The title for this week’s blog post I’m sure applies to many areas of our lives. However, today I’ll just be focusing on three ways I wish I had done my flight training differently. Perhaps, as you read this article, you too might think of bits of wisdom from the past to carry forward to future flight training.
I Wish I Had Started Earlier
Now, I realize that many of us probably cannot change the timing, the availability of funds, etc., but I do wish I had started younger. When I started flight training in 2011, I was out of high school and already feeling behind the curve. I’m sure many of us know about the rule that allows kids to get their pilots license after barely being legal to drive a car (which in retrospect, that’s actually pretty scary!). I felt like I was late to the game and had to prove I could catch up – looking back, I was probably in the best position because I didn’t have college to worry about.
I only wish I had started earlier because once I was out of high school for a year, I started working part-time, and then eventually enrolled in a local community college. I commuted every day a fair, had long days, and worked on campus during the week and then at a local airport on the weekends. I found myself struggling to keep flying even once a week and, therefore, spent a lot of time re-learning maneuvers while balancing work, life, and school on top of flying. Then there was the weather changing as the seasons changed – living in the Midwest meant that it wasn’t always great weather during the winter either.
Of course, looking back, that was good preparation for where I am currently. I work more than one job, I’m involved with an industry student group, I have many classes, I write, I manage a scholarship program, and more. Maybe learning to juggle wasn’t such a bad thing after all…
I Wish I Had Started Ground School After I Started College
The University of North Dakota (UND) has almost all flight courses set up to include a flight lab during the same semester you are taking Ground School for a particular rating. For instance, if you are working on your Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating, you are taking ground school for IFR at the same time. Doing the ground school first, and then the flying is one way to do it, but sometimes it helps to be able to connect concepts from the textbook to flight lessons.
In college, I find that I benefit from the face-to-face lectures along with the interaction of students. I also learned to develop different ways of studying depending on the different professors I had and knowing what my learning styles are. When I went through the Private Pilot License (PPL) Ground School at my local airport, I had several different “professors” that all had different teaching styles all trying to cram all the information from that giant textbook into 7 weeks. Needless to say, I wasn’t as experienced at handling accelerated courses as well then as I am now.
A few years later, I have several accelerated classes under my belt, including a semester-long version of the PPL Ground School I was required to retake when I transferred. The second time around the class went much better - this was due to the experience I had in applying solid study habits that really only could have come from experiences in several classes. Additionally, from having one professor who was very thorough, I learned so much more that second time and while it was a stressful 5-credit class, it was a class that still sticks with me.
I Wish I Had Gotten Beyond My PPL
I want to preface this section by saying that we can’t plan for every situation in life – we also have to navigate around whatever comes our way and sometimes goals take a backseat for awhile. Now, had I known I’d end up in the Airport Management program after switching from Commercial Aviation and Aviation Management, I would have started and finished my IFR rating instead of just waiting until I transferred to UND.
Something like this inevitability happens to everyone in life I suspect. We decide that we make Decision B since Decision A isn’t always feasible at the time, for one reason or another. It’s not a bad decision or even the worst decision – it’s simply the best decision at that particular time. While I wish I had completed my IFR rating, looking back I really did make the best decision for the long run. Plus, I now get to look forward to having a goal when I am back to flying on a regular basis – I love having goals to work towards.
Hindsight Is Better Left Behind
We all wish we could have done lots of things differently, not just flight training. We all think “had I known that, I would have done something different”. While that is very true, we wouldn’t have actually learned from the decisions we made. We would probably find ourselves in a much different place than we are today.
I admit, sometimes I get really hung up on how I went about my flight training. However, when it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today had I changed those decisions along the way and I certainly wouldn’t have all the experiences in flying, education, or in life that I now have today.
So, my advice is: learn from the past, but keep looking forward.