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BlueJays 6th Jan 2015 19:31

Post PPL confidence
Good evening all and a belated Happy New Year.

I recently passed my PPL skills and simply couldn't be happier; however, after making the odd silly mistake on lessons leading up to my test, I've developed these nerves and worries that just won't go away. I guess I'm just coming to terms with the fact that I'll soon be making all the decisions for myself and there will no longer be a knowledgable passenger sat next to me in times of uncertainty.

Has anyone had similar worries when starting out in their flying career? I have to admit those mistakes really knocked my confidence.

Thanks in advance.

newaviator 6th Jan 2015 19:40

Bound to be anxious first time on your own with a newly issued PPL.

Start with local flights and you'll find you get a little more ambitious and start going further afield. Even if it means doing some circuit work first to iron out the bumps during the landings !.

Don't leave it too long between flights as this wont help your confidence at all.

Oh and if your on your own - talk to yourself as if you have the instructor next to you - sounds stupid but if you talk out loud I found it helped . It will also get you confident for when you carry your first passenger - they will appreciate a running commentary throughout if not familiar with small aircraft !!

After a while you will wonder why you had any apprehension , go fly and it will become more natural - enjoy.....

4Screwaircrew 6th Jan 2015 19:48

Keep trips short and frequent to start with, familiar destinations or turning points in the local area, currency adds to confidence. Don't be afraid to consult the instructors, you are still learning as am I with many years of experience and lots of hours since I qualified.

GBEBZ 6th Jan 2015 19:48

You are not alone - a lot of post-PPL students get this - I certainly did.

The key is currency - the number of flights you undertake in a period of time.

Once you start flying every week the nerves and confidence come down. Now I get in and turn the key and go without a thought about it, but when I was doing 5 hours a year I used to have to take a deep breath at the end of the runway :) :) I'm close to 80 hours this year alone now ...

My aim was to make flying just like driving, where I did not need to think about nerves etc but just jump in and enjoy it. I'm finally there... (EDIT: Incase people think Im cocky with this, Im not being, This is about nerves/confidence - I still learn on every flight, I still have MUCH to learn :-) )

I now often fly in the right seat with post-ppl low-hour or low-currency pilots as P1, just having me their gives them confidence but I make it clear they are P1 and they are in charge. Somehow just being there helps.

There are mistakes and there are Mistakes. Learn to know the difference between small mistakes (Forgetting to turn the landing light off) and big mistakes (busting airspace, unlocked primer, crashes)... and then go easy on yourself...

My Driving instructor used to say that passing your driving test was the first part, then once you have the paper, you start your real learning... it was true, and the same is true of flying, a PPL is just the start of your education, now you need to learn more in your own time, and experience more...

Dont get disheartened, there are other threads in this forum that are from PPL Pilots with the same feelings...

See if your flying club has a buddy scheme, or a post-ppl confidence course - (even if its with an instructor)

Most of all - dont expect to be confident and nerveless if you only do 5 hours a year :), Also a moderate level of stress can actually improve performance (So the commercial ATPL Human Performance exam states haha)

Have fun!

Simon T 6th Jan 2015 20:13


I got my ticket earlier this year and went through exactly the same thing. Things that helped me were:-
As much seat time as possible
Taking time to sit in the aeroplane and talk to it (Sounds a bit silly but once I had made friends with it I think we both trusted each other a bit more)
Short trips
practicing the skills I had learnt, steep turns, stalls, PFLs etc as often as I could
Keeping in touch with my instructor
Working on my self belief... If much smarter people than me felt that I was competent enough to be trusted to fly an aeroplane on my own then perhaps should believe them.

You will have one awesome day in the air and it will all drop in to place

Hope this helps, If you want to chat drop me a mail

ChickenHouse 6th Jan 2015 20:50

Two things. First, it is totally ok to piss your pants as a low timer and I appreciate you share your feelings like this. In my view it shows responsibility character and respect for the art of flying. Second, do hours to get confidence and once in a while take the right seat to see and learn from others - the good and realize the bad.

taxistaxing 6th Jan 2015 21:18

Welcome to the club!

The single best thing I have done since getting my PPL was joining a group and buddying up with someone at a similar experience level to share flights with.

Usually we select a land-away destination, one of us flies outbound and we swap over for the return leg. If the WX is iffy we will each do a short local flight or circuits, returning to base to switch over. We fly separately from time to time either with passengers or solo but undertake the majority of our flights together.

The two of us also make short work of pre and post flight prep. One can order fuel, do a walkround etc. while the other checks notams for the route, calls the destination for PPR etc.

You will find this really expands your horizons. For the same one hour flying time a lot more interesting destinations come within range. As others have said currency is vital and a typical PPL budget of (say) 2 hours per month is quite restrictive. Flying solo, by the time you've started up, done your checks and a couple of circuits to get back into the swing of things 40 mins will have elapsed. A lot of new PPLs never really venture beyond their local area for this reason and their confidence takes a knock as a result. Sadly this causes a significant number to give up flying soon after qualifying. Visiting destinations further afield is challenging, adds variety and keeps the interest alive.

I've also been surprised how much I've enjoyed the "pilot not flying" legs. You get the experience of observing someone else in the hot seat and can assist with lookout, setting squawk codes etc. Plus flying as a passenger is great. You actually get a chance to sit back and admire the view!

The only thing I would say is make sure you buddy with someone around your experience level. There is a danger that if you fly with someone more experienced you will instinctively assume an instructor/student type relationship. You need to build your command skills in your first post ppl hours. It also goes without saying you are trusting your life to the person you fly with, so choose wisely!

Happy landings.

daxwax 6th Jan 2015 21:32

GBEBZ - I'm close to 80 hours this year alone now ...
Blimey! 80 hours in 6 days is impressive stuff!

Sorry couldn't resist :O

To echo others I would certainly think about having the odd trip with instructor to keep things tuned and when you want to push your experience boundaries. e.g. when I first went to France I went with an instructor first time out.

When I first qualified my thought process was "why on earth would I want a Pu/t trip having just done 50 of them". With a few more years behind me I would simply see it as the smart thing to do.

150 Driver 6th Jan 2015 22:45

I got my ticket just over a couple of years ago, and still experience those feelings. Fortunately the worries become less over time although I doubt they will ever completely disappear (in fact, that is probably a good thing)

I've flown about 150 hours since qualifying, got my IMC/IRR, and still count myself very much as a novice. One of my pet hates, though, is having a pilot in the right seat. I'll quite happily fly with almost anyone as a passenger and deal with whatever crops up (so far safely, fingers crossed and all that :ok:) But put someone in the right seat who I know knows what they are doing and subconsciously there is then a get out if the going gets tough. (I know legally there isn't, I am PIC, but you can't always help the subconscious).

Currency is everything, especially in the early stages. I've had two periods where I haven't flown for a month or more and really worried about the first flight afterwards.

I try at the end of each flight to analyse what I didn't do well and what I could have done better and learn from those. I haven't yet had a flight where I've been able to say 'that was perfect, nothing to learn'. I suspect I never will.

The other problem that I suffered from early on, was finding a reverse of pressonitis, finding an excuse not to fly. This has ranged from 'diary too full' to 'maybe the weather will close in (despite clear blue sky and forecast nothing but)' to (admittedly an extreme one) 'student just crashed a plane on landing, conditions must be awful'. The way I got round this was to set aside a day in the diary and then justify to myself in writing why it wasn't suitable to fly.

I've sometimes wondered why I never felt this way about driving, the answer is that like most people I passed that test at 17 and was invincible/immortal at that age.:ugh:

150 Driver 6th Jan 2015 22:51

One further point, something I find helpful is continuing challenges.

eg don't just stick to local flights with familiar milestones beyond the first few flights but choose somewhere suitably far away (preferably with some airspace to deal with) and fly there as a XC.

Every couple of months I challenge myself with a 2-3 hour flight to somewhere new. I'm lucky enough to have my own plane so only worried about fuel and landing costs though.

taxistaxing 6th Jan 2015 22:54

I've flown about 150 hours since qualifying, got my IMC/IRR, and still count myself very much as a novice. One of my pet hates, though, is having a pilot in the right seat. I'll quite happily fly with almost anyone as a passenger and deal with whatever crops up (so far safely, fingers crossed and all that ) But put someone in the right seat who I know knows what they are doing and subconsciously there is then a get out if the going gets tough. (I know legally there isn't, I am PIC, but you can't always help the subconscious).
I'm similar level of experience to you 150 driver and the above point is an excellent one.

If you do double up with another pilot as I have done, make sure it is with someone who will allow you to make your own decisions and respect your authority as p1 for that leg. The dynamic of the relationship must be unambiguous in this regard. Constructive advice is useful but the old adage "too many cooks spoil the broth" is perhaps truer in flying than other areas.

Pirke 7th Jan 2015 07:49

My first flight post PPL was a checkout in a new type. After an hour I made some solo circuits, that was scary at first going solo in a new type. The following flights in the next weeks were also very exciting. Currently I'm flying confident with a passenger who's never flown before.

Until I have my own aircraft I do 1 cross-country flight each month, often with a new passenger who pays half the costs. This gets me 2-3 hours a month and every time a new destination. This means I need thorough preparation every flight, new airspaces, new airfields, new excitement. I'm still learning a lot, just without an instructor supervising me.

Try to do something new every flight!

There are also the 4 states of development to keep in mind (I hope I translate them well) :
- unconsciously incompetent
- consciously incompetent
- unconsciously competent
- consciously competent

So at first you don't know your bad at something, then you realize you're incompetent. At some point you're becoming competent, you just don't know it yet. Some time later you realize you're competent.

If someone else (especially if it's an instructor) let's you fly solo in their plane or gives you a license: you're competent enough, even if you don't realize it yet :) (this doesn't imply all knowing, just competent enough)

The danger area in flying is thinking you're consciously competent while you're actually unconsciously incompetent. If you think you're in the last state, think back. If you can't recognize the first 3 states with reflection on yourself, you're still in the first state!

This can also apply to specific parts, like flying in different weather conditions. You can be very competent flying CAVOK, but very incompetent flying with low clouds and low visibility. Flying in Florida is different from flying in The Netherlands...

ChickenHouse 7th Jan 2015 08:08

@Pirke: what is your estimate, how many pilots ever reach stage 4? I have the gut feeling most honorable ones stay stage 3.

thing 7th Jan 2015 08:56

I reckon the best thing to do is do what you want to do. For me, power flying is all about going places. I very rarely take off in an a/c and land at the same place. I can hop in a glider for the 'beauty of flight' thing.

On the other hand I know an aerobatic pilot and he says the worst part of flying is getting to a competition, ie flying in a straight line. Bores the pants off him.

Saab Dastard 7th Jan 2015 11:25

- unconsciously incompetent
- consciously incompetent
- unconsciously competent
- consciously competent
Please note that you have the last two mixed up.

The correct order is:

- unconsciously incompetent
- consciously incompetent
- consciously competent
- unconsciously competent


Simon T 7th Jan 2015 11:26

The four stages are, in order

Pirke, I have now moved you from stage one to stage two re the four stages ;) :) :)

turbopropulsion 7th Jan 2015 12:00

I was really confused by this until I came across the correction! Haha!

Pirke 7th Jan 2015 12:09

My intention is:
1. You're not aware that you can't do it properly
2. You're aware that you can't do it properly
3. You still think you can't do it properly, while you're actually able to do it properly
4. You know you're able to do it properly

From 1 to 2 you become aware of your incompetence.
From 2 to 3 you're learning
From 3 to 4 you become aware that you have learned it.

According to the Wikipedia definition you guys are correct though :) So after learning this I'm at phase 3 cause I still have to think about it when writing down the order according to the definition ;)

Pirke 7th Jan 2015 12:25

@CkickenHouse: it depends on the subtask. As a student I had a very difficulty of keeping the same speed and altitude. Over time this became much easier. The same holds for landing and doing a correct flare. But I agree it's difficult to draw a line when it's easy enough. I hope every pilot keeps his concentration during landing... Even if they can do them with a blindfold.

Without reaching stage 3 you won't get your license...

9 lives 7th Jan 2015 12:46

UI, CI, CC, UC are an excellent model of capability of a person at a task. We use that philosophy in the fire service too.

My best analogy is that of a back how or excavator operator. When you first begin, you have to think about where you want the bucket to dig, and you have to think about where your hands must move the levers to make the bucket move. There will be lots of trial and error, as the motion of each lever does not correspond to the bucket.

But over time, you get used to it, and you know where you want the bucket to move, and which hand has to move which way, then you can dig effectively. Then with more time operating the machine, you realize that your mind is controlling the bucket directly. Your body is not moving muscles to move your hands to move the controls to move the bucket, you mind is just moving the bucket. I'll dig a trench, and amuse myself, watching my hands move all over, seemingly disconnected from my mind, while the desired trench appears in the ground in front of me. I think I'm now at the "UC" skill level with my excavator.

The same happens with planes, though at hugely different rates, as planes are so different to each other in these fine points. After more than 3000 hours flying my C 150, I'm "UC", probably to the point of too complacent. When I fly the Caravan, I'm lucky if I can manage "CC" (I think this, as I passed the PPC on type). If I ever got behind the controls of an Airbus, I would be lucky to manage "CI". But I will never again be "UI", as I know what my responsibilities are for operation of an aircraft, so I won't, unless I have a program to assure it is safe.

As for the OP, It just takes time, with the right attitude. Always learn something from your flight, and apply it to your increasing skill. One day, you'll have confirmed you're clear of traffic, in the right airspace, with the right amount of fuel, with an engine in good shape, in the right configuration, and your brain will have flown the plane directly in the mean time, without you having to think about it. Then you're getting to "UC".

A little hint that this is beginning for you will be that in a Cessna, when you lower the flaps your brain lowers the nose a bit to anticipate the pitch change - and your passenger has no sense of a configuration change. That's a first indication of natural skill I look for when flying with new pilots.

Stay with it, it'll come in time....

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