Got your license... now what?

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Got your license... now what?

Postby Merlinspop » Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:01 pm

My mind wandered (glad it came back!) on the commute this morning and I got to thinking about a glaring omission in my pilot training, and was wondering if others had the same experience.

Imagine if your entire exposure to automobile travel was taxis. As far as you knew, you waved at a yellow car with a sign on the roof, got in, told the driver where you wanted to go, and when they stopped, you paid and got out. Then one day you decide to get your driver's license, study, practice and took the test and passed! You don't know the first thing about how a gas station works! Toll booths? What the heck are those?!!! Parking garages, rest stops, drive throughs, drive in theaters (for us geezer types). Everything is a mystery.

This was exactly what my experience was from my PPL training. 100% of the fuel I procured was at my home airport and came by truck. Except to get a quick "he was here" note for my XC's, I never dealt with FBOs. I had to learn about self-serve fuel pumps on my own (and from a lot of helpful other pilots and airport folks). The first guy that marshaled me into parking had to chase me down waving like a mad man.

So in short, I think my training was great in teaching me to pilot an airplane. But it fell woefully short on teaching me to be a pilot. I think I was very reluctant at first to take advantage of my PPL because I knew I didn't know all the ins and outs and unwritten rules of etiquette involved in the non-flying portion of flying.

Anyone else experience this? Those of you who are instructors, do you cover such things?

[edit] I should add that my training was before the explosion of Information about Everything on the internet. Pre-AirNav, YouTube, etc.
- Bruce

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby smutny » Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:00 pm

Unfortunately, I think this is pretty common with CFI's on the fast track to the airlines. They have no interest in the GA world other than a stepping stone forward to satisfy their "shiny jet syndrome".

All too often a person finishes their rating and then proceeds to burn themselves out on $100 burgers, the race up the certificate ladder and buying bigger and faster airplanes. We try to sell GA as an efficient way to travel, but for the vast majority, it just isn't.

Focusing on fun flying and rounding out a new pilot with all the nuances of GA that are not required in the PTS is done by sy few CFI's.

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby pjdavis » Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:47 am

This question is very timely for me. I have wondering the same thing myself. I am student with way to many hours - I mean a lot! 5 weeks ago my CFI put in a call to their DPE. The answer was he would be free early July - now it is looking like August. I am not in any hurry for a few reasons. 1. I do not feel comfortable flying by myself and have wondered what I am going to do as far as how much time I will be flying until I feel more at comfort. I do realize that once I am flying for pleasure and not in constant training things will ease up and I will gain much more knowledge just by being the PIC and not student taking instructions, etc. 2. Confidence - in the past 6 weeks I have logged much less hours than I have in any 6 week period during the past 10 months - this was due to weather, CFI cutting back on hours and business issues (time ). On 6/22 I went up for a solo flight just to stay in the groove of things. My plain was 2- 3 rounds in the pattern and then head out to the practice area. After a 12 day layoff, I felt a bit uneasy in my 1st round - my landing was smooth and easy to a full stop. 2nd take off seemed fine until the plane veered sharply right (45% instantly) on to the grass resulting in gear damage....learned very quickly about the FAA incident report and NASA form. Needless to say - my confidence was gone. I finally got back up on 7/9 with my CFI (2 prior cancelations weather, and scheduling). So yes I wonder what am I going to do once I get my license - who am I going to fly with, etc...anyone with the same thoughts and concerns?

P.S. yes I realize what I most probably did to cause the runoff...


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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby Warmi » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:04 am

In my case , since I just bought a plane .. I can't wait to get the ticket...
I am going to just fly by myself religiously observing my various personal limits ( mostly weather related ) trying to get more and more comfortable ....and in the meantime go up now and then with my instructor when winds are howling ( relatively speaking ) to practice more challenging crosswind landings etc ...

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby rcpilot » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:26 am

Well, I'll relate my experience. In training, most of our flying was from/to my home airport. We did a couple trips to a class C and some class D work. No x-country work, other than the minimum required(about a 60 mile trip each way). So after I got my license, I had my instructor fly with me to Princeton, NJ(from Shirley, NY) mainly to get some experience negotiating the JFK class B. After that, I flew myself to Lakewood, NJ and again to Princeton. So, even when you have your license, don't be afraid to go up with an instructor and flying by yourself will build your confidence. I've taken 4 people up(including my mom).

Jim Hardin
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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby Jim Hardin » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:57 am

Even a PP or Commercial X-country don't need refiling unless you start out with empty tanks :D

I assume you know how to park and tie down an airplane? That part is the same at any airport. If they don't like where you are, you can move it.

Likewise I'll bet everyone is using self service gas stations? Airports are the same but most won't have all the prompts nor the offer for a car wash or discounted slushy.

Instructors are there to teach you flying in the minimal time. Most customers (students) would resent going to an airport just to be taught how to work a gas pump or park an airplane while the instructor is on the clock.

I always make sure the airplane is READY to go for my students even if they are going solo. But I do save some time for a lesson in fueling plus showing them how to add oil.

You don't think Doctors pass the board and know everything there is to know about medicine? (recently had one that has never heard of Lyme disease) You can't expect to be taught everything there is to know about flying :wink:

BTW, there is absolutely no requirement whatsoever for a student to have their logbook signed on a X-country. None of mine are ever told to do that. If I am giving them the keys to a $100K airplane but worry they might lie about going to the airport we agreed on...

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby MrMorden » Tue Jul 11, 2017 11:29 am

Many refer to a pilot certificate as "a license to learn", and there is a LOT of truth to that. There is no way for you to know what you don't know. So it's best to take things slowly. After I got my ticket I did a lot of pattern flying, then ventured out to a few nearby airports to land there, then a few short cross-country flights with friends in other airplanes, and eventually longer flights and very long multi-leg cross country flights.

As you do all that, along the way you learn how airports work, how to get fuel and work the pumps. How to use clearance delivery in a Class C, what pisses off other pilots, and lots of little things you might have never learned or seen while working on your certificate. Just go cautiously and you will pick it all up as you go.
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby Merlinspop » Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:45 pm

As I said, for me that was a while ago and I did pretty much all the things you just laid out, Andy. I just felt that some sort of "here's how you do X and Y while you're out enjoying your new privileges" would have helped a lot. Of course, nowadays, there are all manner of discussion forums and YouTube videos on self serve pumps, and pretty much everything else, so those gaps in the instruction are very easily filled.
- Bruce

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby smutny » Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:33 pm

While flying is a very much a solo activity, there's absolutely no reason it can't be very social.

There are a lot of different disciplines out there that can not only improve your piloting skills, but give you a purpose to your flying.

Aerobatics - I list this one first as it's one of my favorites. Getting involved with competition acro is a lot of fun, and very much a group activity. It's probably as far out of the box as a new pilot thinks, but it really does teach you to fly the full envelope of an aircraft. Safely. Soon you'll feel much more comfortable in all aspects of flying your airplane.

Warbirds - This is mostly a "show-n-shine" type group going to fly ins and air shows celebrating aviation history. But there are aspects that improve skills like taking formation training by working towards getting a FAST card.

Back Country Flying - What was once just a way of life in Alaska is now a very popular hobby in the lower 48. Fat TIre Cowboys, Ohio Bushplanes and other somewhat informal groups have a whole lot fun in the grass. Bigger organizations, like Recreational Aircraft Foundation do a lot of air strip maintenance and group fly outs.

Vintage Aircraft - Lots of these groups as well. In fact, if my girlfriend wouldn't be fighting a case of pneumonia, we'd be on an Air Tour through eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho right now in the Cub. Touring with 30+ older aircraft from town to town for a week of fun. Can't get more social than that!

Of course, all the suggestions above require an aircraft that fits within the categories. While some may overlap (Clipped Cub is both vintage & aerobatic), they really are specialized. So what if you don't want to go that route or already have an aircraft you love?

State Pilot Organizations - Many states have a statewide group. I'm a member of the Washington Pilots Association and we do occasional fly outs, pancake breakfasts and State airport cleanup, but more importantly we do some flying together. If done right, you not only give GA a voice in your state legislature, you have some fun doing it.

Facebook - There is an individual that has taken on the task to do his part to revitalize GA, and he's doing a bang up job. His first group was Flights Above the Pacific Northwest (FATPNW) that he kicked of in 2012. There are now over 6000 members with a good percentage active pilots. A pop up fly out will happen almost every month. You can easily find someone(s) to go with you anywhere, any time. His goal is to have a Flights Above for every section of the US. See if one is near you at:

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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby rsteele » Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:05 pm

I think the real issue is that you need a reason to fly. Shooting landings all day is going to get old quickly so you need a place to go and reason to go there.

Both Maryland and Virginia have similar programs where they issue a "passport" and you fly to every airport in the state and get a stamp. You can start locally and work you way out to longer trips (unless you live in Delaware or Road Island :-). You will pick up confidence both in working unfamiliar fields and in your cross country ability. Check if your state Dept of Aviation has such a program.


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Re: Got your license... now what?

Postby smutny » Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:00 pm

It's important to head off the "nag factor" early in your flying. The vast majority of married pilots have a spouse that does not share the passion of flying. As a result, they often view it as a money pit which can cause conflict.

Finding a social group that embraces the spouses and makes them part of the group is key. If the spouse has a good time at the events, then they look forward to them as opposed to "nagging" the pilot about spending the money.

My Washington Pilots Association chapter and the Puget Sound Antique Aircraft Club work hard to make the spouses an important part of the events. The air tour we're missing right now is a couple short hops each day with fun activities in the evenings. Wine tours, boat trips, big dinners, etc. Finding a group that does those kind of activities makes your flying more family oriented and fun for everyone. In fact, my girlfriend is claiming she's feeling good enough for use to meet up with everyone for the final banquet. She's is a bit of a white knuckle passenger, but she wants to go that bad.

Far better than the $100 hamburger, as the spouse will focus on the $100, not the hamburger....

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