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We will all struggle with pilot training problems at some stage! Thanks to everyone that sent these problems in for the blog. In no particular order:
Flight Training Problem #1: Feeling intimidated by your instructor
I have been intimidated by my instructor SOOOO many times since I started flying – right from the air cadets, through university gliding, PPL and professional pilot training and even now flying professionally! Unfortunately, the ex-military personalities for whatever reason seem to have the reputation for being scary! This is not always true though as their knowledge, flying ability etc. is world-class.
When I do fly with an intimidating type, I won’t lie – each time I strap in, I’m questioning everything I do and trying not to make a miss-step. This overthinking invariably leads to me making mistakes and having a worse flight.
I have learnt that no instructor tries to be difficult deliberately – it is just their style and just how they are. The best way to deal with the issues I have found is: Depending on the circumstances and how frequently you fly or will need to with them, it is sometimes best to let them know how you feel without being confrontational or personal.
Often, they do not even realise they are making you feel that way and letting them know can provide them with the feedback they need to make and adjust to many you feel more comfortable. Option 2 – fly with someone else!
Option 3: it may be you that is the awkward party, so it is always worth self-examining before criticizing!
Pilot Training Problem #2: The actual landing
Landings are a nightmare to judge, and I have struggled myself. At times the instructor thought I was trying to kill him or her!! Here are a couple of things you may consider doing to help improve the outcome:
A) Rehearse beforehand what you are going to do. Have an excellent briefing with your instructor on the ground in detail talking through each step, e.g. in a SEP aircraft, as you come over the keys, chop the power, look down the end of the runway etc..
As I started flying more complex aircraft, rehearsing what was going to happen beforehand in the air helped me. An example is before decent; I’d remind myself of the sequence and talk myself through the different stages of the landing. i.e. at 1000′ check. At 500′ XYZ and continue the sequence right down to my actions in the flare – 50′, 40′, 30′ check, 20′ close, hold etc. – that really helps.
Problem #3: The thought of how the hell am I going to complete all this and land a job
I avoided overwhelming myself during pilot training and focused on taking one step at a time and avoiding thinking or looking too far ahead. If you think too far and too big for people undergoing pilot training right now, all the negativity can quickly overwhelm you, and you will give up.
Instead, focus on each lesson, each flight and then hopefully, each stage completion will give the satisfaction that you are getting closer. In my specific case, I knew I wanted to become a professional pilot, eventually.
Going to my flying school (Ravenair) for PPL, the concept of me one day flying a big A320 or B737 seemed completely impossible. The best thing is to focus on the immediate step ahead of you and try to do that as well as you can.
Problem #4: Instructor falling asleep…?
Ive had flying instructors fall asleep on me once or twice! It was all safe and legal – I was a qualified pilot, and we were looking at specific circumstances that may not have needed the instructor to be there.
Take the instructor falling asleep as a vote of confidence in your abilities! Instructors are only human beings after all, and I guess apply your common sense.
If you are sitting in the hold for 45mins and you are a qualified pilot – it is what it is. If on the other hand you are in dynamic training and it is compromising safety, or you are losing learning value – make sure you feed that back to your flying school.
Remain safe and legal at all times though!
Problem #5: How to pass ATPL exams
My 8 months of ATPL theory via distance learning around my job was probably the hardest I have ever worked in my life! 4:30 am alarm clock every weekday to study before work. Spend a full day at work. Bring my iPad into work, so I could study during my lunch break. When I got home in the evening, do another hour and then into bed early ready to repeat the next day!
You need to grind through. The important thing to mention is to try and work smart (not hard). Study effectively during ATPL exams and maximise what you get during the study. For how to pass your ATPL exams – check out my ATPL study guide!
Problem #6: Confidence
My lowest point of confidence was during my instrument rating. I smashed through all my pilot training without any issues, most of it on minimum hours, and then I got to my MEIR and struggled.
Looking back it was several factors – not settled in the school, probably doing too much flying and keeping up with my full-time job etc., and was getting tired as I was coming to the end of my modular pilot training.
Without being cheesy, confidence is probably one best solved yourself. You have to look at what is causing doubt and try and address that.
For me, to settle down, id often keep telling myself that I was just on fun PPL flight in my PA28 and pretend I was not flying a G1000 DA-42 at £550 per hour. That chilled me out, and I became more fluent in my flying.
Also- I read
I realised I also had a mindset issue and the book helped me. A lot of the success of pilot training depends on managing your mind and confidence. You have to commit to certain actions and situations and if you dither you run into problems.
Please leave a comment in the section at the end of the blog post if you had something that worked well for you during your pilot training!
Problem #7: Money
Money is the biggest struggle for everyone! I started with £25k in my ISA thinking that would get me close to CPL & MEIR having already completed my PPL. WHAT. AN. UNDERESTIMATION. The best thing I can say about money is however you deal with it, pick a solution that won’t stress you out.
I mentioned the dangers of big pilot training loans, particularly in this environment of huge number of pilots being unemployed and those remaining to have big pay cuts and working part-time. Sometimes, often the best solution is just stopping. Saving up and then coming back once you have some more money.
I went 4 years at one stage as a PPL holder without doing any flying. Life takes over – you need to buy a house, work etc. Come back to it when you feel comfortable and have some more money.
The enjoyment of flying can be ruined really quickly by debt. Don’t over-commit financially.
Problem #8: Radio Telephony
It took me until 50hours after PPL before I had the guts to ask for a zone transit – and even then, I took an instructor with me on the first one! In case you missed my 6 Ways On How To Improve Your RT quickly:
- Tip #1: Read CAP 413 a few times- once every 6-12 months to sharpen your Radio Telephony Procedures.
- Tip #2: Practice the interactions in CAP 413 Radiotelephony tutorial/exchanges with whoever you can find. **GEEK TIP** tune in and listen to Liveatc.net.
- Tip #3: It is really OK to say Standby or Say again
- Tip #4: Pretend that ATC owe you money
- Tip #5: Treat ATC as an external Co-Pilot who is there to help you conduct the flight
- Tip 6#: Preparation and organisation is key
Problem #9: Weather
I would hate to look back and count the actual flying days vs planned that had to be cancelled because of the weather. I would say I probably lost 50% of flying days due to weather.
It took me a while to figure out, but you can influence how much the weather affects you by being careful in your airfield and flying school selection. I mentioned in my How To Get Your Private Pilot Licence Guide to pay particular attention to airfield elevation when picking your flying school.
How Airfield Elevation will have an impact on the weather for your pilot training
The higher the airfield, the more problems you will have with the weather. A good example for me was when I was doing my CPL and MEIR.
I did my Multi-Engine Instrument Rating at Leeds Bradford and had many weather problems even though most of the flying was supposed to be IFR flying! Airfield elevation at Leeds is 681′ with a single North East /South West Runway.
At Blackpool where I did my CPL at Westair, I never had a weather scrub day on my VFR course. Blackpool aerodrome elevation is 34′. The advantage of having both an East /West and North West/ South East runway was handy on windy days.
The full blog post on How to Get Your PPL can be found here for the other factors to consider when picking your flying school.
Problem #10: Rushing! Its a journey, not a destination. Wish I spent more time enjoying it!
I blitzed through my modular pilot training in 12 months. I even studied ATPL theory on Christmas day (I got up before everyone else). Pilot training is a double-edged sword with regards to speed of training.
Go too fast and there is a good chance you burn out and overwhelm yourself. Go too slow, and pilot training ends up costing you more than it needs to as you have to repeat/ relearn lessons! Find a sustainable balance that works for you.
If some of these problems sound familiar and want to learn more about the pilot training steps, check out my best-selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon.
If you have any pilot training problems you have encountered or have any questions, please leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear from you!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 captain with over 3,000 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.