4P's in Flight Training
Want to solo quickly? Stuck in mid-training? or simply like to progress faster in your flying training? Although currently working as an airline pilot, I am an experienced flight instructor and have trained students from around the world. Use my 4P strategy to excel and ace your flight training today!
Plan Prepare Practice Perceive
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
When it comes to flying, be it as a professional pilot or a pilot-in-training, planning is key. The training environment is dynamic, and cancellations will happen, for various reasons (weather, aircraft unavailability, airspace restrictions etc.). Discuss with your instructor and have a plan for your training course and flight lessons. Once a plan is set, stick to it as much as possible. Always keep a copy of the plan with you and use it for your preparation. As much as possible try not to skip any lessons especially in the pre-solo phase.
Not only planning for future training but planning for your upcoming flight lesson is just as important. Read my next article on what to do an hour before your scheduled flight lesson.
Preparation begins at home. After looking at your plan, read through your reference books for the particular maneuvers you will be practicing next. Message me if you like to know my favorite books. Look for videos of the planned maneuvers on the internet.
Chair flying is to practice mentally the entire flight sitting at home on a chair, eyes closed, and imagining being in the plane. Hold your hand in the front, as if holding the yoke, feet ahead as if on the rudder, and so on. Mentally imagine yourself in the airplane and review/revise all the procedures from start to shut-down.
Computer Based Training Devices
Several PC based training devices and simulators are now easily available in the market. Although they won’t teach you to fly, you can use these to polish your SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)
Radio Telephony Procedures
One common area where new students struggle is in communication procedures. One way to master it is to just listen to the talk on the frequency. Several websites on the internet now provide Live ATC frequency feed. Listen to it in your free time. Write the clearance you hear, and wait for the readback, check if you got it right. Practice replying to yourself to the same clearance. One method I used to practice as a student was to have a friend who is also a flight student, on call and talk over headphones. Practice giving and receiving clearances to each other. You can use a written script to start with.
One of the most important aspects of flight training is Pre-Flight Briefing. Arrive early for your flight lesson so you can (plan, prepare and then) get a thorough pre-flight briefing from your instructor. Pre-flight briefing consists a review of maneuvers, procedures to be practiced in that particular lesson. These briefings will make a considerable difference in your performance in the air.
Eat right and Sleep Well
Research has shown lack of sleep is similar to being under the influence of alcohol. Sleep deprivation will have consequences like slower reaction time, impaired concentration, poor decision making, difficulty in depth perception and many more. These will not only hamper your training but can be counted as hazards in flying. Be appropriately rested before your flight. Try and get about 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your flight.
Eating right helps in staying attentive and focused. There is no measurement as to how much is right but don’t overstuff yourself before flight. Overstuffing will leave you with a lethargic feeling, while on the flip side being hungry will not be useful in retaining attention span.
Practice makes us perfect. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. That doesn’t mean doing 20 touch and goes in one lesson. (Rather during initial training, a full stop landing is preferred to practicing touch and go.) In Pre-Solo Phase try to fly almost every day. Approximately an hour in the air is a good start.
Some people refer to flying as an art, some call it a skill. But the fact is every individual is unique when it comes to learning be it art or skill. Someone may take longer to master it, while it may be an easy process for a few. Regardless of your progress, I recommend not to compare it with others. But what you can do, is be sincere in your approach. Sincere in terms of being Prepared for lessons, being receptive of critique, following your plan, etc.
Sincerity is the face of a professional pilot.
One of the manoeuvres to acquire skill as a student pilot is a go-around. A go-around is an aborted landing. Think of every landing as a go-around. At the slightest doubt about your approach, perform a go around. Never be embarrassed about a go-around. Better be safe flying rather than be planted into the runway! However, be proficient in handling go-arounds. Practice with your instructor till you are confident in transitioning from an approach to the go around phase.
Keep Calm and Fly safe
If you have seen toddlers learning to walk or even trying to stand on their feet, you might have noticed how they keep losing their balance. But after few weeks and months, they are running and jumping in every direction possible! Our brain is programmed to be on ‘land’ in a two-dimensional space. Unlike birds, we are not born to maneuver in the third dimension of being in the air. During initial training, when you start moving in a three-dimensional space, new sensations are felt by your brain. And you lose balance! All it takes is getting used to it, just like the example of the kid. So, stay calm.
Anxiety leads to tensed muscles. And tensed muscles are of no help. Staying relaxed keeps your focus on the desired task. One way to tackle stress or anxiousness is to move your toes in your shoes. You can also try to clench your fist and then open your fingers wide.
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
Never hesitate to ask. Always raise your doubts, ask questions. Speak to your instructor and get them all resolved. Clearing your doubts will change your perception and give you further insight of the lesson. It will constructively build your confidence.
Similar to pre-brief, a Post-flight Debrief is equally important. Debriefs include a recap of the conducted flight lesson consisting of the areas that need improvement and the areas that have progressed well. It will also include what is coming up in the next lesson. Make notes during the debrief and use them in preparation for the next lesson.
Video Record Your Flights
I understand flight training in itself is expensive, but if you can, invest in an action camera and video record your flight. Review the video after your flight in the comfort of your home. Once again make notes and discuss with your instructor if you need further assistance in any particular area.
Observational learning in humans begins at a very early age. Children of up to 21 days old have shown to imitate facial expressions. Humans have mastered the art of observing and then replicating the actions. If you can arrange with another student, speak to his/her instructor and back seat on their training flight. Sitting back and observing will definitely improve your performance. A word of guidance here is to be an active observer, i.e. making notes, understanding the what, why and how of the procedure.
The Bonus ‘P’
Following these 4Ps will give you the fifth P which stands for “PROGRESS”. Be Prepared and stick to your plan. Practice what you planned, then perceive what you practiced! Good luck!