Overcoming Flight Training Pitfalls

Regardless of who you are or where you’re at in your training you’ll at one point or another encounter a pitfall in your flight training. A good instructor will help you overcome this mishap and continue forward. However not all instructors are master motivators like Zig Ziglar or others of the liking. You may be “flying solo” in the motivational department. I’ll cover both perspectives overcoming pitfalls for instructors and students.

What are pitfalls?

A pitfall in training is simply a rapid downfall in flying enthusiasm. This can be caused by fear or anxiety. I’ll never forget my biggest pitfall in my flight training…

I was a very young pilot, maybe 2-3 hours and somehow for some reason my instructor thought I was getting close to solo and decided we would go work on takeoffs and landings.

At Ocala (KOCF) we have a narrow runway 8-26 it’s a mere 50 feet wide! Slightly intimidating for such a young pilot. Things were fine until the last landing. I was getting blown off course by a bad crosswind that was increasing quickly. At right around 10 feet or so I told my instructor I was going around. Yet not knowing my go around procedure I took out the flaps.

In a Cherokee 140 is easy to take the flaps out all at once. We abruptly dropped and landed in the grass to the right of the runway.

After a lashing of curse words my instructor finished our lesson by saying “You’re no where near ready to solo!”

The next lesson I went to get the key from the flight school owner and he plainly said to me “You going to keep it on the runway this time?”

I was the talk of the flight school…

Let’s use this story and discuss what should be done as an instructor and a student.

As the Flight Instructor

First off there is no room for curse words in the cockpit. Especially as the flight instructor. Your title is “Aviation Professional” and there is nothing professional about curse words.

It is important for an instructor to help a student overcome these downtimes. Words of encouragement, charisma, and guidance will not only motivate students but teach them to be the best pilot they can.

When something is foul use the phrase “we”

When something was done well use the phrase “you”

Example: That’s okay we just need to practice our go around procedures. It’s something we really haven’t done. But you looked great on the approach, you held a textbook crab angle to compensate for the crosswind.

Share in the fault with “we” and separate yourself from your students praise with “you”

As The Student

It can be easy to get discouraged in flight training. You may not always have an instructor to help you stay motivated along the way. It’s important to stay focused and determined to accomplish the task at hand.

Talk with other pilots to gain insights. Learn from the your mistakes and those of others around you, it’s only going to make you a safer pilot.

Conclusion

We all will encounter or have encountered pitfalls. I’d love to hear some of your stories and how you overcame them. Leave a comment below or Send me and E-mail.

Remember, a good pilot is always learning!

  • Hi Jason,

    great post, thank you for sharing what was probably a hard time for you. I flew with 16 different instructors (different schools, different places, different ratings…). Working with my primary flight Instructor was really a pleasure. Some others were less pleasant to work with, but only one behaved in an unprofessional way. He was what I call a “jump-in / jump-out” instructor. Almost no time for briefing, and what he called debriefing took place between landing an reaching the parking position.

    It is important to have a good match between student pilot and flight instructor. Not all pairs can do well, and it does not mean the student or the instructor is bad. If you don’t feel good with your instructor, try another one. No shame in that.

  • Hi Jason,

    great post, thank you for sharing what was probably a hard time for you. I flew with 16 different instructors (different schools, different places, different ratings…). Working with my primary flight Instructor was really a pleasure. Some others were less pleasant to work with, but only one behaved in an unprofessional way. He was what I call a “jump-in / jump-out” instructor. Almost no time for briefing, and what he called debriefing took place between landing an reaching the parking position.

    It is important to have a good match between student pilot and flight instructor. Not all pairs can do well, and it does not mean the student or the instructor is bad. If you don’t feel good with your instructor, try another one. No shame in that.

  • Hi Jason,

    great post, thank you for sharing what was probably a hard time for you. I flew with 16 different instructors (different schools, different places, different ratings…). Working with my primary flight Instructor was really a pleasure. Some others were less pleasant to work with, but only one behaved in an unprofessional way. He was what I call a “jump-in / jump-out” instructor. Almost no time for briefing, and what he called debriefing took place between landing an reaching the parking position.

    It is important to have a good match between student pilot and flight instructor. Not all pairs can do well, and it does not mean the student or the instructor is bad. If you don’t feel good with your instructor, try another one. No shame in that.

  • Hi Jason,

    great post, thank you for sharing what was probably a hard time for you. I flew with 16 different instructors (different schools, different places, different ratings…). Working with my primary flight Instructor was really a pleasure. Some others were less pleasant to work with, but only one behaved in an unprofessional way. He was what I call a “jump-in / jump-out” instructor. Almost no time for briefing, and what he called debriefing took place between landing an reaching the parking position.

    It is important to have a good match between student pilot and flight instructor. Not all pairs can do well, and it does not mean the student or the instructor is bad. If you don’t feel good with your instructor, try another one. No shame in that.

  • Keith

    I’m sorry to hear how you were treated at the flight school when you landed on the grass. Sounds to me like you were getting ahead of the training curriculum; soft-field landing is usually _after_ you start soloing. I’m getting off track here, I hope you left that flight school after the comment by the flight school owner.

    Here’s one thing that I learned during my flight training how to get out of a training pitfall: ask your instructor to send you to another instructor to help you with a skill you’re having a hard time with. This worked for me trying to learn short and soft field landings. Sometimes you simply have to hear the same thing your instructor is trying to tell you from someone else

  • Keith

    I’m sorry to hear how you were treated at the flight school when you landed on the grass. Sounds to me like you were getting ahead of the training curriculum; soft-field landing is usually _after_ you start soloing. I’m getting off track here, I hope you left that flight school after the comment by the flight school owner.

    Here’s one thing that I learned during my flight training how to get out of a training pitfall: ask your instructor to send you to another instructor to help you with a skill you’re having a hard time with. This worked for me trying to learn short and soft field landings. Sometimes you simply have to hear the same thing your instructor is trying to tell you from someone else

  • Keith

    I’m sorry to hear how you were treated at the flight school when you landed on the grass. Sounds to me like you were getting ahead of the training curriculum; soft-field landing is usually _after_ you start soloing. I’m getting off track here, I hope you left that flight school after the comment by the flight school owner.

    Here’s one thing that I learned during my flight training how to get out of a training pitfall: ask your instructor to send you to another instructor to help you with a skill you’re having a hard time with. This worked for me trying to learn short and soft field landings. Sometimes you simply have to hear the same thing your instructor is trying to tell you from someone else

  • Keith

    I’m sorry to hear how you were treated at the flight school when you landed on the grass. Sounds to me like you were getting ahead of the training curriculum; soft-field landing is usually _after_ you start soloing. I’m getting off track here, I hope you left that flight school after the comment by the flight school owner.

    Here’s one thing that I learned during my flight training how to get out of a training pitfall: ask your instructor to send you to another instructor to help you with a skill you’re having a hard time with. This worked for me trying to learn short and soft field landings. Sometimes you simply have to hear the same thing your instructor is trying to tell you from someone else

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  • Peter Hansen

    In the past two months, I’ve gone from 3.1 hours to over 46 hours in my log book. I’ve had two CFIs. Your relationship with your CFI is critical. I’m an intelligent guy (as well as an older one) I learned from the first CFI that I needed someone who would really work with me rather than teach at me. My second CFI runs his own flight school and we immediately established a partnership that allowed me to progress at my best rate. This involved an important aspect which was that I needed to be able to speak up when something wasn’t right (either with my performance/understanding or with the presentation). My advice is not to be intimidated by a CFI who lacks patience. You may be the student, but you are also the customer and you will be ultimately responsible.

    It took me a long time to solo. I could have soloed earlier, as my instructor told me I was fully capable, but he wanted me to get smoother and more confident. I was fine with this. The goal is not just to meet the minimums, but to to be the best pilot you can be. When I completed my first solo, it really felt like a team effort.

    I have extensive experience training people to use various computer systems and I know that intimidating students is almost guaranteed to create a poor outcome. It’s the mark of a poor instructor or school that makes fun of people for what they don’t know or can’t yet do.

    Regarding the pitfalls, it’s important to remember that it takes fortitude to learn how to fly. Early in my landing practice, I was working as hard as I could and it wasn’t quite coming together. The resulting stress had me in a cold sweat. Later that day, I had a long drive to head back to my home base and I remember thinking that I couldn’t get far enough away from the airplane. The very next day, I had done a complete 180 and couldn’t wait to get back to doing landings. Be strong, think about what your instructor has told you what you need to do and come up with a plan to execute it. That’s a great way to get over the humps.

    I eventually got it and, as a result, my first solo was a piece of cake. It was, on the one hand, completely routine. On the other, there was this indescribable joy that I had reached a major milestone.

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