Student Pilot


Jim Trusty 2012

It seems like such a simple question and really, it should be.  We have spent an entire lifetime learning one thing or another, so why now should the inner workings of a flying machine pose a problem or three for us, the pilots?  If we investigate just a little more, we start to remember some things that came easy in that process and others that never seemed to sink in.  Wonder why?

             It’s the “HOW” that makes all the difference.  Do you learn best by reading an instruction manual, watching a video or DVD, listening to an oral presentation, watching as someone else does the task, having someone walk you slowly through what is to be learned, or are you one of those that seem to grasp whatever is to be learned and just run with it?  These are just a few of the ways we learn and sometimes we mix and match to get the point and we all know that if the subject matter is fun or exciting, it suddenly becomes easier to cope with.

             The very first thing you should do is try to remember which process you use most of the time or at least what you did to become a pilot.  Personally, I am not good at taking instruction, so that makes me a hard student for whomever gets stuck with me.  I need to see it done, write down what I need to remember of the procedure, do it myself more than once, add into the equation what I already know about the problem, and now, I am ready to do it.  As an instructor myself, and a very busy one to boot, I knew that there had to be a better way.

             What I discovered while looking for an easier way to get a point across was all that I needed to do was investigate to see what they had been doing since childhood to learn whatever they now knew.  An interview did the trick and it will with you to.  During this sit down we learn that prior training and education play a big role, age also figures itself in, gender seldom rears its head and I am glad that I discovered this early on so that I didn’t have to write an article about which sex is smarter or makes the best and easiest student.  Not going to happen!

             Prior training, especially recent accomplishments, really reveal a lot about how they learn, retain, and apply information and should be duly noted by the teacher.  Age really does affect the problem at hand because of all the electronic add-ons we have invented in the last few years.  That computer, that I curse on a regular basis for having a mind of its own, is without a doubt, the greatest timesaver known to mankind.  And who could answer a hundred hard questions everyday without the assistance of Google?  Back to age, we have discovered that anything to be learned that incorporates a machine does not set well with those of us over 40…….unless we use the same machine in our daily work.  Now we have the chance to make mistakes and correct them on company time.

             The only advice I can give and the best that was ever given to me about getting proficient on the computer was to get on there and learn, make a mistake that you can’t fix?, turn it off and try again, and again, and once more, again, unless of course, you are at that age where you can walk into a computer sales store and buy a PC without any directions attached and feel comfortable that within a few minutes you can have it up and running.  You know that age?

 Age, in reverse, also poses a problem.  The youngsters we get for training are generally smarter than the old instructor I am often told, by them.  The electronic games they have learned since childhood have given them thumb skills that I have never even tried and certainly never mastered, the ability to program their own cell phone, set the time on a VCR, and repair and program their own computer does not necessarily make them a pilot.  We really had them at our mercy when we taught out of the tin lizzies, but now we are getting some advance composites with glass cockpits and they are catching up on us.

             It will always remain the same concept of; How do you learn?  Hands On?  Videos and DVD’s?  Watching others perform?  Trial and error?  In the verbal classroom? Simulation?  Reading?  Or a combination of some of the ways listed and a few others known only to the student or the instructor.  This article was my way to let you know that generally we do not have a bad student, we just haven’t discovered how they absorb information and until we do, we are taking their time and money under false pretenses, and that’s our fault as teachers.

             Start right now, in an initial interview with the student and parents hopefully,  by discovering how they learn, then decide how you have been teaching most of your students,  think about those that have simply not been getting the message, and what changes you need to make…before the next session.  Spread the word about this “how do you learn stuff” and see if works as good for you as it does for me.  Remember, they can learn by more than one method and at different speeds and retention patterns.  Don’t give up!

             I’d like to hear from you about the students you have targeted for this experiment and what type results you are getting from this method.  I really care about the level of instruction you are giving and how well it is received and retained. Let me know if you have discovered more new ways to reach the next generation of aviators.  As our airplanes get smarter, and faster, and our airways get even more crowded, they allow for fewer mistakes.  Our way to help solve this is prior preparation for every flight.  This may be one of the ways that you can use to be a solver of some of the problems.  I hope so.

             If you are flying with 10 different students, airplanes, checklists, avionics, GPS, instrumentation, fuel burns, various speeds, and everything else we as instructors are supposed to know and pass on, who’s really behind in the airplane?  Who’s really the Pilot in Command. 

Who’s really in charge?  Which one of you is the student?  Who is the Teacher?

             I look forward to hearing from you, and give my e-mail address to your student so that I can find out what they think of this method of instruction.  I am very interested in their progress or lack thereof in understanding aviation instruction at every level.  Can’t write about this stuff if you don’t listen!

Written permission required to reprint this copyrighted article (2012).

 JAMES E. (Jim) TRUSTY, ATP~IGI~CFI~AGI was named the FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year  for 1997, and the FAA Central Region Aviation Safety Team Representative of the Year in 2011.  He still works full-time as a Corporate Pilot~ “Gold Seal” Flight & Ground Instructor~ FAA Safety Team Program Lead Representative~ National Aviation Magazine Writer.  You have been enjoying his work since 1973 in publications worldwide.  If you have comments, questions, complaints, or compliments, please e-mail them directly to him, and he will certainly respond.  Thanks.








Stay informed about upcoming FAA Safety events.   Register on (


Safety & Recurrency Go Hand In Hand!