Study tips for new student pilots
You have to learn a lot as a student pilot, - aerodynamics, weather, phraseology, regulations and airport operations, aircraft systems and procedures. Sounds like a lot to learn? It is. Every pilot has been a student at some point, and many great pilots never stop considering themselves students. If you're planning on becoming a professional pilot, you're going to have to learn to study and perform on flight tests throughout your career, so you ought to get into good pilot study habits now.
Here are a few tricks of the trade:
1. Choose the right study materials.
Ask a CFI or store representative what the best basic books are for what you are trying to learn. If you find yourself reading an extremely wordy and hard to understand flying book, stop. Find something that works better for you, borrow a book, or try something. Some information will naturally come hard, but it doesn't have to be painstaking.
2. Start studying as early as possible.
You don't need a CFI to start your learning early. Just grab a recommended book and read. Some of the concepts may be hard to understand, so take advantage of YouTube or likewise sites, and don't put too much pressure on yourself to understand every detail right away.
3. Get the basics down before the details.
If you try to learn every little detail, studying any topic will take a year and day. Read, digest, and then try to break down the concept you are trying to learn into something digestible that you can remember and explain. Sometimes you have to see the forest before the trees. If needed later, return to the subject and read more.
4. Define and memorize important terms.
You're never going to understand if you don't define and memorize. Here a few to terms to start with: Take off roll, take off distance, landing role, density altitude, pressure altitude, indicated altitude, equivalent airspeed, ground speed, indicated airspeed, true airspeed.
5. Don't fuss about how much you have to learn.
Thinking about the big picture is necessary to prioritize the order of what must be learned and to what detail. But constantly thinking about the numerous subjects and tasks is daunting. Take it one task at a time, then you will slowly accomplish, climb the ladder and build confidence for the next step.
6. Chair fly.
The cheapest flight hours you can get are the ones where you sit in a chair, pretend it's airplane and practice your procedures. Sounds silly? Look up photos of the Blue Angels chair flying. It helps build muscle memory and even they do it!
7. Take notes after flying.
There is a lot of information jam packed into that hour of flying. Take notes on new things you've learned and particular skills or procedures you need work on. This way if you have several days between flights, you can review at home and before the flight to make the most of your flight time.
8. Consider sim-time.
Want to capitalize on your flight training? Consider slowing down the air-time. Though you're missing some of the thrills of being in a plane, learning how to read the instruments in the simulator can put you leagues ahead before you're even in the air.
9. Follow your intuition.
Your instructor hasn't talked to you about something you think you should learn? Look it up yourself or ask your instructor about it. You're CFI is going to teach you the best they can, but they can't teach you everything.
10. Learn how to challenge and follow up what you learn.
"Because my instructor said so" or "Because my friends said so" is not an acceptable answer. Part of being a being a pilot is learning how to teach yourself and take action when you are unsure, and tracking down answers to learn more.
11. Lastly, recognize the only person who is going to make you a great pilot is you.
It doesn't matter whether your CFI, is incredible or unimpressive, if you're not willing to put in the work and study on your own. It's up to you to be the pilot you want to be.
Related: CFI Advice for the New Private Pilot