Lessons Learned: What Pilots Wish They'd Known

Just for fun, I asked the pilots of Reddit what they wished they'd known as a student pilot. They came through, with answers that were insightful, useful and some of them, funny.

Here's a list of things that pilots wish they'd known during flight training, coupled with a lot of good advice for new student pilots. (To see the full list, check out the Reddit thread here.) According to the flying aces of Reddit, every student pilot should know:

  1. How to get fuel at a self-serve pump: For some pilots, a lesson in self-serve fuel may come long after a private pilot check ride. It can be embarrassing when you realize the FBO is closed and the only fuel option available is self-serve - and you don't really know how to do it. New students can prevent this embarrassment by getting hands-in instruction from someone who's been there before.
  2. What water-contaminated fuel looks like: This one's easy. Just fill up the GATS jar with fuel, then take it inside and add water, and then you'll know! But you'd be surprised at how many pilots have no idea what to look for when it comes to fuel contamination, or what to do when they find water or sediment in fuel during the preflight.
  3. What to do when you have a flat tire: A flat or low tire can be a huge bummer, especially when you're away from your home field. And for some pilots, the first flat tire experience leaves them wondering just what they should do next, and wishing they has asked about this situation before hand.
  4. How to start a hot engine: Starting a hot engine, especially a fuel-injected engine, can be tricky. Hot start procedures are best learned through a demonstration by a qualified instructor or fellow pilot instead of when you're stuck on the ground at an unfamiliar airport.
  5. That you probably won't fly as often as you'd like: With weather delays, maintenance delays and scheduling issues, your flight training might take longer than expected. Expect it.
  6. That you can talk to air traffic controllers like they're human: Yes, there are actual human bodies behind those robot-like voices. Take a tour of your local control tower to see for yourself. And, you don't always have to talk to controllers like they're robots. They speak regular old English, just like you.
  7. That actual IMC experience is invaluable: Get some.
  8. That VMC conditions can look and feel like IMC at night over water: See number seven.
  9. That making friends with an A&P is valuable: Having an A&P mechanic friend or mentor will mean you'll be able to watch them work on airplanes, ask them questions about systems, and learn the ins and outs of your airplane. You'll be a better pilot when you fully understand the airplane's systems.
  10. To make sure the FBO will be open: Almost every pilot has a story to tell about landing at an airport after hours, unable to get fuel or access a computer. It happens to the best of us. Check the hours before you plan a flight. (You can find FBO information at Globalair.com's Airport Resource Center.)
  11. To be prepared to change course, in more ways than one. Be prepared for anything, from unforecast weather, a diversion, a runway closure, and those pesky emergency situations you practiced so much. Your route to becoming a skilled pilot will rarely be a straight one!