Do you remember your journey to a pilot’s license? Are you mid-training now? Thinking about taking lessons? A mentor for a student pilot is one of the most important resources beyond the flight instructor. There is so much information and so many skills a student pilot must master en route to a license. Spending the money for a flight instructor can add up quickly, plus there can be scheduling difficulty.
Why you should have a mentor:
A mentor is a great way for a student to continue to excel with flight training while avoiding the common difficulties of training. The one-on-one relationship of mentor-mentee avoids the scheduling difficulty that students often run into with their flight instructor. Instead of a flight instructor with a vast array of students, the mentor likely does not have any other mentees. This makes scheduling much easier for the student who is looking to gain knowledge and experience from another pilot.
Having a mentor usually lowers the cost of flight training as well. Instead of paying for ground instruction, a mentor can likely help explain ideas and concepts over a cup of coffee or sandwich. Instead of paying for a flight instructor, paying for a coffee for a friend is much less expensive. A good mentor will likely decline the free coffee anyways…
Every student pilot ever, has hit a learning plateau during their flight training. If you are reading this and thinking I didn’t or I wont, you’re lying to yourself… There is at least one thing, possibly multiple things, that slow(s) every student pilot down during their flight training. This can cause frustration and lead less committed flight students to giving up training all together. A mentor can help a student beat the plateau and get “over the hump,” if you will. The mentor and flight instructor combination is a great way to beat the frustrations that every student pilot faces at some point!
The one limitation is that a mentor is usually not a flight instructor. This can present some issues for a student pilot… First, the flight instructor is the final authority , ultimately they are responsible for the actions a student pilot takes. A mentor can be a great support resource but should not be a primary learning source. Using a mentor to prepare for a new topic or to review a past topic can be good. But, when a student depends on a mentor to teach them everything this is usually not a great idea. Mainly because the mentor, if not a flight instructor, has not received any formal training on training, which may seem minor, but it does make a big difference!
How you can avoid issues, commonly related to poor mentoring:
One of the easiest ways to avoid the issues that can arise from having a poor mentor is asking your flight instructor for a mentor referral. Your flight instructor will likely be impressed that you’re taking the initiative to do some learning in addition to your usual training.
Typically a flight instructor will recommend a pilot that they trust for your mentor. Usually a pilot they trained. The benefit of having a former student of your flight instructor as your mentor is that they will have the same method of thinking because they were also trained by your instructor. This will prevent a difference of opinions that can cause issues in training.
Why YOU should be a mentor!
If you are a certificated pilot then there is NO excuse for not being a mentor for a student pilot. We need more pilots, and we have the ability to HELP that situation. Having a mentor serves many purposes:
- You gain new flying friends. A lot of pilots don’t fly a lot because their non-aviation friends don’t fly. Having friends at the airport will bring you to the airport more, which means you’ll be flying more!
- You’ll be more involved at the airport! Being a mentor means you’ll be spending more time at the airport, and let’s face it, the airport is one of the coolest places in our lives as pilots!
- You probably hang around and “hangar fly” at the airport already, talking around the coffee table in the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) or flight school. Why not be productive and help someone during that time too? Simply by doing what you’re already doing- talking about flying!
- Helping a student pilot learn means that you’ll be renewing your own aeronautical knowledge base. It is incredible how much ‘disuse’ wears away our knowledge. Helping a student learns will help you keep your knowledge current and make you a better, more knowledgeable pilot!
- You get to share your passion!
So being a mentor will make you a better, more involved pilot, where is the downside in that? You’re absolutely right, there isn’t one! You get a chance to share the passion you have for flying and you get to help another individual that shares that passion.
Maybe you want to be a flight instructor some day, being a mentor can help prepare you for being a teacher. Maybe you are looking for a new challenge, helping someone else learn is a great opportunity! There are a lot of reasons to be a mentor, but the biggest is that you’re ‘paying it forward’ and helping general aviation by making sure that the student you mentor continues their training and earns their license. We need more pilots and we can all do a better job at keeping general aviation healthy and thriving!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9