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Gaining Experience
2010-03-18

Gaining Experience

Once reasonable proficiency in the four basics and landing procedures has been acquired, it is important that the instructor provide variations such as are likely to occur during student solo flight. I don't believe a student should be soloed until he has experienced, with the instructor, at least light to moderate turbulence, low ceilings, unanticipated wind changes, reduced visibility and unexpected ATC directions. Any of these factors can so disrupt the thought processes and performance of a student as to create a dangerous situation. Instruction should provide the student with at least one exposure to possible events that are common to solo flight.

A proper flight program shows a student what his limitations are. The initial restrictions imposed by instructor endorsements will eventually be replaced by those perceived by the neophyte pilot. The instructor must expose the student to those situations that will give him experience in determining his personal limits. In addition, there are aircraft and regulatory limitations that must be known to the pilot. Personal limitations apply to and are set by all pilots. Aircraft limitations are set by the manufacturer using superior pilots and new planes. The pilot must make allowances for how much he and his aircraft deviate from superior and new. The FARs set limits designed to promote safety, consideration, and efficiency.

Experience is what you think about what has happened. Flying gives you, the pilot, exposure to experiences. Your contemplation of those experiences as recorded in your logbook reveals what you gained from the experience. Another source of experience is learning from others. The sharing of experiences and profiting from them is ingrained in the folklore of flying. Most aviation books and magazines are replete with a sharing of experiences. Start with "Stick and Rudder." Every personal and shared experience should be evaluated for its usefulness. You can never know too much about flying. The best way to learn about flying is to teach it. Teaching a skill makes you understand it.

One essential of the successful program is the frequency of the flight lessons. Anything less than twice a week is too little, anything more than three times a week is going to require near full time ground study. Make a One-half hour of tower visiting time for every three hours of flight. The instructor expects a phone call the evening before the flight to review the flight. Feel free to phone at other times to discuss flying or your concerns.

The pilot who never (seldom) practices flight in the outer performance ranges of the aircraft is not prepared for the critical flight situation. This would include such speeds as Vx and Vy climbs, short and soft approaches, slow flight, minimum controllable, slips, go-arounds and ground reference. The reserve capacity between requirement and capability decreases with passage of time. It is for this reason that the time interval between student flights should never be more that three or four days at most. Unless you learn from it, whatever you experience while flying will not result in improvement. Don't practice beyond the parameters learned with the instructor. If you want to go beyond these parameters, do it with the instructor.

Every flight decision is a judgment decision. A decision/performance line, extending through 'best,' to better, to good, to bad to worse, to worst exists. There is no one way to perform any flying operation. If the operation, such as slow flight, is achieved, the actual performance is along this line. The instructor teaches performance and decisions along this line and his level of acceptance sets the achievement standards of the student. As flight training progresses, standards are changed and raised and raised again and again. This process must be recognized and accepted by both instructor and student. There is no more an end to this continuum than there is the mathematical "pi".

Research shows that the more experience you have the more quickly you will make critical decisions. Practice making decisions makes the decision-making process more efficient. This ability applies to all aspects of flying. If the pilot is not exposed to situations that require decision-making skill, the skill will not develop. Practical training opportunities must be afforded the student.

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