I just finished reading Rod Machado’s “licence to Learn” column in AOPA Pilot about the ‘Frequent Quitters Club’. Having had some interesting experiences in my own flight training, I tend to agree with Mr. Machado.
Flight instruction is a noble profession but for better or worse, it is most likely going to be a first aviation job for most working pilots who are not going to be instructing long term. What this may mean for a newcomer is an instructor that is under 25, has less than 500 flight hours, and is looking to build time so they can go and get a “real” flying job. This certainly doesn’t describe all instructors, but it does describe more than we would like to admit.
All of the “how to get started” literature makes a point of telling perspective pilots to take the time and look for a good student/teacher match before getting started on the meat of flight training, but it seems as though many ether don’t try, or don’t really know what to look for.
Here are a few recommendations for the perspective flight training student.
First off, make sure you have a good feeling about the school and instructor. Trust you instincts. As a pilot you have to learn to trust your instincts. I’m not suggesting that your instincts are the be-all-end-all but it is often the gut feeling that something is wrong that causes you to analyze your situation and re-evaluate it, leading to the discovery that something needs correction. If something feels wrong about the school or instructor move on and keep looking.
Next is punctuality and courtesy. They are important on both sides of the relationship, both student and instructor must respect each others time and schedules. If an instructor is habitually late, or flakes on appointments, call them on it and if it doesn’t stop, find an instructor who respects you.
Another thing you should understand is that there is hard work involved, there will be times when you get frustrated, there will be times when you hit a plateau of learning, these are all part of the learning process and in the long run you will look back and remember how much fun it all is. There is no free lunch as it were, anything worth doing requires effort on your part.
The best way to gain some perspective when you are not sure about something, or something doesn’t feel right, find an aviation mentor and ask them questions, get that second opinion.