student pilot benchmark: “you can feel it.”

“HOW DID IT GO?” my wife asked as I dropped my logbook on the dresser in the bedroom.

“Okay, I guess,” I said on my way to preflight the liquor cabinet in the dining room.

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic,” she said as she followed me into the dining room. My wife can be very perceptive.

“It was okay,” I said, draining some of the liquid from one of the containers to check for contaminates and octane rating. It was 80 proof.

“What does your instructor say?” she asked.

“He says I do okay. But I bet he says that to all the students,” I added with a smile.

“You don’t know yourself how you did?” she asked.

“No, I really don’t. I can’t tell how I’m doing. What’s for dinner?”

My buddy Tom Benenson penned those words for Flying magazine way back in July, 1974. Yes, that was long ago. But read Tom’s marvelous column, “Bench Mark,” and you’ll recognize that you, me, and all pilots-in-training have faced the same challenges since the birth of flight.

10 thoughts on “student pilot benchmark: “you can feel it.”

  1. I love this! I wish I would have had his perspective a few months back when I was near my checkride but not done yet. It is really difficult not to compare yourself to others when you learn how to fly. It is easy to get very discouraged.

    1. Me too, Jeanne! I am thrilled that Tom has allowed me to share it with a new generation of pilots. Thanks!

  2. I can swear that this is exactly the same conversation I had many times with my wife and friends…….. seems that we, student pilots, need some type of assurance that we are doing fine and right track of progress, it’s hard to judge yourself and most of the time I’m getting though on myself, excepting more , which at the end, turns to frustration.

    I’m learning how to learn flying and not get frustrated with it.

    Great posting.

  3. Too true. There’s always a lot of doubt and a feeling of not being sure at any stage – even after you have solo-ed a few times and have flown the plane and landed it safely. But there’s still that nagging thought… did I stuff up somewhere? I don’t know; maybe it’s the overload of material and new information that must be processed for each flight. Flying is a daunting exercise especially to newbies. I guess it will get easier with time and experience.

  4. Wow… what a timely find. This is JUST what I needed to hear. I have been struggling with steep turns and feeling like all my instructor has been doing is yelling at me… I am headed to Florida to finish my Sport Pilot Certificate and reading this has given me encouragement not to give up.

    Thanks Greg.

    1. Dear Gene, You have made my day! I will pass your kind words along to Tom Benenson, who wrote that marvelous article. Have you read my “steep turns” post? If not, you might find it helpful. Keep us posted on your flying progress!

      1. Greg,

        Yes I have. I followed a link from there to here. I believe you are right on the money as #4 is where I think I am losing it at. I am fine rolling in, but seem to lose the site picture and I also think I am pulling back too much on the stick trying to correct… trying to hurry the turn to get it over with. It’s funny that early on these were fun.. now I struggle. But I will not give up. I am 55 and have wanted to be a pilot since I was 6yo. Just need to stay the course and get over this hurdle.

        Thanks again,


  5. Greg,

    Just wanted to let you know that I passed my Sport Pilot Check Ride on Tues. 10/12/2010. Using the tips for the steep turns really made a difference as the DPE commented on how perfect my steep turns were. I really could feel every thing the airplane was doing… it was like we became one. Slow turning climbing stalls… while I had never performed them with an instructor I knew when the Remos hit that part and I just reacted.. back to straight and level.

    I just want you to know how much I appreciate your blog and how much you give back to the aviation community.

    Gene Mohr
    Sport Pilot
    Temporary Airmens Certificate 10/12/2010

    1. Congratulations, Gene! Please consider posting a photo of the big day on my public Facebook page. I deeply appreciate your gracious comments. Helping means a lot to me. What lucky person gets (got) the first ride under your command?!

      1. Greg, the only one I would consider.. my wonderful bride…
        She encouraged me to finally go after my dream.


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