
We are currently living in an age where technology has touched all aspects of our lives, and aviation is not exempt from this. Is it an incredible time where we can see huge leaps in aviation technology, implement new tools to improve situational awareness, prevent accidents and increase our efficiency in workload management. With all these improvements, it is easy to let technology take all responsibility and become more of a passive witness than an active participant in flying our aircraft. Because of this, it is important to focus on your aviation basics and to always be in control of exactly what is happening with the plane. Don’t let your focus be taken away by a glass cockpit when your scan should be as fluid, if not more, when more information is available to you. Know where and when you can take your attention to superfluous tasks (like inputting a flight plan, or looking up a frequency) and always prioritize your basics first and foremost. Once you become a more experienced pilot, glass cockpit familiarity will increase your overall skills because your flying foundation is solid and strong.
Tip #9: Network In The Industry
Once you decide to commit to becoming a pilot, getting involved in the industry will be of huge help. Not only will it help you network for future opportunities but it will also ensure that you continue your flight training in an efficient manner. Inform yourself of local flying groups, get involved with your airport community, find a part-time job fueling or dispatching, but most of all, keep at it!! Aviation is a different beast of an industry and I’ve found that people who do not network or stay involved, tend to take longer to finish their licenses, or simply lose interest. This industry is small, and you never know who you may end up working with, or how someone may end up helping you. Starting to work part-time at my airport’s shop was an easy way to meet fellow aviators, helped me study, and eventually to continue my flying even through challenging times!!
Tip #10: Never Stop Learning
Getting your pilot’s license, whether stopping at your Private, getting your Commercial license or going all the way to becoming an Airline Pilot, always remember that it is ultimately, a license to learn. This industry is an amazing one to work in for numerous reasons; one of them being the ability to continuously learn and add to your skill set. Stay updated on developing news, get a new rating (Instrument Rating to fly using only instruments, perhaps), find an instructor who can spend a few hours teaching you a new skill, and commit to flying regularly! Those of us who fly for our career don’t usually struggle with this, but if you are looking to get your Private License only, this is where you can unknowingly become unsafe if you don’t pledge to fly consistently! I love looking for opportunities to learn, especially from my Captains and coworkers who have been working in the industry longer than I have so that I can eventually share it as well! There is always a weakness to improve on, a skill that can be perfected, or a new aircraft to learn about which one of the many reasons I love being a pilot!!
So there you have it! I hope this helps you to ensure success in your Flight Training and becoming a safe pilot! As always, you can catch my adventures on my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (@iampilotemilie) and Patreon. Blue skies for all!!