I wrote this post to help those of you who are currently in flight training. Flight training can be stressful and its easy to get frustrated . From my experience, these five mistakes are the most common among flight students. Hope this helps!
1) Instrument flying in perfect weather
After about 30 or 40 hours, students become overly concerned with maintaining altitude and heading in order to keep PTS. They stop looking outside and start fixating on the altimeter and DG. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to fly this way, and altitude and heading control generally worsen.
Why does this occur? Students become stressed and feel the need to appease instructors who often inform them when their altitude exceeds about 100′ of the target flight level. To prevent this, visually set the pitch attitude necessary for lever flight and trim the aircraft. Then glance at the altimeter every half minute to assure altitude is being maintained. If you feel rushed and feel you do not have the time to make adjustments, inform your instructor and request more time to properly level the aircraft. To fly headings perfectly on navigation exercises, turn to your planned heading and then take a visual picture of the flight environment in front of you. Pick a visual point of reference off in the distance and use it to keep the aircraft heading the right way.
2) Pushing down on the yoke to hit a landing point
Students usually develop this dangerous habit after learning short field landings. Typically, an instructor tells their student that they need to hit a point on the runway with 200′ accuracy or they will not meet PTS. This makes students forget landing technique and instead causes them to focus on making the aircraft hit the point they selected on the runway. If the student comes over the threshold fast, the aircraft will carry too much airspeed to land on their selected target. This would normally cause increased float length on the roll out. Instead of allowing for this increased float, students will try to push the yoke forward to hit their point.
This causes a dangerous flight situation and the aircraft will likely bounce when if this is attempted. Bounces are dangerous because they can cause nose down attitudes after the bounce occurs. This can lead to prop strikes or nose wheel damage.
Most examiners are looking for safety over mastery of technique at the private pilot level. If you come fast over the threshold landing, let the airspeed bleed off and land the plane safely. Then tell your examiner what you did wrong, they should give you another go.
3) Flying with trim
Many students develop this weird habit at some point in their training. If they become high or low, they will add say a inch of trim in the direction they need to go and then keep flying. As a flight student moves through their training, they reach a point where a lot is demanded from them. Because the human brain can only fully accommodate a single task at once, students add the hopeful roll of trim so they can concentrate on all of the other tasks asked of them.
This is a pet peeve most instructors have with flight students. This habit however usually develops at the fault of the instructor. When an instructor demands too much from a student at a single time, students seem to default to this technique in order to keep the aircraft under control. If you find yourself doing this, ask your instructor to ease up your work load a bit, at least until you get the aircraft on altitude and on trim.
4) Making silly/illogical decisions
So, you are a new, aspiring flight student and you can’t wait for your first flight. On the first day, your instructor shows you around and explains a bunch of new stuff to you that seems so alien from what you are used to. As you fly more, your instructor tells you how important it is to use checklists and how necessary it is to do everything by the book. In fact, you instructor tells you that if you don’t follow the checklists, you may endanger yourself and potentially get hurt. As you progress through your training, you are told more things and are basically fed all of the information you need to know. The result?
What I often see with students as they near the end of their training is the inability to make sound decisions. Specifically, I am referring to decisions which one would not need any aeronautical knowledge to make. I.e. common sense stuff. My main point: You need to use your new knowledge to help you make better decisions, not as a crutch. Do not limit your knowledge to aeronautics. Incorporate all areas of what you have learned in your life when you make decisions in the air. Quick example: If you are converging on an aircraft and you are about to collide, and the target alters course to the left to avoid you (the opposite way that they were supposed to), Don’t go right and hit them… use your judgment.
Most of the issues flight students experience result from rushing. If you messed up a maneuver, it was probably because you rushed into it. If you entered an airport wrong, it was probably because you didn’t take the time to think about what you were doing. If you spilled gasoline all over the wing, it was probably because you rushed filling the aircraft. So why do students rush?
A: Money – The quicker something gets done, the less you have to pay
B: Spacing/ATC – You feel like you need to rush into something to comply with ATC or space yourself properly
C: Face – You may feel that if you get something done quickly, it shows that you are proficient at it.
It is best to get things done properly the first time. In my experience, I have found that students who do not rush take less time to complete their license. Why? Because when you rush, you incur a higher chance of messing up. If you mess up a maneuver, your instructor will make you do it again (and again and again and again). If you fly the maneuver right once, then it’s usually good enough for us. Do not feel pressured into completing anything in a certain amount of time. If you feel this way, tell your instructor and ask for more time. No one has ever failed a check ride because they took too much time.
So there you go, those are the big five. Most students fall victim to at least one of the five mistakes listed above. If your guilty of one of these, talk to your instructor and work with them to solve it. Most of the time, students develop these mistakes form fear of failure, or pressure to finish their license in a certain amount of time. Try to relax when you fly and try to have fun. That’s why you wanted to learn to fly in the first place right?