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Feature Article: Self-Doubt is Normal

Every so often the instructor finds a student who is going through a phase of flying that is very disturbing to the student. A student may be making an excuse not to fly. Pilots making excuses not to fly start thinking about the happenings, 'might have's', and dangers seemingly associated with flying. The discomfort of flying is greater than the pleasure. If a student quits for a few weeks thinking about flying may produce discomfort. Flying and driving are risky. Things can happen and do go wrong. In driving what occurs is much more likely to be by another driver. A pilot is in complete control of the risk of flying. Flying is one of the most self-deterministic activities you can undertake. The pilot decides what is going to happen.

The discomfort associated with not wanting to fly comes from self-doubt. The student questions whether learning to fly is worth the money, time, effort, and stress. A concern for safety causes doubt as to one's ability to fly safely. The self-reflective and introspective pilot is seeking answers to questions for which there are no answers. Getting back into flying means that we recognize that part of being human is to question, have doubts, and to seek the high pleasure that goes with taking risks. Flying is a pleasure too important to be monopolized by the young.

The anxiety of flying can only become the relaxation of flying if the pilot is mentally prepared for it. When the pilot is insecure with a particular flight operation, be it radio, cross winds, airport arrivals, or some other aspect, he tends to avoid that situation. This is normal but dangerous. We cannot predict what flight operation will become essential to safety. As a pilot you must make constant evaluations of the what and why you make certain flying choices.

The solution to a student's sense of failure as a problem interfering with learning is related to a training/learning program that will reduce the intellectual/emotional load. A student's overcoming of difficulties depends on the teacher's ability to detect cause, effect, and provide solutions.

As the student becomes aware of his abilities and limitations, he must also be aware of those which are fixed and incapable of change as well as those which can be changed. The pilot has a fixed physical ability to fly, see, and hear. Certain artificial devices can improve on seeing and hearing but only structured training in performance and attitudes can increase the reserve capacity in ability.

The student must, also, consider his own capability and experience. Is this a first time experience or related to previous background such as going to another airport or even a revisit. The student needs to base his preparation on his individual needs and weaknesses and his expectations. This includes his ability to make the aircraft perform in line with its published capability, his knowledge of the area, his radio proficiency, and his safety planning.

Every phase of flight has requirements in knowledge, aircraft management, communications, or pilot ability. All to frequently, the greatest demands on our piloting skill occur just when the required ability to meet those demands have reached its lowest point. The pilot in a given phase of flight has a level of capacity in knowledge, flying skill, communications, and capability reserve. The analogy I have often used prior to solo is that I expect the student to be able to fly, navigate, and communicate in the airport pattern. At the same time he should talk to me about a completely unrelated matter. This last item is 'reserve capacity'. We drive cars all the time doing this. I do not want my soloed student to become overloaded and without the reserve capacity to handle the unexpected. I train my students in every area to have ample reserve capacity.

When something happens that you have not anticipated, your attention focuses. In flying, this often means that flying the airplane ceases to maintain its priority. Your training must cope this by teaching you to be aware of what exists in the present flight situation and using that information to heighten awareness of what can be expected to happen. How you react to the unexpected can be trained. Simulators are great for this with the big airplanes. Small aircraft 'unexpecteds' are only available in the POH and are not practical or safe to simulate.

Last Modified June 1, ©2023 TAGE.COM

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