A close friend of mine likes to say that one of the best values of a weekly flight lesson is the memory of the flight and the smile that it brings along. That friends is fellow ReviewBeforeFlight author Jim Quinn, who I had the pleasure of teaching many ground school courses with over the years. The theory is that if you fly on a Saturday or Sunday, you get to spend the coming week reliving that memory, with the classic post-flight smile as you recount the experience in your mind. Then when the end of the week rolls around you’re more than ready to go flying again!
Enjoying the week-long smile and memory isn’t the only thing that you can do. In fact you can maximize the training progress of your upcoming flight lesson with 3 easy steps.
1. Before you leave the airport following any flight lesson ensure you speak with your flight instructor about the plan for the next lesson. This should include a rough idea of the topics that will be discussed, the maneuvers to be flown and the objectives of the lesson. Plus, is there anything that you should review, read or do specifically to prepare for the flight lesson.
The most simple form of preparation for your upcoming flight lesson is reading an aviation text’s content on the topic of the next lesson. Regardless of the publisher, there are a great variety of private pilot text books that cover all of the pertinent information. With modern technology, reading is only a portion of the pre-lesson preparation. So much content is also available online beyond text. A simple online search can produce videos of maneuver demonstrations which will put you in the cockpit to see what to expect. The value here is that you’ll see the maneuver for the first time without having to pay for Hobbs time it takes to complete the demonstration. Additionally, you have the opportunity to learn about the common errors associated with a maneuver and of course, how to not fall prey to these potential errors.
Video content can be a great introduction of what to expect on your upcoming lesson. As an example, if steep turns are on the lesson plan for your next flight and you’ve never completed one previously, a simple internet search will yield countless video demonstrations by actual certified flight instructors. This is an invaluable resource, you’ll be able to see more than what you could on a flight lesson too. Often, you’ll be able to find videos with footage from multiple vantage points, with a narrator (instructor) who is able to seamlessly guide you through the experience. This can include what things should look like inside and outside the aircraft. Sure your instructor will still demonstrate the maneuver, but following that initial demonstration in the aircraft you’ll be better positioned to pick up the maneuver than if you did not watch the video demonstrations in advance. Think about the power of having all of the information, and knowing what the maneuver should look like before you go and do it… As MasterCard would say, “Priceless!”
2. Dedicate one hour over the course of the week, or however long you have between flight lessons to actually do the research on the items you discussed with your flight instructor. Knowing what you’re going to do is only the first step, seeking out the details of the subject will take you so much further ahead than you’ll realize. Rather than having to absorb the topic on your next lesson and have to develop the ability to perform the maneuver, if you’ve done the reading and learned about the common errors and certification standards you’ll be in a better position to receive the instruction and become proficient at a quicker rate.
This goes beyond watching the videos from item #1 and requires you to dig a little deeper. This is where you can travel through the levels of learning. Flight instructors learn the four levels of learning as part of the Fundamental of Instructing (FOI), these include Rote, Understanding, Application and Correlation. In a nutshell, rote is memorizing, understanding is knowing when something is happening, application is doing something and correlation is using the information and trends in action to make better decisions. Correlation is the highest level of learning and it requires a deep knowledge. For the steep turn maneuver this means knowing more about aerodynamics. Why is that at 60-degrees of bank an aircraft experiences 2G’s? The ability to understand the science of what is happening to the airplane each time you as a pilot makes a control input takes some time to learn. But, putting in this time will make you a better pilot because you’ll fully understand why something happens when it does… You’ll be able to use the correlation level of learning to improve your flying and maximize each of your flight lessons by borrowing concepts from one area and applying them to another to improve your proficiency.
3. Develop at least two or three questions you have about the subject, whether it is a maneuver like a steep turn or a concept such as use of the plotter. Bringing questions to the lesson will help ensure that you are getting as much knowledge as possible from your instructor. As a CFI, if a student doesn’t have questions I always dug and dug to ensure the topic was fully understood, almost never is there a complete understanding of a topic early on in training and it’s okay to ask questions. Sometimes instructors gloss over items or explain a topic in a way that causes some confusion, the use of questions will ensure you fully understand and master the topic.
Your flight instructor will not think you are questioning their knowledge or abilities if you ask questions. A thorough question and answer session often leads to more learning with more information sharing. Often times a good question can lead an instructor to provide a citation in a publication or text with additional detail on a subject, opening the door to more available information. Hey, don’t forget, flight instructors are people too, sometimes we miss things, asking questions also provides an opportunity for us to ensure we didn’t miss any pieces of the puzzle we’re presenting you…
So remember, enjoy the time between your flight lessons with the memories or the flight and the smile that goes with them. But make sure you know what you’re doing next time and do the leg work to learn as much as possible on the topic before your next lesson, then ask questions to enhance the training session!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9