View Full Version : HELP - Questions for Instructors

1st Oct 2009, 21:56
I am not sure if this is the correct place to post this or if it should have been in Private Flying so mods please feel free to move if required.

I am hoping that some of you instructors out there might be able to help me with a problem that I am having in my training. I am as good as ready for first solo and the only reason I have not yet done it is because of a bit of a lack of confidence on my part. Generally speaking, my flying is coming on very well but I know that I am too hard on myself as well. The thing that is bothering me though is that every time that I fly, I really do try so very hard to get it all right but I nearly always seem to manage to forget some silly little thing and then end up worrying about it and then that destroys my confidence again. The kinds of things I am talking about are forgetting to put the carb heat back to cold in downwind checks, forgetting to turn the DME on, forgetting to make the occasional downwind or finals call - that kind of thing.

Can anyone tell me, is this normal for anyone at my stage of training where the pressure is on to go solo or should I be reconsidering whether I am going to make the grade. My basic handling of the aircraft is fine and I feel comfortable and confident flying it and my landings are coming together nicely now with a good deal of consistancy to them and I love it. However, I am just worrying about these stupid little mistakes and that is therefore making me wonder whether I should continue or not. Each time I fly, I set out totally determined to do it all 100% but always manage to let myself down. I don't want to give up flying as I love it and it is the one thing I want to do more than anything else but I also know enough about flying to know that these silly little mistakes are often the first step in a chain of events that end up in an accident.

I appreciate that it is very difficult for anyone to comment without having flown with me but any help or advice would be very much appreciated as I need to make the decision - do I continue or not?????

Many thanks

1st Oct 2009, 22:21
I am as good as ready for first solo and the only reason I have not yet done it is because of a bit of a lack of confidence on my part.This makes it sound as though going solo is up to you; it is not. Your instructor will decide when he considers you are ready, and simply get out and send you off.

The circuits that you fly leading up to solo are repetitious so that you cover all of the things necessary and don't leave anything out. You are not expected to be 100% or anywhere near it however the instructor wants to see you fly 3 safe circuits so that when he gets out, there is a high probability that you will repeat what you have already done.

Relax, enjoy what you are doing. When downwind, apply carb heat first, do the rest of the check and then make carb heat your last check, CH Cold!

1st Oct 2009, 22:22
Why are you turning the DME on? It's totally unnecessary for circuit work.

1st Oct 2009, 23:29
I wouldn't be too worried at this stage of the game... and you shouldn't be under any "pressure" to solo. Why do you feel under pressure?!

I know it's always easier said than done, but try to relax more, and don't get too hung up on what happened on the last flight. You seem to be remembering any negative parts of a lesson, but think of the positives... you handle the aircraft fine, perhaps you have a natural flair for the handling aspect? I'm sure a lot of things are going right, so don't worry about the couple of bits that weren't too good.

It sounds like you have a good mindset and are keen and determined to do well. Every pilot can ALWAYS do better, even if it's only a small issue in their own minds, and they feel they have let themselves down. Don't beat yourself up about it. Some of the best people feel this way, and continually strive to improve. The ones to watch are the people who think it's all a piece of cake (almost said a naughty word!) and they have no trouble with anything, as it's all so easy for them. It's mostly the cocky ones who have the accidents, not the conscientious people who continually want to improve. I'm sure you're not one of the cocky types, as if you were, you would have come on here saying you're perfect, and your instructor has it all wrong. (It's happened before!)

When you're ready to solo, your instructor will send you. The decision lies with them. There shouldn't be any pressure to do it in a minimum time, or any nonsense like that. You're not trying to pass Top Gun, or an ETPS course, so don't talk silly about "making the grade", as there isn't really a grade to make! In the big scheme of things, a PPL is a very basic qualification, and without wanting to rubbish any proud PPL holders, it's not such a difficult thing to achieve. The real learning, and improvement of techniques/skills come with time, months, years, even decades after you did your first solo, and got your PPL. During this time, you'll see that even the pro's get things wrong, and mess things up occasionally. That is how you build experience, and everyone makes mistakes, however minor, and none life-threatening they may be.

Ideally, you should discuss the things you have mentioned on here with your flight-school/instructor and this should help matters.

I don't know you... but as far as continue/don't continue; if you have the money you should continue (within reason). And don't lose any sleep over forgetting to turn the DME on! Do you even know what DME is, at your stage of the game?! The carb-heat can stay on all the way from the downwind checks to final, and be returned to cold at 300 or so feet (in case you need to go-around). I'm not saying do that, just that I've seen it done that way, and there's nothing wrong in doing that. Maybe your instructor wants you to return it to cold 10 seconds after you turned it on for your downwind checks, then use it when necessary as you reduce power again afterwards. There are reasons for both ways. Some people say ice is unlikely to form at power setting less than 2100rpm, so if you're flying a large circuit, belting along at cruise power, you don't need carb-heat. On the other hand, for a smaller/tighter circuit, you leave the carb-heat hot from the downwind checks, as you'll start descending (bringing the power back) straight after. Ask him/her what they want to see, make sure they explain why they want you to do those things (relevant to that aircraft/engine/circuit), and ensure you fully understand what they are looking for.

And another tip... Once you've started up, and come to turning the radios on (following the checklist, which I hope you are using), make sure they are all on before you even think about tuning anything or taxying. That way, in future, when you start flying things with more radios/GPS type equipment, everything is up and running, and initialising (warming up) etc from the start, and you're not faffing about trying to fire-up a GPS as you cross the hold to takeoff and head "direct to" a GPS waypoint (there's that experience thing again!).

Have fun, enjoy it (we all have "bad" days), and continue! Just try to have a positive attitude, stay calm and things will come together with practice. I don't think you've let yourself down, if, in your mind you didn't achieve 100% in a lesson (because you're too harsh on yourself.) The only way you would be letting yourself down, would be by not continuing towards getting your PPL! So stick with it, and continue to enjoy, and learn all you can about the wonderful thing that is piloting.

2nd Oct 2009, 02:46
Airgirl, I think you need to adjust your expectations a bit. No flight is ever perfect! On every single flight throughout your flying career you will make mistakes. That's normal. As your flying skill increase the type & severity of mistakes will diminish but there will always be 'something' that could have been done better.

If you're not noticing errors then you're not being observant or have become blase. Being able to recognise what & why something is wrong and then working out how to correct the issue is an important skill to develop because that's how you learn & improve.

As well as being able to recognise & correct errors, it's also important to be able to distinguish between critical, flight safety items, and relatively inconsequential ones and then act on the most important ones from moment to moment. You'll be ready for solo when the critical errors either don't happen anymore or you have the ability to recognise & correct for them while ignoring or delaying dealing with the inconsequential.

A long winded way of saying 'Don't sweat the small stuff'.

2nd Oct 2009, 07:38
Firstly, thank you one and all for your replies - they have been most useful in putting my mind at rest that these things are normal. Whopity, in this particular instance my going solo is kind of up to me as my instructor has tried to send me twice already (he is quite happy with what I am doing - his words not mine) but I said no because i was too chicken to do it!! We are currently working on building my confidence towards it and it is definately coming, but there is no race - the only person putting pressure on me to go solo is me! Toolowtoofast, it is normal practice in our club to have the DME on, even in the circuit, on the basis that you never know when you might have to leave the circuit unexpectedly and may want/need to use it (Sapperkenno, yes I do know what it is and how to use it - school is hot on things like that with our airspace being as busy as it is :) )

Many thanks once again for your advice / comments. I hope I haven't come across as sounding like a 'know all' or anything - I don't often post on these boards as I am not very good at putting stuff into words and getting the right context.

I am taking this very seriously and do value your opinions. Thank You :ok:

2nd Oct 2009, 17:22
but I said no because i was too chicken to do it!! I once allowed a student to do that, but never again! I learned my lesson as an instructor and now just jump out and send them on their way. The instructors judgment is better than yours, and the whole purpose of the first solo is to boost the students confidence.

2nd Oct 2009, 17:34
Well, I think I would go with everything said so far, for the DME it is normal practice in our club to have the DME on, even in the circuit, on the basis that you never know when you might have to leave the circuit unexpectedly and may want/need to use it this is fine, and as has been said, this should be in the checklist you are reading in the after start checks, possibly in a blanket "Navaids on and set" so make sure you read and do the checks properly to cover this.
For airborne checks, sit down in the evening and mentally run through the circuit from take off (or even before), climb out (think drift), when to turn crosswind,drift, level off, when to turn downwind, drift, when to call downwind, checks (I teach as suggested - carb heat on, checks with carb heat off at the end), then think if you made the downwind call as it can get missed in the correct place because of other traffic, then think about turning base and getting the aircraft set up, turn final and try and get the call in straight away (in a busy R/T environment it can even be worth calling before you are fully rolled out). Run through all this in your mind on the ground until you can do it over many times without missing bits and this will hopefully mean you then fly it the same way - also think about what to do when you cannot get calls in in the right place. At the end of the day though, if you are flying the aircraft OK, don't get too worked up about the odd minor error.

I also agree with Whopity, if your instructor thinks you are ready = you GO!

Level 400
3rd Oct 2009, 09:13
Air Girl

Without seeming patronising, I have seen this kind of under confidence many times, usually from those who end up the safest and best pilots.

You seem to be taking all the right steps, but you are involved in an activity which for you is novel and slightly scary.

My advice, FWIW, is don't even think of quitting, and be guided by your instructor as to when you are ready for solo. He or she has been trained to know the right time and circumstances.

I would be surprised if you don't find yourself quite relaxed when you actually do it, and afterwards get the surge of self confidence you need. I have spent many hours in debriefs asking students not to beat themselves up for minor mistakes. Hell! I'm still making the odd one after 10000 hours as instructor/examiner on pistons and jets, and learning from every one. :ok:

Level 400

3rd Oct 2009, 22:53
Relax and enjoy it. If you're all stressed and jumpy, things are actually more likely to go wrong.

When you make mistakes, great now you can learn from them. If you didn't notice that you were making mistakes, that would be a cause for concern.

Everyone forgets to do things. If you try to make checks etc. robotic, you're more likely not to forget things. This offloads all the repetitive tasks from your conscious onto your subconscious, leaving your conscious mind to think about other stuff.

gravity enemy
4th Oct 2009, 03:44
Hey I have a tip which once worked great for me. Someone earlier suggested that you should sit down and mentally envision yourself in the plane, whilst recounting all the checks. Take that one step further. Go in a large room or your garden and lay down a large ruler or anything that resembles a runway. Then 'fly' your circuit around it making all the checks and radio calls. You should dedicate a lot of time for this everyday, till you get it perfected.

As far as being nervous prior to your first solo, I would be more scared if you weren't. Thats absolutely natural. It is unfortunately a sort of breaking point towards the next level. Once it's done you will have new hurdles, like the cross country flights, PPL test and so on. You will look back and think 'that was easy.' I guarantee you.

Happy landings GE

5th Oct 2009, 18:55
Plenty of good advice here. FWIW, I have a few personal things to address before sending first solos - or indeed any solo.

1) Try to separate the errors into safety (eg carb heat not used before throttling back, pre-landing checks ignored, etc) and less important (DME. Doesn't actually matter when you turn it on, it's just nice to have it on a few seconds before you actually need it!). Guess which ones give me more concern...

2) Plan ahead. Have a quick think about the takeoff and crosswind turn before you make a departure call. When climbing out on crosswind plan the level off, downwind turn, and checks. Talking of checks, get them started as soon as you're sensibly level and trimmed - don't wait until you've made the downwind call, ie give yourself a few seconds approaching the end of downwind to relax, rather than relaxing early and then being pressured.

3) Do as little as possible! Don't be lazy, but if the speed, picture, configuration and power setting are right on final then don't do anything until the flare. Few things more annoying than someone fiddling all the way down final approach and messing up a perfectly good circuit because they won't sit still... My usual cure for this is getting the student to trim at the top of final and then let go of the yoke. Next time they do anything is to flare!

Last but not least... It's hard to do, but try to ignore the cost for a lesson or 2. Go along determined to have fun rather than to set yourself a target. I would far rather have to convince a student of their ability by getting out on the taxiway (once so far!) than have to damage their confidence a bit by telling them that they're not fit solo when they've convinced themselves after a couple of circuit sessions that they've hacked it. Sad but true. It's supposed to be fun!!

5th Oct 2009, 19:09
Don't worry about it!

With nervous pilots I used to say something like "If it all goes quiet, I've probably fallen asleep, so give me a nudge if that happens, would you?". Then after landing I'd say "Well, I'm going to hop out now and get some fresh air, so just do a quick circuit and come and pick me up in 5 minutes, would you?". Then disconnect, get out and walk away......

One of my students, after her first circuit trip, thought she'd never go solo. She did though - the very next afternoon!

That was 19 years ago - and we're still friends!

5th Oct 2009, 21:40
Thank you so much everyone for your thoughts and comments. I really do appreciate it. I am enjoying my flying so much, it is just the confidence thing. I know that my instructor is happy with what I am doing because he has said so many times, I just need to beleive in myself more. My confidence is improving with each flight though.

Thank you again everyone, every comment and opinion has been taken on board I can assure you and any others would be appreciated

6th Oct 2009, 02:59
As a former CFI and coprorate pilot, I suggest you solo ASAP. You have the repetitions and will rise to the occasion and fly instinctively when you go alone.


gravity enemy
18th Oct 2009, 07:59
Have you done it yet?

21st Oct 2009, 16:02
As mentioned previously - why on earth is your instructor teaching you about the use of NAVAIDS before your first solo?!

If you're at an airfield that requires it, a transponder is the only bit of 'kit' you need.

Carb heat is often forgotten - but a useful tip as mentioned above is to push it in at the end of the downwind (pre-landing) checks.

I hope it all goes well - but concentrate on the radio and leave the NAVAIDs alone!

FOK :ok:

1st Nov 2009, 16:52
and leave the NAVAIDs alone!

FOK, if you or I were her instructor I would agree with you, but we are not, and we should leave what she is taught to do for her instructor rather than suggesting she does things differently!:hmm: