By Steven Daun, National Chief Pilot
When I wrote the first article on “A good pilot is always learning,” I described the ways that I have found to maintain and grow my personal knowledge. In the months since then, I have been asked by many pilots about the best ways for them to continue learning after they receive their pilot certificates.
As I said in the first article, “Flying is one of those endeavors in which nobody can know everything. My advice to those who think that they know all they need to know about flying is to stop flying, or, for your sake and that of your passengers, please keep reading.”
Many resources are available to help you continue growing as a pilot. As you did in your training, you should break these down into three parts: ground, simulator, and airplane.
Many organizations, including the FAA, EAA, and AOPA, have different computer-based resources on various aviation subjects. If you have ever been to Oshkosh, you know that the EAA holds many live seminars on different subjects throughout the week ranging from regulations to aircraft operations to systems. The FAA offers a variety of online courses through its www.faasafety.gov website. Ground training also includes talking with your local aircraft mechanic and having them walk you through an airplane’s systems. This also includes periodic ground reviews on different subjects with an instructor. Yes, just like you did when you were training for your certificate. Doing this once every couple of months is an excellent way to stay sharp on your basic knowledge.
Did you know you can fly cross-country flights in a simulator? This is a great way to stay sharp on your cross-country skills, especially if you are flying into an airport you have never been to before. Working with an instructor to review all of those “what if” scenarios is another excellent reason to use the simulator. If you are an instrument-rated pilot, a simulator is an excellent way to maintain your instrument skills between flights. After all, when was the last time you flew an arc or held on a fix? Why wait to figure it out again when you are asked. Why not maintain your proficiency?
Every few months, hire an instructor and have them review the basics with you—attitude flying, slow flight, stalls, steep turns, emergency procedures, and crosswind landings. Stay fresh and up to date on your piloting skills so that they are available when you need them.
Are you buying a new airplane? If you are, make sure you find a qualified instructor and have them create a formal ground and flight training program for you in your new airplane. This should review all the primary flight maneuvers and systems you did on your private, but only this time, doing them in a new airplane.
Many airplanes today have a high degree of automation. Just like airline pilots, you should learn everything there is to know about automation in your airplane. Most importantly, when to step up the automation and when to step it down. Automation isn’t there to make up for a pilot’s deficiencies. It is there to assist the pilot in various phases of the flight. If you can’t fly your airplane in all phases of flight without automation, you shouldn’t be flying your airplane. There is an excellent video on the internet called “Children of the Magenta.” This features a chief pilot from a major U.S. airline discussing this subject. Pilots can become so dependent on automation that they forget to fly the airplane. The only way around this is regular training and understanding your equipment and its systems.
When you stop learning, you stop growing. When you stop learning, your skills get rusty, and your reflexes slow down as you lose muscle memory. If you are an active pilot, you owe it to yourself, your passengers, and other pilots to keep learning and improving your skills. If you aren’t sure how to do this, please call me, and we will help you.