Greg’s Student Pilot Pep Talk!

The most rewarding activities in life are often challenging to master, and that certainly includes piloting. No wonder student pilots sometimes wonder if they should quit.

The good news is that although learning to fly is difficult, it can and will be mastered by virtually everyone who sticks with it. Are you the only one having a tough time mastering flight? No! These learning challenges affect literally everyone who pursues flight.

Rather than write a pep talk of my own, I thought you might be encouraged by hearing from some other formerly-frustrated flight students who overcame challenges of their own to fly, and are now enjoying the benefits. Is it worth the hassle and trauma to become a pilot? Read the following exchanges from others in your shoes, and then you be the judge. ©2009 Gregory N. Brown.

See also my Learning Plateau post, and

JOIN MY “STUDENT PILOT PEP TALK” FACEBOOK GROUP

From Jeanne Peterson of Minnesota:

Greg,

There are days when I feel discouraged and think about quitting because some things seem so hard to learn.  I am taking instruction at a private flight school, and I think that I miss out on the time that students spend talking to each other about their flight experiences and challenges when they take their classes at the college and then come to to the flight school for their flight training.  I have a couple of friends who are pilots but don’t understand the amount of time and training I’m putting in.  One doesn’t like to fly above 700 ft or land at towered airports because its too complicated.  I have a hard time relating to that type of flying when I’m trying to learn things the right way. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments.

Thanks, Jeanne Peterson

To encourage Jeanne, I forwarded her the following email from Linda Anderson of Iowa:

Our SkyhawkDear [Jeanne],

I’m a new private pilot (at 60 years of age) and never dreamed flying would woo me the way it does! The sky! That bluebird color of invitation, that open door to adventure, that place welcoming those who soar, who sail across the expanse and touch the edge of earth! The glorious, endless, ever-changing sky! How I love it!

My husband was a student pilot when we met and married well over 30 years ago. But purchasing a farm and 5 children kept him grounded for about 28 years. Then when he decided 2 years ago to renew his passion and start flying again, I simply had to join him in his adventure – I wasn’t going to be left on the ground when a whole sky full of opportunities awaits! My first lesson was one of those crazy things that takes place and you walk away and say, “Oh, yeah! That’s what it’s all about!”

I loved my flight training though the challenges I faced working full-time and trying to help my aging and ailing parents all too often kept me on the ground. But it also provided the stress relief I so needed. Lifting myself up out of the difficulties through flight and my faith certainly gives me a sweeter, purer, more focused view of life.

We purchased a Cessna 172 in June and have had so many wonderful adventures and met so many neat folks! Every pilot has a story to tell and most are willing to share their experiences! It’s great to be able to glean bits of advice and learn from other pilots. We love those weekend informal pilot forums at some of the airports we’ve flown to. Usually we just happen upon an impromptu group and join in, always welcomed. What a neat sense of a wide and diverse community! Yes, romance and adventure do indeed draw me into the skies!

Linda Anderson

What happened next shows why it is so important to build your own support network of fellow pilots and students:

Dear Greg,
I recently emailed you wondering if 48 was too late to learn to fly.  At that time you forwarded me an email from Linda Anderson of Winterset.  I just wanted to thank you for that email.  It was such an encouragement to me.  I emailed her about her flying experiences and we have become friends.  Whenever I’m discouraged, she encourages.  We share more than our flying experiences but that is so important to be able to talk to someone about flying.

Linda and I have never met but are making plans for this summer.  I live in central MN and she lives in central IA.  Since I first emailed you I have almost 40 hours in my logbook in a Cessna 152.  It has been a difficult winter to get flying time in especially with the bitter cold weather we have had in January in MN.  I haven’t soloed yet but if all the stars align, the temperatures rise and the winds die down, my lesson tomorrow morning could be the one.  If it is I will be so excited, if not I know it will be soon.  At times I have been discouraged thinking it is taking me so long to be able to solo but then when I put it in the perspective that 40 hours is ONLY one week worth of work then it is truly amazing what I have accomplished so far.  If someone would have put me in a plane on a Monday morning and told me that after five days of work, maybe by Friday evening I could fly that plane all by myself,  I’m not so sure I would have believed them.  CFI’s are so amazing and patient.

Since I first emailed you I have since turned 49 this past week.  I am still on track with my original goal of completing my certificate before I turn 50 in January of 2010.  Its a goal that I know see as obtainable through the encouragement from you, Linda and other pilots who are constantly asking me how my flying is going.

Thanks again, Jeanne

I also asked my pilot friends, Phil, Chevy, and Mark, to share with Jeanne their wisdom and encouragement as older pilots who have recently completed the process of learning to fly. I asked them to include whether and why they feel it was worth the challenges to become pilots, and to include photos of “life after becoming a pilot.”

Chevy’s pep talk:

CHEVY.1ST.LSSN.1Dear Jeanne:

I hope that the three of us can be of some encouragement to you.  You are to be commended for this endeavor, and I’m betting you’re becoming an excellent, wise, and SAFE pilot!  And yes, it can get discouraging.  I had a heck of a time figuring out the “round out.”  Finally, my instructor said, “Chevy,” what do you see when you look at the cowling?  I said, “I’ve never really seen the cowling!” (I’m 5. 6″) I was sitting on a pillow, but apparently it was about one inch too thin.  That day we added a second cushion, and my round out problem went away for good.  But it sure was frustrating! I think it’s especially so when, like you, I’ve “been there, done that” in a lot of ways, and I just couldn’t GET IT.  But I did, and you will too.  SO glad you’ve taken up this challenge!

For context, here’s my story:  About a month before I retired from the Air Force, I joined the flying club at my base, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.  At the time I was 54 and change. I started ground school and flight training in August 2004.  I finished ground school eight weeks later, and rather than follow the conventional wisdom “Take your FAA Knowledge Exam ASAP,” I decided to wait.  I had done very well in my ground school written stage checks, but I just didn’t feel I KNEW the material.  So, I took another six months to study and well, I was the only member of my ground school glass to ACE the test. I kind of felt the same way about taking the practical test, too.  So, I trained for 16 months, accumulating about 100 hours before I took that test, and, again, did well.  Since then, I’ve found a flying partner (my former flight instructor, who’s 83, an active CFI at our club, who has over 5000 hours (many of it as a career Air Force pilot, the rest as as CFI), and who skis 20 weekends a year), and we take short cross countries.  From these experiences, I’ve learned a little about instrument flying, including GPS, too.  I fly once or twice a month, and that’s wonderful for me and my schedule.  I continue to read voraciously (I still take AOPA Flight Training) and I photocopy articles that cover “weak spots” I need to focus on.  Then the next time I have an opportunity to fly (solo or with my flying buddy), I’ll pick an issue or two to focus on, and apply it.  Last week I focused on what to do if my seat slips back on the rails during takeoff (answer:  pull back on the throttle, not the yoke!).

I hope these comments are helpful.  Please feel free to contact me anytime, Jeanne.  Best wishes and happy flying! Gray hair (or no hair, guys) rules! :}  PS: I’ve attached a photo after my first lesson in August 04.  The aircraft is a T-41 C, the Air Force’s souped up version of the Cessna 172.  (210 hp; fuel injection). Great when your field elevation is 6200 feet! :}

Carl “Chevy” Chevallard, PhD, LtCol(USAF, Ret), Colorado Springs, CO

Phil’s pep talk:

100_3320Dear Jeanne,

Greg asked me to share some of my thoughts and experiences about flying.  There is so much to tell that I don’t know where to begin.  I will say that learning to fly and getting my pilot’s license is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.  (Next to getting married, of course, in case my wife is reading this).  I earned my license at the age of 57.  Now I am 59 and am determined to earn my instrument ticket before I turn 60.  I’m currently taking IFR lessons from Warren Crain at Pigs Can Fly in San Luis Obispo, Ca.  I mention his name because Greg probably knows Warren.

I went thru three instructors before I earned my license.  The first had a bad temper, the second, who was only 19 years old at the time, went to work for an airline before I finished up, and the third finally got me to the finish line.

Like everyone else I had a problem with the flare, but Greg Brown was kind enough to give me some pointers that really helped.  Plus he hooked me up with Chevy who had recently got his license. Hi Chevy.

PhilFerdolageCloudsPic100_3385I fly mostly to Sacramento Executive and to John Wayne to visit kids and grandkids.  There’s nothing like flying.  Keep your eye on your goal and don’t get discouraged if you have a little setback.  You will feel so proud the day you get your license.

I’ve attached a few photos you might enjoy.  One is of beautiful clouds that I flew around on my way back from SAC.  The other is of two “young eagles” that I took up one day last summer.  They loved it.

Phil Ferdolage, California

Mark’s pep talk:

Image[13]Hi Jeanne,

My name is Mark Harris. Greg Brown asked me to drop you a note regarding my experience in learning to fly. I just turned 47 a couple of weeks ago and have had my private pilot’s certificate since the end of March of 2008. So I’m a relatively new pilot with about 160 hours under my belt. I’ve always wanted to learn to fly, ever since I was a kid, but waited until my kids were older and I had little more discretionary funds to learn. As soon as I received my certificate I bought a 1/2 share in an older 182 (pictured below on a trip I took to Tucson, AZ).

Image[14]During my primary training I caught on quickly to most things in flying. The one area that dogged me was my landings. For some reason I just couldn’t get it. And my CFI wouldn’t let me solo until I could land consistently. Go figure…

I read every article, read books, and listened to every podcast I could get my hands on that I thought might help me master my landings. I even contacted Greg with my concerns via email which is how we originally met. While I was extremely frustrated I knew intellectually that I would get over this hump, but that didn’t’ make my frustration any more palatable.

My CFI was smart enough to recognize my issue and changed the focus of our training to include an earlier-than-planned cross country flight along with other maneuvers to take my mind off the trouble I was having. After a while, the landings started clicking, slowly at first but getting noticeably more consistent. I was actually landing on the centerline of the runway now.

It got to the point where I was feeling confident about my landings and I was “willing” my CFI to jump out of the plane so I could solo. One day he did! And I felt more confident with him out of the plane than I did with him in it. I did my 3 landings without incident and he took my T-shirt and wrote all over it and hung it up in the training room. He took my picture next to the plane (below). That was Halloween day of 2007.

It was all worth it. I use my plane for work almost weekly and fly all over the state of Arizona and recently made a flight into John Wayne Airport (SNA) in the LA basin area.

I know that you will do great, just keep heading towards the ticket. You’ll be glad you did. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.

Regards,

Mark Harris, Arizona

Jeanne responds:

Hey everyone,

You all are so awesome with your suggestions and encouragement that this morning at my lesson I aced every landing, and when it was all said and done my instructor told me that I would have passed my check ride with flying colors on all the areas we spent time on this morning.  At the end of my lesson he endorsed my logbook for soloing and told me to schedule a lesson that meets the standards of our flight school for weather, our weather was deteriorating this morning, take him up for 3 landings and I’m good to go.  Yeah!! Finally!  He said, “You finally figured it out!”  I told him I cut back on my caffeine this morning and that I had lot of great advice for landings in the past 2 weeks from some very special friends.  Thanks everyone!  Jeanne

Jeanne’s big day!

March 2, 2009 052Greg,

Well, I finally did it this morning.   Eight months since I started lessons and 40 + hours in the plane but I did it.  It was another cold morning in Upsala and at the airport as well.

The metar for this morning when I flew was 120@ 6kts 10SM CLR M14/M21 and by the time I finished soloing it had warmed up slightly.  to 150@ 11kts 10SM CLR M11/M18.  Overall it was a beautiful sunny morning.

When I got to the airport this morning I started my preflight, had 4872B fueled up and then realized that the front strut was collapsed and had to have some nitrogen added before I could take it up.  It is due for its 100 hour next weekand they are going to replace some seals.  Nick was giving me a hard time because when he got out to the plane for us to leave I had the engine cover off so they could put in the nitrogen.  He joked that I was being a little thorough this morning.

Nick and I went up and I did three landing for him and then the next when I came down too hard but he said he would count that towards my five.  I told him he was being generous.  The next landing went good even though the winds had started to pick up.  After that landing we did a full-stop and he asked me if I was ready to solo.  I said I was kicking him out that I had waited long enough.

I taxied to the run-up for 13 and then to the hold short line and called the tower for take off.  I got to hold short for three landings before I could take off.  Off I went for my first solo take off and it was so much fun.  I turned left downwind and did my flowcheck on downwind, turned left base, turned final and came in to land and realized that I didn’t like how I was set up to land, too high and off center so I called the tower for a go-around.  I applied full power, put the carb heat to cold, and realized something didn’t feel right then I noticed the flaps were still down.  So I brought them up and around I went.  Then next 3 landings went good and then I taxied to the ramp and did the shut down and put the blanket on and the chocks.  Nick met me at the plane and took the attached picture.  It’s not the best picture of me but I don’t care-I soloed…finally.

Nick told me when he heard me call for the go-around..I wonder if she’ll come down now that she’s finally up there.  Its been an ongoing joke, that the reason I couldn’t land the plane, my husband said was that I didn’t want to come down.

March 2, 2009 050

I can hardly wait until I have my first solo cross-country.  I loved the quiet time in the cockpit today as I waited to be cleared for take-off just listening to the tower and other pilots in the pattern.  I reflected how much I have learned in the past 8 months.  Maybe if I had known ahead of time how much there was to learn I might not have taken on the challenge but that first trip up had me hooked and I will never look up again without longing to be there.

Thanks again, Jeanne

PS: Attached also is a picture from Winterset, IA of Linda Anderson and I when we met last weekend for the first time since you introduced us through e-mails.


114 Responses to “Greg’s Student Pilot Pep Talk!”

  1. Hi Greg,
    I enjoyed reading the new blog. I have soloed 4 times so far but got a bit discouraged after a bad progress cheeck at my school. Subsequent flights I worked hard on my coming in too high and fast on landings and hope to be cleared soon to leave the pattern and head to the practice areas on my own.
    While I am 51 and noticed that there seemed to be a number of older folks writing in the blog, I was thinking maybe you should some more younger students….
    All in all, your request for me to review the blog came at an opportune time in my own training! I’m ready to get back up there! It’s been a little over 2 weeks because of poor weather here in the Long Islan, NY area. Last night a friend came over and we quizzed each other for a few hours on the written questions – Now THAT was discouraging! So much work…. So little time!

    • paperjet Says:

      Thank you, David. Glad to hear you’re getting back into the air! Are you flying at Nassau Flyers? One of the former owners is a good friend of mine. BTW, you may be interested in reading my “Make Better Landings” post. Keep us posted on your progress! Greg

  2. Linda Anderson Says:

    Thanks for sharing this blog and I hope others will be encouraged by the experiences of other pilots, young and older, student and private pilots. Glen and I have so enjoyed our 2 years flying together in our 172. We especially like the longer cross country – the planning, plotting, more planning, getting the weather reports, etc. – it’s all part of the adventure. We share the left seat – one will fly half the flight, then we switch for the last half. It’s so good and we keep each other on course – and remind each other to watch our altitude, airspeed, flight path, and share the radio work.

    I can’t stress enough how much enjoyment we get from flying and we are so blessed to live in a country where general aviation is so available. Thanks, Greg, for all your encouragement!

  3. Linda Anderson Says:

    One more thing, connecting with other pilots is part of the joy of flying – it’s a great group of folks. I want to be sure to say a big thank you to Greg for introducing me to Jeanne Peterson – it’s been such a treat to get to know her and to watch her progress. She’s doing great and it’s been a rich experience to be able to cheer her on in her training! She’s nearly accomplished that goal; she’s close to seeing her dream come true, and almost ready for the check ride! I can’t wait for that phone call from her that announces her success!

  4. Hi Greg, I’ve enjoyed reading your peptalk for discouraged students. As I read David Rosenthal’s comments it put me back exactly that moment in time where he is. I thought that I would never get out of the pattern out on my own. I started lessons in June of 2008 and since then I have accumulated 299 take offs and landings. I don’t know if that’s some kind of record or not but I thought my landings would never be right. Some of the best advice was the “Make Better Landings” post that you referred me to as well. Also was all the advice on landings that I got from your friends in the blog. A stabilized approach is the best and knowing how to trim the plane. I have been patiently waiting for the opportunity for my first solo crosscountry. It has been weathered out twice and I am scheduled to try it again on Tuesday, so I can relate to the not so great weather in the Long Island, NY area.
    As for his comments on the written test questions-Some of the best practice I got before I took my written was to go on line to one of the many sites that has FAA practice test questions on line and do a test each evening. I used the American Flyers website for their practice tests. It would take me about 45 minutes to complete the practice test and it would help me to know what areas I was weak in.
    I really appreciate all the pilots out there who are willing to share what has worked for them to help those of us pursuing our certificate.
    Thanks again for your support of and committment to aviation.

    • Sorry, nope, if that’s a record, then we’re tied. Right now, I’ve also got 299 landings logged, 2 of which were night. Just shy of 77 hours in 49 flights. With 6 different instructors, though one was for the intro ride and another just filled in once, so 4 primary instructors. And I haven’t soloed yet. Most everything else is well within PTS standards (steep turns aren’t always).

      I’d say that the first 3 of those primary instructors were the type who think that their job is done as soon as they’ve talked you through one landing and the rest is sitting back and watching you desperately try to make consistent landings. Didn’t do anything but eat hours and tons of my money. Latest guy is better, but we still haven’t found whatever it is that is keeping the flare from being consistently good without ballooning or dropping in too fast (at least not on the nose in the last 60 or so landings).

      I’ve seriously thought about quitting – not because I don’t think I’d eventually get it but because there’s only so much money. At a couple hundred bucks an hour with plane (steam gauge 172), instructor, and “ground” time, it gets expensive REALLY fast. I’m not rich, and this is already far above what I had planned on spending and with no end in sight, you wonder if it is worth it (especially since this is never going to be a career, never going to be used for business, and is strictly for FUN – and family simply won’t get into a small plane… EVER).

      • Thanks for commenting, Jeff. Have you read my landing tips post? Ballooning and dropping in are both symptoms of being off airspeed. Are you TRIMMING for the proper airspeed on final? I do hope you see this through – when finished you will never regret the accomplishment. Keep us posted, and above all, keep kickin’!

      • Yes, and yes. Last instructor like to wait until short final to kick in the last flaps which really destabilized everything. Latest is more methodical, get everything stable right after turning to final. I’ll be trimmed out and hands off at 62-64 or so all the way down final. Often tends to decay a bit on short final and I’ll have to nose it down a bit and then add some power – which I usually try to do with a little nose down trim.

        Supposedly, I tend to be somewhat jerky on the yoke as opposed to smooth and also tend to be reactionary – quick, perhaps, but reactionary. At the top of a balloon, we’ll start to sink, and then I’ll react and pull back.

        The frustration is plateau… ok, maybe 5 or 10 hours. Not 60. And NO instructor so far has wanted to go do something else other than patterns and the practice area for regular maneuvers. Current one finally decided we’ll go 40 miles to another airport to fly along the runway and not land. Closest thing to a diversion in nearly a year. We’ll see how it goes.

        • Your current CFI sounds right on, Jeff. Keep us posted!

        • We did low passes over a long runway on Sunday and I think it helped. For one thing, I was tending to “step down” the roundout and then yanking up right over the runway to stop the final sink (which of course would tend to cause a balloon). And although I was looking about the right distance ahead (about as far as you’d look driving a car), I was concentrating more on determining absolute height via the centerline and runway features rather than sink/climb by paying attention to the runway edges. Landings improved in consistency and I may be soloing sometime soon – maybe. [edited for length. G]

  5. Thanks Jeannne!
    After I made the ‘discouraged’ post above, I had a couple of great lessons and along with encouraging posts like yours I am psyched – thatnks!

  6. Glad to hear you had some great lessons they make the tough ones easier to handle. I hope that you get out to the practice area on your own soon if you haven’t already. My first trip out was great but strange too. I kept expecting my CFI to say something when I knew I hadn’t done a maneuver the way it should be but then I’d look over and no CFI in the plane but I’d make the correction I knew I needed to make. I am supposed to take my first solo crosscountry on Tuesday- I can hardly wait.

  7. Hi Greg,
    Just got home from my first solo crosscountry. It was a beautiful morning in St. Cloud, MN. My trip took me from St. Cloud, MN to Alexandria, MN then Little Falls and back to St. Cloud. I managed to find all the airports and checkpoints inbetween. When I got to my first stop in Alexandria I got the weather and they were reporting 190@15kts with 20kt gusts. Yiks!! The runway I planned on landing on was 13 so that meant a 15 kt crosswind, more than my plane can handle and me as a pilot. Then I thought about runway 22 which is 1000 feet shorter but only a 9 kt crosswind. The 20 kts gusts made me a little nervous. I opted not to land and proceed to my next airport (Little Falls). The winds were more favorable there and I had plenty of fuel without stopping in Alexandria. I did a couple of takeoffs and landings there and then back to St. Cloud for a go around and then full stop. It was so much fun to be up by myself.

    Next week I fly from St. Cloud, Brainerd and then on to Duluth and then back to St. Cloud. I’m excited to land in Duluth. Its one of my favorite places to visit. I hope the weather cooperates. Take Care, Jeanne

    • Jeanne, Congratulations!
      This is so cool! In my opinion the first solo cross-country is as special as first solo or better – how can you beat piloting YOURSELF somewhere in an airplane! And making some important command decisions along the way… Now, that is what flying is all about.
      Good goin’!
      Greg

  8. Clear blue skies…Solo cross-country…Found checkpoints…Smooth landings…A day of flying… Remembering to close flight plans…PRICELESS! I just got back from my long solo cross-country. I was a little nervous about going it alone for 245NM but as I found one checkpoint after another my confidence grew. My route took me from St. Cloud, MN to Duluth to Brainerd and then back to St. Cloud. Even the checkpoint that I thought would be the most difficult to find, I found. It took a little more dilligence on my part to look for it but it was there. I had to do a go around at Duluth and Brainerd, too high, too fast but the second time was the charm for both. I can’t wait to take my husband up after my checkride. Thanks Greg for all the encouragement along the way!

    • Jeanne, you are amazing! Wish I could be there to see the joy on your husband’s face (and yours!) when you take him flying. Keep kickin’!

  9. paperjet Says:

    Hey Jeff, Good goin’ on improving your flare. You are in the home stretch! It should NOT take anywhere near 40 additional hours to wrap up after solo. Landings are by far the hardest skills to master, and once you’ve nailed them things should roll along rapidly. And you’re just coming into the really fun part. It appears you may be training in a busy urban area. There is no doubt that such an environment adds to training time. The good news is after training there you will be well-prepared to fly anywhere.

  10. Jeff,
    I just finished reading your comments from Nov. 25 and December 1, 2009. I’ve been very frustrated over the last year and a half with myself, CFI’s and the cost of getting my ticket. I too am pursuing my certificate for fun. None of my family really has any interest in flying but my husband has been than patient and generous in letting me pursue my dream. Money and time are not in great supply in our home with four children, our youngest two in college, and running our own business with other family members.

    My latest calculations for cost are well up over $10000 and I’m not finished yet. I’m training in a 152 so the hourly costs are less than yours. I put that in perspective and its the cost of a better car for us or one year of college expenses for one of the girls. I still have one hour of solo crosscountry time to complete and then my CFI wants me to fly three days the week after I’m done with that in preparation for my checkride. At this point in time I have 95.5 flight hours in and I haven’t calculated the groundschool time. I’ve been on 61 flights with 2 primary instructors and a total of 308 takeoffs and landings.

    I thought when I started that it would take me less than a year to complete with flying each week as I have done but the landings were a battle for me as well. At some point in time I thought about quitting but then the amount of money I had already spent kept entering my mind and I’m not one to waste money which I thought it would be if I quit. I still wanted to fly. I’m addicted and I loved my solo crosscountry to Duluth in November. At one point I was researching a different flight school that advertises they will help you finish up your certificate in a timely and cost effective manner. The problem with that was the closest one was in Chicago which was 8 hours away.

    My original goal when I started taking lessons was to complete my certificate before my 50th birthday which is January 25, 2010. As long as the weather cooperates here in Minnesota, and I pass my checkride, I should be able to complete my goal. It will be well worth the effort and frustration in the past year and a half.

    I have a plaque in my room that says “Don’t just dream your dreams, live them.” I also recently read in an article by Dr. John Maxwell titled “Dreams are NOT free, What Price are you willing to pay?” that dreams require time, sacrifice, energy, work, effort and a cost. The article is not about flying but it makes a lot of good points that relate to learning to fly. “If you want to achieve a dream, your have to be willing to do more than just imagine the outcome. You have to be willing to pay a price to start the journey. Dreams don’t fall into our laps by accident or good fortune. They must be attained at the cost of personal sacrifice.” We have both put in a lot of time, sacrifice, energy, work, effort and especially money since we started but for me the cost, even though it is more than I had planned in the beginning will so be worth it when I am holding the certificate in hand that says I worked hard and achieved my dream. I hope the same will be true for you. Hang in there Jeff-I know you have started something that is well worth finishing!

  11. What a great site.

    Jeff and Jeanne and others. Hang in there.

    I’m over 90 hours and have been flying just about every Saturday and Sunday since June. I’m trying to close the deal but yet another date goal may slip. I also went through the waiting game for getting the sign off to solo and I wasn’t getting the needed feedback from my CFI to help me with my landings. Of course, I though it was just me. I had to get a phase check with another CFI before getting cleared to solo and that seemed to create other problems (based on differing styles between the instructors). Any way, at about 45 hours, I got to solo.

    The good news for those of you still waiting to solo is that the cross country, instruments, night, etc. work goes by fast (you plan them and fly them). The interesting part is that you don’t do as many landings and landings start to get rusty. Don’t go by my hours since soloing. My CFI insisted that we do longer cross countries (8 hours instead of the required 3 hours) and spin training (useful, but not required), etc.

    Now I am at a point where I’m trying to prove to my CFI that I am ready for the checkride, but it was back to the other CFI for a phase check. My landings are suddenly no good and I am back to proving that my landings are ready (there is also the steep turns challenge).

    So my goal of finishing by holiday vacation may not happen (weather is starting to be an issue), but I am still going to keep pushing. I will turn 56 in February so my updated goal would be to finish before then.

    • Good Luck Roger on finishing up. I am at the same point in my training as you only I have one hour more of solo crosscountry left to do and have to polish up for my checkride. I know what you are talking about when it comes to rusty landings after not doing as many lately. I was supposed to fly this morning and waited at the airport for two hours hoping the temps (-24C, needed to be -15C or better) would rise but they weren’t rising fast enough and the other planes were spoken for at the later time, hopefully Monday the weather will cooperate but they are forecasting a 30% chance of snow.

      I have been trained with two different CFI’s and midstream in my training they changed the syllabus they were using so it set my timeframe back a little trying to figure out exactly what I had completed or not with the new syllabus and CFi. Hope you can finish up when planned.

      I love this website too. Greg has been so helpful and encouraging over the past year and a half.

  12. Hi there,
    Having done two days of circuits in a row where my landings can still be unpredictable, I’m starting to get a bit upset and cross with myself. And then I stumbled upon this section of your blog. Seems I’m not the only student pilot to feel this way.
    I started my training in May this year and was really hoping to solo by Christmas this year. Based on my performance so far, I don’t think it’d going to happen. The frustrating thing is I had five reasonable landings yesterday. Today, I had four plus a fifth which became my first “bouncer”.
    I know I can do this because I’ve done it before. But it is infinitely frustrating to not be able to have one day of circuit flying where all the elements just clicked. That’s what I want to achieve. I can’t give up now. I know I’m close but it is a painful process.
    Keep up the good work on the blog.
    FN

    • Hey FN, you are most certainly not the only student pilot to be challenged by landings! Keep at it and you will eventually master them. One point I would like to add for your consideration, is that even the most experienced pilots show a good deal of variability in their landings based on conditions, fatigue, distractions, etc. What you are striving for is not so much an entire hour of “perfect” landings, but rather, an entire hour of “controlled and safe” landings. So if you balloon on a given landing and correct, or drift to one side and correct, or choose to go around from a bad approach, but each results in a safe and controlled landing, that is actually a worthy performance. All of us need to shoot for perfection, but cannot plan on achieving it every time. What we must accomplish, however, is a safe and controlled landing every time. Hope that helps. Keep us posted! Greg

  13. Thanks heaps Greg.
    It is important for me to keep at it, I know. Maybe I am over-thinking my training experience and getting tunnel vision, when it is clear from yourself and the many great people here who have shared their views, that stuff like this happens all the time to almost everyone in flying.
    I’m glad I found you guys here. I shall be back and let you all know of my progress.
    Thanks again.
    FN

  14. Hey guys,
    I went up and did 5 T&Gs today. No bounce-and-goes today, thankfully 😉
    Even did one landing which I think was my best to date.
    Will keep plodding on and see what happens. I’ve still got to learn how to get more aircraft consistently centred and land as such.
    But you guys will be among the first to know when I “get it”.
    Cheers for now.
    FN

    • Hey FN, The landings will come…I thought mine would never be good enough. I was always flaring too high or off the centerline but once I was able to be consistant in my airspeeds on downwind, base and final the rest starting falling in line. My latest instructor had me add a little more trim on final than what I had been using before and that seemed to help a lot with my flaring at the right height and since then my landings have consistently much better. My husband always joked with me that the reason that I couldn’t land the plane was because I didn’t want to come down once I got up there.

  15. I posted a relatively long response on here on the 24th. It showed up when I looked back again for a couple of days. But now, it is gone. Deleted?

  16. Hi Greg, Well the time is soon approaching for my checkride. I went on a mock checkride and through a mock oral exam yesterday with another instructor. I don’t know if that is standard procedure at other flight schools but it is at mine. It went pretty well except he said my recovery from my departure stall wasn’t aggressive enough and my short field landing wasn’t up to par and I totally blanked out on the landing illusion names and a couple of reasons for left turning tendencies. Tonight I will be hitting the books once again so I can explain them tomorrow to my CFI and then go up for a flight to take another look at my stalls and short field landings. I am so nervous about what I will forget tomorrow. My brain feels like it is on information overload. I keep studying and the more I study, the more things I feel like I am forgetting. My CFI said if all goes well tomorrow that we will schedule my checkride for this week or sometime next week and hopefully the weather will cooperate.

    Yesterday after being at the airport from 11:00-6:30 pm I came home absolutely exhausted and woke up this morning still feeling exhausted. I’m ready to be done like a senior during spring semester in college right before graduation. I’m ready to move on to the next phase in my life. I love learning all I can about flying but right now all I want to do is just fly the plane and read about flying for fun.

  17. paperjet Says:

    Hi Jeanne! Yes, those mock checkrides are customary, and it sounds like the instructor did a really thorough job. Your actual check ride will probably be easier than what you just went through! Have you read my flight test tips yet? Might be worth a gander as I think you’ll find them encouraging. You’re in the home stretch now! This is exciting!

    • I haven’t checked the flight test tips out yet but I will be sure I do later this evening. I sure hope that you are correct about it probably being easier because I felt like I was put through the ringer yesterday. My lesson is at 8:00 tomorrow morning and I hope by the time I leave from the flight school tomorrow that my checkride will be scheduled soon. Thanks for all your encouragement and suggestions.

  18. I had my checkride today and passed. What a ride.
    To all, your day will come sooner than you think.

    Good luck all and keep up the support.

    • Congratulations, Roger! That’s fantastic! Now for the most important new-pilot question: what lucky person gets the first ride under your command? Good goin’!

    • Great going Roger!!I’m so happy for you because I know how much work has gone into achieving your goal. I know my day will come soon too. What was the most difficult part of your checkride for you? I keep going things through in my mind trying to remember everything I think I need to know. I hope to go up next week sometime for some solo time to practice maneuvers to get ready for my checkride.

      • Thanks for the congrats.
        I did my oral a week before the flight portion (due to weather). Going into the checkride, I felt that my weak points were short field landings and steep turns. On the checkride, the steep turns (left and right) went fine (I just had to focus and track the horizon). The short field lnanding was a bit hard (I was a little slow due to a double digit headwinds) and the examiner didn’t like my approach (too high each pass), so I did two more short field landings.

        This past weekend, I took my first passenger (my wife) on a short cross country for breakfast at a airport cafe. Landings were just OK, but my wife thought they were great (the customer is always right). Anyway, I will keep practicing landings to stay current. After all, the certifcate is a license to learn.

        • Thanks Roger for the information. When I was getting ready for my mock checkride my weak points were short field landings and my steep turns to the right. The week before they went well with my CFI but when I went with the other CFI for the mock checkride they fell apart. It seems when I nail one area performance in another area falls apart. I struggle to be consistant.

          We’ve had some not so great weather, family vacation, and some family health issues come up so I haven’t been up to fly since January 18th and I won’t be able to get back up until next week some time. I missed my goal of being done by January 25th (my 50th birthday) but life happens and you go with it as it comes. I can’t wait to finish up and be able to take my husband up for his first ride with me. He has been so incredibly supportive throughout my training.

          Your wife must be so proud of your accomplishment. Congrats once again.

  19. […] also my student pilot pep talk page on this site, and my new student pilot pep talk Facebook group.) Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  20. […] worth the hassle and trauma to become a pilot? Read what others in your shoes have to say on my new Greg’s Student Pilot Pep Talk! page, and then you be the judge! ©2009 Gregory N […]

  21. Good Morning Greg,
    I went on my checkride at 8:00am this morning. A beautiful sunny morning for a checkride. It took only an hour and a half for us to finish. The time went by so fast. Bill(my examiner) did everything to put me at ease and make me feel comfortable. It was a very pleasant and fun experience to show what I know. I did my oral exam yesterday but not the flight due to strong winds I opted to pass on the flight until this morning. It was hard to wait until this morning for the flight (another sleepless night) but it was well worth it for the better weather. By 9:30 this morning I had my temporary certificate in hand and was able to call Dean and ask him “Where do you want to fly to first?”. Thanks for all your encouragement and advice through this whole process and all of your flying friends. I’m not so sure I would have continued with my training at the point I first contacted you if it had not had been for your kind words. Jeanne

    • Congratulations, Jeanne!!! Did you take Dean flying afterward? Where did he select to go? Good goin’! Can’t wait to read your ongoing flight adventures!
      Greg

      • Didn’t take Dean up yet maybe tomorrow afternoon. We had to work this afternoon. We might fly over some local granite quarries that I have told him about after lessons and maybe over our hometown and home. In the past year and a half I have never flown over our town or home because I was always on such a tight schedule with flight lessons and work. It will be fun to have him with to take some pictures when we fly together.

    • Congrats, Jeanne. Curious… what was the final toll? (hours and cost)

      I’ve been on hiatus since my low pass flight in November. Major expenses (like huge vet bills for 3 sick cats, plumbing problems, etc.), and it just wasn’t possible to spend money on flying. It may wind up being another YEAR before I can restart training, though I’m planning on taking a single lesson next month for my birthday. I hope I won’t be overweight with all the rust that’s probably accumulated. 🙂

      • Sounds like a great plan, Jeff. And I think you’ll find that the rust won’t be nearly as bad as you might expect.

        • So I had a nice b-day lesson. We went up the coast about 70 nm, had lunch, and came back. I was really surprised because I overall flew pretty well and wasn’t really that rusty. And both landings were overall decent…. I sort of focused on the roundout and flare the first one and neglected to pay much attention to the crosswind, but the flare was nice and smooth and no porpoising – and a nice, full stall touch down. Landing back “home” was pretty good despite being told by ATC to keep up speed and aim for the numbers – to the tune of being at most a mile out and still doing 105 knots. All that in a plane I’d never flown before after having not flown in 6 months.

          Shame I can’t go fly again until I recover from some of the big expenses over the last 6 months, but it was a nice $500 hamburger. (and yes, i literally had a burger)

        • What a wonderful way to spend your birthday, Jeff! May you recover quickly from the burdens of the past few months. Happy birthday!

      • Good Morning Jeff, I haven’t totalled my costs yet but I will try and do that in the next few days and post it as well as my logged hours. Off the top of my head ( my logbook is at home) I think I had 116.00 hours. I have had a few setbacks along the way which made me rusty at times and of course costs more because of that. My youngest daughter (18) had a baby after graduation last spring so I take one day a week off of work to care for my grandson and in January my oldest daughter (21) spent a week in the hospital with a collapsed lung. I finally finished with the hospital bills for the baby and am still working on the ones for the collapsed lung. i do hope that you can get up for a lesson for your birthday. That would be a fun way to celebrate!!

  22. Greg, I took Dean up flying yesterday and the one thought that entered my mind is at some point between passing my checkride and taking Dean flying a switched gears into the “protector mode”. As a was preflighting the plane and doing my run-up I realized that I was responsible for the life of another human being. I didn’t have a CFI or another pilot in the right seat to bale me out if I screwed anything up. Just Me. While we were flying I found myself explaining what I was doing and why and what was coming next not because Dean asked my too but because I wanted him to enjoy the ride as much as me and to show him what I have learned in the past year and a half. How did that transition happen so seamlessly?? I love flying… Can’t wait to take my Mom and Dad next.

  23. Roger Says:

    Jeanne,
    Congrats. Now the fun really begins.
    I have been trying to fly somewhere (less than 100nm) each month.
    Now I get to enjoy the time in the air with my love ones.
    The coolest trip was just a quick flight up the coast and back with my brother and nephew.
    Be sure someone brings a video camera.

    Thanks all for the support.

    • Thanks for the congrats Roger. I’ve been trying to get some flying in but the weather isn’t cooperating here in Minnesota. Tonight we are looking at a possible 3-6 inches of snow. Yes I said SNOW in May. We had nicer weather in March and April here. Hopefully this next week I can take my parents up, one at a time because I still haven’t got checked out in a 172 yet. Jeanne

  24. Theresa Harper Says:

    After reading Jeanne Peterson’s blog, I don’t feel like the “lone stranger”. I have 36 hours in and still have NOT solo’d. I began my lessons 9-17-09. All my life I had NEVER known my directions so in Jan. 09, the private flight school told me they were not gonna let me fly anymore, I needed to view the Simulator and learn my directions, so in May 09 I finally got to fly 2 times, then I got discouraged and changed CFI’s. I have now flown w/him 4 times. I have learned things w/him that i never knew with the other CFI. Hopefully before next year, maybe i can solo.

    • Hi Theresa! Often a new perspective is key to getting rolling again. Congrats on continuing your training. Please keep us posted on your progress!

  25. Hi Theresa, flying is a lot of fun but let’s be honest – it is hard work as well. Takes effort and determination to get to the next level. I’ve found this to be the case with my own training. And Greg et al here have been tremendous in encouraging me to keep going. I’m doing my dual XC navs now and probably will have another 2-3 of the duals to go before I fly XC solo. I

    I remember how cross I was at myself for seemingly taking forever to learn to land properly. I think I solo-ed at 26 hours or something. That was only in March this year I think. I’ve got past that and amazingly, it is true what many have told me: confidence goes before competence arrives! So hang in there and stick it out. You will get there.

    Now, I don’t worry about flying the plane as much. My worry now is learning to plan my navigations properly and not get lost flying from one point to another. It’s another new challenge alright. Feels like I’m back to square one again, but I always take the lessons I learnt from when I struggled with my landings. Then I’m up for the challenge again.

    You can do this!

  26. Hey all,

    Looks like I’ve hit a mental brickwall in my flying.

    I’ve done my solo nav and probably less than 10 hours away from earning my PPL. This is the part that I’m finding to be grindingly hard. I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to study and recapping everything in preparation for my exam. Never mind my checkride, it’s the exam I’m trying to get revved up for – and I’m not doing too great in that department.

    I have a lot on my plate right now and flying just saps me out. If it sounds like an excuse, it probably is. I’m just dog-tired from the studying, flying, testing… and meanwhile there’s a huge thing called EARNING A LIVING to take care of as well.

    Anybody here experienced training fatigue?

    Flying Ninja

    • That happens to the best of us, ol’ buddy, and usually when we’re in sight of the goal! Don’t know anything about the PPL written exam “down under,” but here anyway the trick is to practice some of those online tests to find your weak areas and gain confidence. If necessary, squeeze in a “pleasure” lesson to have a little fun, but whatever happens you need to power on through to your goal while you’ve got the momentum. That’s tough, I know, but imagine how great you’ll feel (and how you’ll finally be able to relax) the day you safely ensconce that that PPL in your pocket!

      • Hi Greg,

        Sounds about the same deal for us down here.

        From the sounds of all my mentors here and elsewhere, I’ve gotta drink a bag of cold concrete and toughen up! LOL!

        I’ll get there….

        FN

  27. Hey Greg,

    Made one more tiny step up that mountain. Passed my PPL theory exam yesterday. That’s it for the formal book stuff. Now for the flight test (you guys call it the check ride).

    Let’s see how things go from here..

    Cheers,

    FN

    • Good goin’, ol’ buddy! Quite the journey, isn’t it? Is your flight test scheduled? Keep us posted!
      Greg

  28. I’ve got Navex 8 booked for the 16th (probably revise PFLs, glide approaches, steep turns, stall recovery etc) and then the CFI will say if I’m ready or not for the flight test. We shall see.

    Yes, it has been one huge journey to get to this point. Probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, seriously.

    Will keep you posted for sure.

    • You will be stunned and delighted at the quality of your reward, when finished. Something to very much look forward to!

  29. Hey Greg,

    Hit another brickwall. Went out for Nav 8 a couple of days ago (first time in the cockpit since Nov 7) and got stuck doing crosswind landings in 18kt winds. Then the instructor told me that flight tests have to be 100% or it’s an instant fail. This is despite nobody else I know elsewhere in Australia saying the same thing or even on the regulatory authority’s own website regarding the matter

    I’m pretty confused and angry at this turn of events. Already seeking another school as I sense a bit of a cash grab happening here, to keep me doing more duals than I think is necessary.

    This whole flying thing has become a tiresome and expensive nuisance in the past month or so… but I’ll finish what I started. It just may not be the way I’d like to finish m y trainign but I’ll finish it somehow. This includes finding another school hundreds of kms away from home.

    Sheesh… FN

    • Bummer, FN! Hopefully the outlook has improved since you posted this. Is Nav 8 simply a lesson number? Or a specific set of tasks? Keep kickin’!

  30. Hi Greg,

    Navex 8 was my eight navigation flight exercise and it took me over the city of Perth (first time). That was the most wonderful feeling ever! And then it was off to a tiny island about 10 minutes off the coast for the corsswind landing exercise; that’s when the dramas began.

    I’m going back there to try and finish that part of my training and then hopefully review some of my other airwork manoeuvres eg. steep turns, PFLs etc.

    I do know that I won’t be finishing the end-stage of my training at my current school. Shall keep you posted.

    Hope you had a great Christmas! The missus pincered me into getting her the iPad. She’s not letting me touch it!

    FN

  31. I do have plans, yes. But I’ve got a number of things I need to achieve over the next 24 months before I can make that happen. We shall see how things pan out. Why do you ask?

    FN

    • Oh, just had a casual thought that if you were planning to buy one soon, anyway, it might be an option to just go ahead and do that and finish up your rating in your own airplane with a freelance instructor. (Assuming that can be done Down Under.)

  32. Cheers Greg. That’s a great idea! That way, I’m flying in a familiar cockpit and I can dictate my own pace. With the flight school, I’m always behind the pace with something even after planning everything… that’s how the training has been so far. You’re never quite 100% sure what’s gonna happen and then things go awry. Seems that not all of it is my fault if that’s the way things have been done at this flight school.

    • It’s something to consider, anyway. You’re past the point of wondering if you can, or want to become a pilot. Therefore if you found yourself in the position of knowing what you want to purchase, and able to afford it, you might actually save some training dollars and better control your situation while finishing up, all while mastering the model you plan to fly anyway. Keep in mind that my perspective is from another country, so you’d want to research this in Australia before taking action. Insurance is also something to look into before committing to a specific aircraft type. Are there any specific models that interest you?

  33. Hi Greg,

    I’ve got a big week coming up this week. I’m giving myself a burst of 3-4 days of flying in a bid to finish my formal training and hopefully earn myself the PPL by this time next week.
    Any words of advice for someone in my position? I’m a tad nervous to be honest. But I sat back and thought about this.
    I’ve got so much work on my plate right now, and it’s never going to be a good time to finish my course if I don’t make the time to grind it out.
    So, I’m diving in, what the heck!

    Cheers,

    FN

    • This is so cool, FN! My only words of advice are to relax and enjoy yourself. My personal opinion is that total immersion is the best way to learn, especially at late stages of training where you are. Your motivation, persistence, and dedication are amazing. And boy, will they pay off! Keep us posted, ol’ buddy. We’re right there with you!!

  34. Hey Greg,

    Guess what? I earned my PPL this afternoon after a 3.1 hour flight test!! I had a botched attempt yesterday afternoon when I got lost halfway through my nav… but I learned a valuable lesson as a result: how to ask for help.

    But today, it all seemed and felt very surreal. It wasn’t a perfect flight by any means, but I did enough to convince the CFI that I was competent enough to fly off and come home in one piece. Even handled a diversion with some aplomb, even if I shyould say so myself.

    I’m very thankful for your help, support and encouragement since I started my PPL training. I’m not going to train for my CPL… the PPL is as far as I want to go. But I will be adding endorsements for sure. This Easter, I plan to get my retract endorsement on the Arrow.

    …and finally, I have a huge reason to attend Oshkosh!

    I’m still soaking it all in.. 😀

    • That’s fantastic news, FN! Checkrides are never perfect – only “good enough.” Good goin’, and congratulations! Where will you fly on your first PIC flight? And what lucky person gets the first ride as your passenger? I’d be honored if you’ll post a photo and account of your big day on my aviation Facebook page. Again congratulations!

  35. As some of you already know, I had a huge week of flying last week in Bunbury, Western Australia. It’s a city about 2 hours drive south of Perth, right on the coast.

    What started in May 2009 as a 30-minute joy flight at Jandakot Airport in a little Cessna 152 (VH-IBP), turned into a pretty interesting little journey of sorts over the span of some 21 months later. Fast forward to February 20, 2011 – I finally earned my Private Pilot’s Licence through the Bunbury Flying School at Bunbury Airport. I’ve yet to tally up my logged hours but I think it’s between 70-73 hours all up of flying.

    It’s also been a tale of two cities and two instructors.

    Ninety percent of my flight training was done at Jandakot with Minovation. I trained in the Aussie two-seater Whitney Boomerangs (VH-KMB and VH-DXW) and the Piper Tomahawk (VH-FIG) up to the Area Solo stage. Kilo Mike Bravo will always be extra special – I soloed in her at Jandakot on March 6, 2010 after 25.2 hours of training. From then, my training was done in the larger 4-seat Pipers as they have greater endurance for cross-country navigation flights.

    The planes I flew from this stage to the completion of my PPL training were: VH-PMW (my fave, I did my solo cross-country navigation in her), VH-PZK, VH-BYE (my least fave) and finally VH-LJS, which I flew in all of last week and finally got me my licence yesterday in Bunbury under another flight instructor for my final 8-9 hours of flying.

    There have been plenty of highs and plenty of lows throughout my training. Most frustrating of all was the fact that nothing came easy for me. Even for the seemingly gifted, I suepect there will be aspects of flying that they will find particularly challenging. This could be anything from making your radio calls or cross-wind landings, to flying a tight circuit or navigation; literally thousands of little things that make up a safe flight.

    For me, everything about flying has been hard. I can hand-on-heart say that learning to fly has been the toughest challenge I’ve ever taken on. The fact that your life is literally in your hands does weigh on you a bit, but you let your training become the focus instead of fear. Imagine if the young Spitfire pilots in the dark days of the Battle of Britain let fear rule their measly training (a mere 9 hours) before being sent into a fighter squadron for combat duty.

    This is why my pilot licence is without a doubt my most cherished thing right now. I sweated bullets for my licence and have tasted butt-clenching fear at 1500ft that may be hard for landlubbers to fully appreciate. The hours spent circuit bashing around Jandakot at 1000ft were initially fun and then hugely aggravating. And yeah, getting lost on a XC nav flight without a GPS or functional auto direction finder while the cloud base is fast lowering, is also not real flash. Or you find your radio somehow dead as you’re about 5 miles inbound from your home airfield. There have been so many of such incidents and touchstone moments in my flight training that could fill a book. And yes, there have also been moments when I’ve wanted to chuck it all away as work started to crowd my headspace. But somehow, I got through all of that.

    The sweetest thing of all was yesterday, right after I landed, shutdown and parked up Lima Juliet Sierra in the hangar. The Chief Flying Instructor comes over and shakes my hand and says: “Congratulations, you’ve made it. There’s nothing out there that you wouldn’t be able to handle.” That made this little black duck smile, a lot!

    Here’s the thing: flying has been in my blood since I was old enough to enjoy a toy plane! But as we all know, life takes over and steers us in various directions. And often without us knowing, it can also be negative people around us who talk us out of pursuing our dreams because THEY thought your dreams were too outlandish or unrealistic according to their perception of you. Anyway, I guess I’m here to say that without dreams, we might as well check into a nursing home now and order that casket. If you want something badly enough, you’ve got to make it happen come hell or high water.

    And I realised another funny thing this week as I was down in Bunbury. I actually stayed at the flying school’s quarters on the airfield. It was bliss to hear planes coming and going at all hours. I can even tell when the Flying Doctor’s Pilatus PC12 patient transfer plane is about a mile away from joining circuit. And you know what? The smell of AVGAS is alright! And I said to the people at the school, whose reception area has a huge window that has a sweeping view of Bunbury’s Runway 07/25: there are people who love to watch the sunset at a beach or birds in the trees or fish in tanks or draw pretty pictures or sew/cook/whatever, and there are those of us who love staring at planes and a lively windsock at an airfield. I just happen to belong to the latter tribe. And that’s alright.

    So, where to from here? I’m stopping at my PPL but will continue to try for various endorsements to enable me to fly more types of aircraft in the years ahead. Starting this Easter, I’m planning to return to Bunbury to get my retractable undercarriage endorsement. And perhaps later in the year, I may be tempted to get my Night VFR rating. And next year, if I’m feeling alright, I might try for an aerobatics rating – who knows? I won’t be going further for the Commercial Pilot Licence; I’m not in this for the money or career. This for me is all about indulging in a passion for the fun of it. Oh, I now have a very good excuse to attend the largest General Aviation expo in the world at Oshkosh in the USA and get my year’s fix of aviation in one huge playground!

    So, for all of you who have followed my flying exploits from the beginning, a big thank you for letting me share this indulgence. This might be the end of my formal flight training but the reality is, pilots never stop learning.

    Anyway, I can now say that I’m a pilot (still getting used to this) and if you guys want a ride sometime and don’t mind sharing the cost of fuel, you know where to find me.

    Clear prop!

    FN

  36. I started flying this past fall and started out with helicopters, but due to the cost, switched to planes. My life long dream has been to fly and the USAF played a cruel joke on me and stationed me at a base without planes. I don’t know why, but this past fall, at 37, I decided to finally give it a go. I had no idea how much studying and effort it would take but I’m learning and doing well and I absolutely love it. I have 13 hours so far and yesterday had a set back which has me a bit discouraged. I just need to perfect my landings and then I will begin to prep to solo. Yesterday we planned to do touch and go’s, thinking it would be the day… but the winds picked up and were brutal. My first landing was not so hot and my second was not good at all. I think you’d call it a “drop in landing” and my hands were completely covered in sweat. I took off again and my instructor asked me if I wanted to call it a day. I said, “No, I’m not quitting, but let’s head to the practice area so I can calm down.” We did some turns around a point and he told me that I was now wasting money as I had all this perfected and just needed to do the landings. We came in and I handed it off to him which was good because he had to use full rudder on the landing and then all the instructors cancelled their flights due to the rough winds. Reading the stories here from other students helps so much to know that I’m not the only one struggling with the landings, in particular the round out. I have had 3 perfect landings so far and I’m so hungry for more. I’m starting to wonder if part of the problem is I’m 5′ 3″….. I’ll keep at in and know I’ll get it eventually.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Hey “Tep!” congrats on pursuing your dream of flight! You’ll never regret it! It’s challenging to master, but everyone who sticks with it ultimately does. As for your height, you may have seen the post up above about another Air Force type who didn’t master landings until he got a cushion. Don’t rule that out if you feel like you’re not seeing out or reaching things as well as you could. The ergonomics of earlier airplanes in particular leave something to be desired. Are you on Facebook? If so come on over and join my Student Pilot Pep Talk Page. Lots going on there! (See link in column at right.) in any case, keep kickin’ and keep us posted on your progress!

  37. Thank you! It is so hard today that I’m not flying because it is perfect out, very light wind, clear skies, about 50 degrees and I can hear the planes circling above my house and of course I’m listening to ATC Live while I paint my latest model plane (Spitfire Mk II). I only live a few miles from the flight center so I feel sick to my stomach today knowing I picked the wrong day and probably would have at least one perfect landing today. I’m not on Facebook but perhaps it’s time for me to join. As far as seeing things, what exactly am I supposed to be seeing? Usually on final my instructor says, “pick your aiming point” and I focus as if I’m on the range for target practice. I keep my gaze steady and I don’t look back at the controls. although after reading about approaches and landings today in the Airplane Flying Handbook, I’m not sure that’s so smart. As I get closer to the ground, I think right before I flare, he says, “Look at the end of the runway.” Does this sound about right? If you have any advice or input I’d really appreciate it.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      I do agree with your instructor that once you approach and get into the flare you want to look well down the runway. The reason is that our touchdown cues come largely from peripheral vision, and focusing farther away optimizes that. For a few more landing tips, see my post, https://gregbrownflyingcarpet.com/2010/01/30/what-is-a-perfect-landing-anyway/ and from there, click the links to my make-better-landings posts.

      As for the possible need for a cushion, can you see out over the nose without stretching or straining? And easily reach all the controls including rudder and brake pedals? Seriously, this is a very common problem with shorter pilots. I am 5’8 and have had to use cushions in a few airplanes over the years, particularly if the seat cushions were old and compressed. What airplane model are you flying for training?

      PS: I believe you can check out my Student Pilot Pep Talk Facebook page as a non-member (though not post there). See http://www.facebook.com/groups/302038186962/

  38. I am flying a Piper Warrior II and I fly about 4 different ones from the mid 1980’s. I see out just fine, or so I think. I’ll have to check tomorrow when I fly again. I easily reach the rudder and brake pedals but have to push the seat all the way forward. Is there any part of the nose (or side of the nose) of the plane I should easily see without straining? I know I see the very top of it but that could be about it. I’ll check tomorrow. I’ll certainly check out that link too.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      As long as your eye level falls high enough that you can see over the nose (rather than just being equal with the top surface) you should be in good shape. The fact that you’ve accomplished three great landings in such short span of training suggests that you’re probably fine as long as you’re not feeling the need to strain upward to see out. Believe it or not, you’re well ahead of average to be making some decent landings at 13 hours! Are you flying in-country?

  39. That makes me feel much better. I’m not straining at all and I know that I see level along the nose but am not sure if I’m seeing over it enough but I’ll check. I’m flying in Massachusetts and luckily we’ve had great weather all winter. How would I know when the wheels are just a few inches off the runway?

    • Greg Brown Says:

      You know that feeling when you’re practicing power-off stalls, and you gradually pull the wheel back to maintain altitude and just wait until the plane stalls by itself? Well that’s exactly the feeling you’re going for in the flare. “Round out” close to the ground by gradually pulling back, maintaining altitude just above the runway, until the plane stalls and sinks that last few inches onto the runway by itself. Sounds easier than it is, I admit, but it’s the waiting part that throws people off. BTW, the single most important prep thing you can do is to be TRIMMED for the exact correct approach speed on short final. (All this is covered in the blog posts I directed you to.) Hey, are you getting your free subscription to Flight Training magazine?

  40. That makes sense. I love that feeling. Didn’t know there was a flight training magazine. How do I get a free subscription to it? I have more questions on aiming point but will check out that link first.

  41. I couldn’t find the info in the blog posts you mentioned. So, at what point do I trim? I was also reading my aiming point should be the runway numbers? I had been fixing my gaze at some random point on the runway. I fly in 2 hours.

  42. Correct that. I found the posts. Very helpful!!!

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Good deal, Jess! As Jeff points out in his post, trimming for proper airspeed throughout the pattern while maintaining your desired glidepath (especially on base and final) is the single most important thing in making a good landing. It may take a few tries for that to sink in, but once it does I think you’ll be pleased. Let us know if that helps!

  43. Jeff Sherman Says:

    Aiming point and where you’re looking are not one and the same. Your aiming point is the end of the line drawn by your approach. It is the point that is neithing going up nor down on the windscreen.

    When you get at ground effect height, you start your roundout, which is slowing down your descent and progressing to a foot or two above the runway. That will mean that your TOUCHDOWN point is going to be FARTHER than your AIMING point. So if you want to land right on the numbers, your aiming point should be slightly in FRONT of them. But unless the runway is really short, it is safer to ensure you never come up short by not planning on hitting right on the numbers, so your aiming point shouldn’t be so short that you touch down right on the numbers but rather somewhere past there.

    The majority of what I’ve read and been told by multiple instructors says not to look at the END of the runway because that’s too far. The generally accepted idea by MOST (obviously, not ALL) is to look about as far down the runway as you would when driving a car at the same speed. If you look all the way down the runway, you’ll have no cues as to how high you actually are, or how fast you’re going.

    However, my one major flaw in learning to land consistently (and believe me, there were plenty, and it took a VERY long time, thanks to relatively unconcerned instructors) was that although I was looking in the right place, I was concentrating on the wrong thing. Greg is right… if you pay attention to the SIDES of the runway (peripheral vision), you can detect yourself climbing or sinking MUCH faster and can react much sooner and less drastically. I was always doing the “tunnel vision” thing and really concentrating about what was right ahead, and although I could get the absolute height near perfect, it is tough to detect if you’re climbing or sinking and I’d YANK it to correct, and then OVER correct. Pay attention to the sides of the runway and you’ll have quicker, smaller movements and less overcorrecting.

    If you feel you’re starting to go around and around and around with no improvement, ask your instructor to do low passes with you.

    Good luck and stick with it.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Great tips, Jeff, including that about the low passes. One related trick after a powered low pass or two is to attempt one with power off approaching the runway, and concentrate on trying NOT to land. Of course you will anyway… and often better than if you were concentrating on landing. Thanks!

  44. Jeff Sherman Says:

    Oh, and about trimming… you should ALWAYS be in trim. On upwind, on downwind, and all through your descent. You change pitch or power, you change trim (if needed) to remain stable. You should be able to fly nearly hands-off at all times.

    So you get to final, you get to, say, 60 knots, at the correct descent rate, and you trim. You find yourself sinking a little too much, you add power and retrim (if needed). You find yourself going too fast, or too slow, you adjust and retrim.

    Trim is your friend.

    Ask your instructor to demonstrate a phugoid oscillation with you. It will really sink in (no pun intended) what trim does.

  45. Leaving now for my flight – thanks so much guys. I’ll report back.

  46. I did touch and go’s today and winds were 320 @ 13 and gusting at 19. I finally got the feel for rudder and ailerons on the approach and had one perfect landing out of 6 or 7. The rest were all good except for one where I came in way too high and even though I tried my hardest to fix it, the stall horn went off and I guess I ballooned it and my instructor had to take over. It feels good to finally understand how the ailerons and rudders work during the landing. I am still having trouble with the flare but felt it on my last one so it will just take more practice. I realized I am seeing just fine off the nose and my instructor said that’s not the issue at all. He said my last flight was just a rough one and the winds were scary. My instructor handed me the solo exam to start studying after my flight today. I think that’s a good sign. Today I hit the 14 hour mark.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Sounds like a terrific day of flying, Jess! As I mentioned earlier, you are doing really great for being at only 14 hours. Landings will be “works in progress” for some time to come (like the rest of your life!) but you’ll gradually master them. Keep us posted!

  47. Thanks so much. I feel so much better. I used two cushions yesterday and thought it was funny that they are never in the planes, but yesterday there were two waiting there for me… I can’t wait to go up again!

  48. I am getting those landings down! I finally flew out of Beverly today to elsewhere – Lawrence. It felt so good. I had no idea how much fun flying to another airport to do touch and go’s could be. He said I’m “very close” to my solo now. I have 15 hours after today. So exciting – yet scary. I’m studying away.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Jess, that is SO EXCITING! Not only will you solo soon, but then you’ll be flying to other airports by yourself, and not long after that, taking your friends along for the ride! So do me one small favor. Capture that wonderful feeling from today, bottle it, put it on your shelf, and take a peek at it on future lessons when you occasionally get discouraged. Because what you did today is truly what being a pilot is about – and you are well on your way to being set free on your own, with the keys to an airplane!!

  49. tepjoule Says:

    If I had my medical clearance I would have done the solo yesterday with 17 hours done! I have the medical scheduled for 4/11 so hopefully soon! So excited and so ready.

    • Greg Brown Says:

      Exciting, Jess!! You won’t believe how fast (and how much more fun) training seems to become after solo. Have you taken your written yet? If not, it’s not too early to start thinking about it. Keep us posted!

  50. tepjoule Says:

    I’ve been working on the 11 page or so pre-solo written exam and have found most of the answers in my FAR/AIM 2012, pilot’s handbook of aeronautical knowledge, and airplane flying handbook. I just have a few more and then I’m trying to commit the answers/theory to memory by making flash cards. I scheduled the medical, ground, and a flight for 4/11. I can’t wait!

  51. tepjoule Says:

    P.S. I found I don’t need the cushions after all!

  52. tepjoule Says:

    I’m only 5′ 3″. I flew just fine without them the last two flights (flight 16 & 17) so I would say I’m good. (And…my favorite plane is so old I sink down in the seat…)

  53. tepjoule Says:

    I did my solo flight today! Yahooo!!!!

  54. tepjoule Says:

    Thank goodness! 🙂

  55. I had a tour of an Air Traffic Control Tower today. So cool was that it was part USAF. Awesome day. I now fly out of an uncontrolled airport and have been flying 172’s. All my take off’s and landings are short/soft field. So fun!

  56. Hi Greg, my name is aditya and I am flying as a student pilot in india. I have done around 32 hours but still not getting my solo coz I am screwing up with the final perspective. I am able to maintain speed n alignment with the runway. My circuit is also perfect but I am not able to judge the attitude on final leg. Its frustrating as I am not still not getting solo flying. Please help me in finding out how to get a perfect approach so that my instructor will b confident on my flying n will release me solo asap.

    • Hi Aditya, The most common and likely landing problem is pilots not TRIMMING for proper airspeed on final approach. Here are my tips on making better landings. Also, if you are on Facebook consider joining my Student Pilot Pep Talk group where there is much advice and encouragement to be had. If it makes you feel better, mastering final approach, flare, and touchdown is the hardest part of learning to fly for everyone. Keep at it and you will soon master it. I look forward to hearing of your solo!

      • I’m just starting the process of getting my recreational permit up here in Canada. I’ve done two flights in the training area so far. During both flights my instructor was insisting I was picking everything up like a natural. Everything he showed me, he said I was able to duplicate reasonably well for a first try… Climbs, recents, level flight, turns, steep turns… Only to me it felt like I wasn’t picking anything. There is a lot to think about.

        Which is why I’m glad I stumbled across this page. It’s encouraging to hear from others on their experiences in the learning process. I’ll be visit here often as I continue on the path to learning. I’ve set a goal of having my permit by this coming July and take my wife for a flight and picnic somewhere for our anniversary… But we’ll have to see how that goes.

        Rick

  57. Hi:

    I have 18 hours and I’m getting close to my solo. I already passed my pre-solo stage check but sometimes I have problem with my roundout. I think that my anxiety for the solo is killing my landing techniques.

    I’ve loved aviation my life (I’m 33 years old) but my anxiety to fly solo is making me to think about quitting. I really would like to continue but don’t know what to do.

    Any advice would help.

    • Hi Rick! First and most importantly, this sort of pre-solo anxiety is 100% normal. Don’t let it get to you! See my “make better landings” and “What’s a perfect landing?” posts. Also, “learning plateaus.” Another thing. Every pilot experiences anxiety anticipating major events like solo, checkrides, and unfamiliar flight situations or aircraft. That too is entirely normal, and in fact learning to overcome such anxieties turns out to be one of the major personal rewards of becoming a pilot. So grit your teeth and keep kickin’. You can and WILL do it! Come join my Student Pilot Pep Talk Facebook group for realtime encouragement and feedback!

  58. Hi Greg:

    I really appreciate your words. I have read them a few times to motivate me to continue.

    I have decided to take a little break from my training and just fly around on my next class to forget a little bit about the solo and landings.

    Hopefully I will acheive it. Thank you so much!!

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