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the flight training plateau

So I did not quit flying. I took a week off, thought about my life, goals, and situation, and decided that I am determined. I am not defective, I really want this, I'm gonna do it, and I'm not going to let the frustration eat my brain. A famous quote goes, "A man is not finished when he’s defeated; he’s finished when he quits." (sadly this is attributed to Richard M. Nixon, who quit, but I digress)

I flew Thursday and I flew Saturday and both days the weather was lovely but it seems I've hit a plateau, which is apparently common. You google "flight training plateau" and get lots of nice encouraging notes, and several of them even point out pre-solo landings as one of the big ones. Being told that I have a normal problem is reassuring.

People ask what's wrong with my landings. To be honest, if I could describe it in detail it wouldn't really be a problem. I had a volleyball coach who was always trying new drills to turn us all into setters. The setter is an important position, and she explained, "Natural setters know things automatically that other people have to be taught. But any of you might be a great setter. We just have to figure out how to teach you." She acknowledged the fact that we couldn't just watch someone set or hear how to do it and pick it up.

Officially, when I didn't pass the pre-solo check, my problem was listed as one with "directional control". But since then it's obvious that I have trouble judging when we're too high or fast on approach, a perception issue telling how far we are off the runway, slow reactions, abrupt corrections, and some issues adjusting the pattern turns based on winds. The last issue... pattern turns based on winds... is one I can work on this week on the ground. So I have. I sit down with a pencil and paper and draw little runways and windsocks in various directions and think about when turns need to be steeper or more shallow, just get it in my head a little more, okay. But all the other issues are a lot messier. I mean it's easy to tell someone on the ground, "I flare too high" and then they say, "Oh, well... don't do that!"

That said I feel a little better because my plateau issue is googleable. My earlier concerns about being scared of flying, which no student blog addressed, are done now. I get nervous, because I want to do well, but I'm not scared. Hell, last time after flying two approaches in a row way too high my instructor just told me to stay low and we were pretty damn low, but made it, and he asked later if that made me nervous. I was like "dude nothing phases me any more. You could tell me to land upside-down in the grass and I'd just do it." Anyway, the internet seems to recommend the following for getting past flight training plateaus:
  • Take a few days off and relax so you're not frustrated. Done. I took a week. It did calm me down a lot.
  • Just move on to something else like cross countries. Not an option for me since I'm part 141, but thanks.
  • Go fly somewhere for fun. Take your instructor to lunch to remind yourself why you're flying. Maybe.
  • Switch airports. Done.
  • Switch instructors... fly with somebody else, get a new set of eyes. That's actually the plan for this week so I'll tell you how it goes.
If anyone else knows anything else, I'm all ears. And I do mean anyone... I don't care if you're a pilot, if you've ever gone from stupid to struggling to nothing to GETTING IT with anything, I'd like to hear how you got there.

I actually really wish I could find more 141 student pilot blogs... it makes a huge difference. A lot of students solo because their instructor just hops out of the plane one day. They don't have to pass a special check with their flight school and prove they can land in all these crosswinds. Also this class C airspace is really getting me down. Yeah I'm good at radios now, but instead of just going up and doing patterns like we would at a little airport there are all these steps. We have to get departure clearance, get ground clearance, get takeoff clearance... and usually either ground or takeoff involves a "hold short" instruction, so the engine is spinning and my student time is ticking off but I'm not doing squat, I'm waiting for Delta or American Airlines to get out of the way. Then we takeoff and fly to some little airport 20 miles away to actually do patterns. Then we head back, 20-30 minutes before my plane reservation will be done, so we'll have time to get airspace, landing, and taxi clearance to get back home. I'm starting to really wonder how many of my 37 or so hours were spent waiting to get to the actual hours.

Anyway I'm just taking all this into consideration so I don't feel like I'm the most hopeless pre-solo pilot ever. Feeling hopeless isn't going to get me anywhere, so I might as well do what I can to get past it. This is definitely what I want.

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
crisco747
Aug. 24th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
My only advice is to get really drunk. Although I'm fairly sure that would make things much worse in this situation.
jtek
Sep. 1st, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
I also used to flare too high. So high, in fact, that I'd get a stall warning horn on every landing! The way I got over it was to ignore my natural instinct to flare, count to 3, THEN flare. That seems to work most of the time, but now I land flat 2 out of 3 landings.. :-/

Bottom line, landing is definitely tough. No need to feel like you can't be a pilot just because it's taking you a while to get the landings down. Eventually, you will get them. And trust me, once you get into cross country flight, things get 100x more fun!

By the way, I found your journal from seeing your post in aviation. If you're interested, my flying blog is at http://fortyhourstofreedom.blogspot.com/
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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