11 proven study techniques to become a better pilot

  • Flying meat. Flight training involves learning new motor skills. You would do much better in the air if you learn those skills in a relaxed and safe environment, while on the ground. Airline pilots spend hours practicing procedures in a “procedure trainer” (a non-functional mock-up of the cockpit) before entering an expensive Level D flight simulator or the actual airplane. That way, they already know what to do. “Flying in a chair” is simply the act of pretending to fly the plane while sitting in a relaxed atmosphere. You can practice chair flight on a procedure trainer, in front of a cockpit poster, on a parking plane, or on the couch at home. Any of those places works. Be sure to practice all the procedures on your normal, abnormal, and emergency checklists. Bring your hands to the approximate position of each switch, lever, or knob required for the procedure to develop “muscle memory.”
  • Flash cards. Learning the many details for training can be a great challenge. System descriptions, aircraft limitations, regulations, SOPs, memory items are required to be retained in your memory and immediately put to use when time requires. You can make flashcards to help you remember these items. Purchase a pack of tokens at any office supply store. On one side of a card write a question like: “What is the maximum takeoff weight?”; on the other side write the answer: “Normal Cat. 2550 lbs. Utility Cat. 2200 lbs.” (for a c-172S). Create as many cards as you need to cover all topics, including: regulations, system descriptions, memory items, and aircraft limitations. Once you have a large pile of cards, start using them. Read a question and try to answer it, then turn the card over to see if your answer was correct. Put aside all the cards that you answered correctly and keep reading the ones that were wrong, until you answer them all correctly.
  • Learn the “cabin songs” of your plane. Sometimes you may be familiar with a procedure but still have a difficult time performing it at a steady pace while flying. The reason is that your thoughts on “what to do next” are holding you back. Practice the procedures verbally, so that when you perform them later in the air, you don’t stumble. For example, recovering from a low nose attitude would be “reduce power, level wings, launch slowly up.” By practicing this procedure verbally while “chair flying”, you could easily recall it when needed on a checkride or, better yet, in an unusual real attitude encountered in flight. You can perform any procedure and create a verbal action list this way.
  • Analyze “what if” scenarios. A very important (if not the most important) characteristic of confident pilots is the ability to make wise and timely decisions. Fortunately, this trait could be practiced and improved. Before, during and after each flight, consider “what-if scenarios.” WHAT HAPPENS IF the weather moves over my destination while I am en route? Where would I deviate to? Would I have enough fuel to go there? OR WHAT IF I have an engine failure on the takeoff run? What IF it happens immediately after takeoff? What should I do? You understand drift.
  • Take advantage of group study. Studying with other people can improve your understanding of the material and help you gain new knowledge.
  • Highlight essential ideas in textbooks with a marker as you read them.
  • Use mnemonics and acronyms to aid memory retention. “Black square, you are there!” John and Martha King repeat, referring to the airport location signs. Although mnemonics often sound ridiculous, they can be very effective in helping you remember things better.
  • Display. Mental rehearsal helps us improve our skills and correct mistakes. Visualize each maneuver on the ground before your flying lessons. This is a technique used by many professional athletes to improve their game. You can use it to improve your flying skills.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Study the practical test requirements for your qualification or certificate level. After all, you should know what is expected of you at the checkride so that you will not be surprised.
  • Use a PC or PCATD based flight simulator. Despite its many limitations, PC simulators give you free practice time. Although it cannot replace actual practice time, it is still very valuable.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *