Since beginning my aviation journey about a year ago, I’ve learned more than just how to fly: I’ve learned ways to work smarter, not harder. Here are five things you can do to be successful in your flight training program.
#1: Save Money
Flying is an expensive endeavor, whether it’s a hobby or career choice. Probably the biggest way you can save money, at least from my experience, is by being proactive. Begin by taking the time to sit down and work out a budget. Know how much you can allot to training per month and plan out for around two lessons a week. If you fly less than twice a week you won’t be as productive with making progress. If you can’t afford to fly twice a week, I personally would suggest delaying flight lessons until you have saved enough to at least get you through your first solo.
If flying is your dream but finances are tight, consider applying for a scholarship or a loan. Check out the FAQs page on our website for more information. Do your research and take the time to prepare a winning package.
If you plan on making aviation a career, and know you’ll need access to an aircraft for a least 250 hours—the minimum required for a commercial pilot certificate—consider purchasing an airplane instead of renting. While prices of airplanes are up in general, the result could still be a better use of your money. Airplanes hold their value much better than cars but remember to consider all factors when making such a decision. Insurance, where you keep it and maintenance, are large expenses. The Holladay Aviation team has years of experience purchasing aircraft and assisting students in becoming aircraft owners. Call us if you’d like to learn more.
#2: Choose Resources Wisely
Before you start buying every book with an airplane on the cover or sign up for an expensive pilot training package, take some time to evaluate which resource medium suits you and your lifestyle best: online courses, videos, audio books or podcasts, digital books, hard copy books, in-person seminars, or a combination of these. We have amassed a collection of our staff’s favorite resources on our website, but if you find something that you prefer, go for it. Remember, nobody has re-written the laws of physics and aerodynamics in the last hundred years.
While online courses can be more expensive than hard copy books, they do offer some advantages. First, they include engaging video and audio guides which help to illustrate the subject matter. Second, online courses can generate multiple sample tests including many possible questions, whereas a hard copy book only offers one set of sample questions.
Besides study materials, you’ll need additional resources to assist you in your flight training program. These include current navigational charts and supplements, a headset, a view limiting device (to practice flying through clouds), a smartphone, and a tablet such as an iPad or Android equivalent.
#3: Arrive Prepared for Your Lessons
The more knowledge you accumulate on your own, the less you will spend earning your certificate or rating. While a certain amount of one-on-one ground instruction is necessary during the course of your training, it makes no sense to pay an instructor to lecture you about information you are capable of reading on your own. Come with intelligent questions that let your instructor know you’ve been studying. Review the syllabus and complete the assigned reading in advance of each lesson.
On the days of your scheduled flight lessons, always arrive early to preflight the airplane, get a weather briefing if you have not already done so, use the restroom, and otherwise get your brain in flying mode before you meet with your instructor. Remember that we have a two-hour minimum instructor charge per lesson, so you want to make every minute of your instructional time count.
We all know that studying can get tedious at times, so look for opportunities to engage with others. Holladay Aviation hosts a monthly Pilot Proficiency Program seminar, which is a great way to meet other students and learn from a mechanic or an instructor in a casual group setting. The programs are information packed and immersive. For example, during last month’s program on aircraft maintenance, students had an opportunity to hold spark plugs and see how our mechanic tests them for functionality. We will send reminders and notices of additional events in our weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for on the Contact Us page.
Our instructors truly care about the success of their students. Take advantage of these extracurricular learning opportunities as they will only help you be a better student and become a better pilot.
#4: Manage Expectations
With all the excitement that comes with earning your Private Pilot certificate, people can get caught up in their own expectations. It’s important to remember that earning your certificate is not a competition; everyone learns at a different pace and comes to flight training with unique life experiences. Certain people may have previous aviation exposure, experience operating heavy machinery, or other knowledge to draw from. I know people who earned their certificate in six months, while it took others two years or more. As they say, life happens — babies are born, houses are purchased, jobs are changed. While it is important to set goals for training, don’t fixate on a firm deadline for completion: weather delays, personal obligations, and work commitments can be unpredictable. Remember that learning to fly is just one activity in your life. To succeed at this or any other activity (like working out or learning to play the guitar) you have to maintain a healthy work life balance. Rather than rush the process, it is much better to learn at your own pace and become a safe, competent pilot.
Having certain expectations may also cause some people to feel embarrassed or ashamed when encountering struggles during the private pilot. Difficulties are completely normal. Your instructor will work with you on any particularly challenging flight maneuver or concept until you feel completely confident. For many people, delving into aviation will put them out of their comfort zone and make them a beginner. Understand that throughout this process you will make mistakes and try not take them personally. Practice, trial and error, and patience is necessary for any beginner.
#5: Relax and Have Fun!
Remember the reason you decided to pursue your Private Pilot certificate, your passion for flying! The freedom, sense of accomplishment, and satisfaction that comes with a good landing are just a few of the reasons I love flying. It’s easy to get caught up in the work and forget to play. It will take up time and resources while requiring commitment. However, remind yourself to look outside at the amazing view only pilots get to see — especially if, like, me, you’re working on your Instrument Rating and spending most of your time flying while wearing a view limiting device. You go from knowing nothing about general aviation to being capable of flying yourself, your friends and family members to unique and interesting destinations for food and fun. Want to fly to St. Simons today for some amazing southern barbeque? Yes, you can! Want to fly to the Keys to chill out for the weekend? Go for it!
There are numerous milestones during any pilot’s training journey that only happen once in a lifetime. Everyone can recall with fondness the first time they soloed, passed a checkride, or completed their first long cross country flight with passengers. Enjoy the process because it goes by quickly enough and I promise, if you keep at it, you will achieve your goal!