First few hours: How do I know I'm doing okay?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by 3734, Jan 3, 2022.

  1. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm a few hours into my student pilot flight adventure. I feel like I'm doing okay, not great. Maintaining altitude is still a conscious effort, and there are a lot of tasks in a standard turn- maintaining altitude, maintaining rate, a little bit of rudder, all while looking outside and reviewing the four (or so) gauges to see what control needs some nudging.

    Add to that getting the direction of the throttle (C150/152) wrong more than half the time, similarly with mixture and trim.

    Is this normal for a fledgling student? How many hours did it take you stop needing conscious thought on inputs and controls to this extent?

    My instructor seems satisfied so far.

    I'm doing the part 61 style. The theory (eg ground school) is doing well. I'm middle aged, so I assume things are coming slower than it might for a younger student.
     
  2. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard En-Route

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    Everything sounds normal so far.

    do you remember being 15 and trying to drive the first time?

    This is way more than that.
     
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  3. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks, I do. Maybe the difference is that I know what I don't know at this point in life!

    I don't have any pressure (personally or financially) that says I _must_ solo and I _must_ pass checkrides as soon as possible, but I don't know how to benchmark myself to what "normal" is.
     
  4. Jim Carpenter

    Jim Carpenter Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Yes, all sounds normal. Lots going on, all kinds of sensory input, etc. And as Rgbeard suggests, similar to learning to drive. How long driving before your "spinal cord" knew how to steer and use the pedals, eventually freeing up more of your brain to watch traffic, read road signs, monitor oil pressure, etc.? Don't hesitate to express concerns to your instructor, he/she should be able to give you honest evaluations as to progress. And, as you mention, you're not in a hurry, everybody is different.
     
  5. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    Have you not killed yourself and your CFI yet? You're doing fine.

    Flying is not a natural thing. You're going through motions you've never seen before and it just takes time for them to become familiar. Trust that it eventually will and don't worry about it, just focus on what you're learning at the moment.
     
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  6. RyanB

    RyanB Super Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Curious, what’s confusing you the most with regards to the throttle and mixture’s direction of travel? Push it in and the power increases, pull it back and the power decreases, the mixture works the same way. Also, the trim runs the same way as the elevator control, maybe that will make it easier for you to remember.
     
  7. Jim K

    Jim K En-Route

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    A rule of thumb is that the number of hours it takes to get to solo is approximately half your age. The physical part of flying is harder to learn as we get older; luckily that's arguably the least important part. Don't sweat it... it takes a long as it takes.

    Welcome to poa and good luck on your journey!
     
  8. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Perfectly normal, and there is wide variation in how long students need to learn all this. If your CFI is still willing to get into the plane with you, you’re doing okay.
     
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  9. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    I operated a fire-engine for 10 years. The vernier increased engine (pump) rpm when pulled/turned out; to kill flow you pushed it all the way in. My first few hours in a 152 were opposite. Primacy. I’m old too.
     
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  10. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for both of these messages (which I'm grouping together). I guess that if my CFI's in the plane, it means there are two of us dumb enough to trust me on the controls :)

    Thank you.

    Yeah, there shouldn't be anything different with a throttle on the dash vs a "quadrant" vs a lawnmower vs a car. They all operate in the same direction. The only one that is different is a motorcycle, and I never got hung up on switching between car/moto, or the reversed brakes of a bicycle vs moto, or even driving on the right side of the car (except always getting in on the passenger seat and looking for the wheel).

    I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one!

    I think it's a matter of instinct and it'll come together. But I didn't know if this is a common set of concerns, hence creating a throwaway account for this phase of training.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2022
  11. Domenick

    Domenick Cleared for Takeoff

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    You're fine. Don't sweat it and add anxiety to the process. It's not a race. It's not a competition.

    Interesting statement I'd never heard:
    In my case, that's extremely close.
    The more often you fly the faster you will likely advance. Due to my work situation, I was scheduling only one lesson a week. Up here in the upper, far-left corner of the lower forty-eight, fall and winter are dreary affairs. There were times, I was weathered out for weeks. I would have progressed faster if I'd scheduled two lessons a week.
    In the end, my elapsed time was eleven months.
     
  12. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm not far from you, geographically. I've had more cancellations than flights so far- if everything went well, I think I could fit three days into my schedule. But between no daylight and mercurial weather I could have started at a better time of year, I suppose!

    I'll continue to book time and develop skills. I can daydream at work and "chair fly" to work on the muscle memory for the controls too.
     
  13. SethV

    SethV Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sounds normal to me. Its also normal for you to feel "behind" the airplane when things get busy. That will also subside with time. I also often see a learning plateau and a struggle with some more challenging things like crosswind landings at about your current time. So if you feel that stagnation - its normal and only temporary.
     
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  14. Jim K

    Jim K En-Route

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    Thank you....I knew there was a vernier control on something that was backwards, but I couldn't place it. That's it. Everything I've flown so far has had a quadrant; I'm going to start renting a 172M pretty soon, so we'll see how that goes.

    The handbrake in Pipers is the one I struggled with. It works exactly backwards to every handbrake I've ever used in that you push the button to set it instead of to release it. I struggled with that for probably 30 hours. The law of primacy is a cruel *****. Thankfully that one's not really flight critical.
     
  15. Lycosaurus

    Lycosaurus Pattern Altitude

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    Try the human flight simulator. Whenever you have a quiet moment to yourself, close your eyes and imagine being in the airplane and preparing for a takeoff. Simulate moving your controls as you would in every phase of flight as you remember from your last lesson. It's a form of eye/hand coordination that when you repeat this in your mind, it will eventually stick. Rinse and repeat.

    It worked for me when learning to fly, IFR, my first flight in my homebuilt, learning to drive a manual transmission/clutch vehicle. It might work for you too.

    And it is free :) Worth a try.
     
  16. mandm

    mandm Line Up and Wait

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    It takes time and you’re always learning. As you get more experienced you’ll understand more why your instructor is shouting right rudder or wants things done a certain way. Personally I like learning from multiple instructors to get different viewpoints, and I try to remember each style for each instructor to not annoy them with petty stuff.

    I think it takes a good 100-150 hours for the basics, YRMV. With instrument training you learn to get much more precise as well and how to juggle everything as a single pilot instead of your instructor always helping along the way.
     
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  17. Racerx

    Racerx Pattern Altitude

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    I was racing stock cars when I was 13. Failed my driver's test when I turned 16, but won the race against men later that day. They didn't like me left foot braking.
     
  18. Domenick

    Domenick Cleared for Takeoff

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    Manual race cars; Automatic street car?

    I started training middle of November. Soloed end of June. Passed my checkride middle of October.
    It is what it is.
    The important thing is to finish, be a safe pilot, and keep learning.
     
  19. GaryM

    GaryM Pattern Altitude

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    Couldn't turn right? :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
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  20. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm posting an update. I've managed to get another dozen hours or so. I'm relatively comfortable with the "four fundamentals" and other maneuvers now, it doesn't take all of my brain to simply fly straight and level, and I've now moved that crisis of confidence to landings. But I at least feel like I will figure those out with some more stick time.

    I've had a couple of landings where I am focused on straightening the plane out, botch the landing, and panic. Glad I'm not soloing yet!
     
  21. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    A few hours is too soon to know. I was still scared before every flight and sick after at that point in my training. But like a junkie, I kept going back for more. :)
     
  22. SkyChaser

    SkyChaser Line Up and Wait

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    You'll get there, one landing at a time! I've discovered when learning something new that is challenging to me that just before it "clicks", time seems to slow while I perform the task, because I'm not scrambling to think of what I need to do next, and where to look, and how to do it anymore. Landing will probably feel really overwhelming for a little while yet, but once you get it, it is a lot of fun!
     
  23. 3734

    3734 Filing Flight Plan

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    Strangely time seems to speed up for me- I think it's because it's overwhelming and the skills aren't baked in. Takeoffs, for instance, are finally slowing down- I can watch the airspeed come up, observe where we are, choose to rotate, where at first that all seemed to happen in a blur.

    I've noticed the physical skills getting baked into my brain with an overnight break: flying Saturday and again Sunday, the skill really improves on that second day. I have previous experience to know that was a thing.
     
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  24. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    I had a different kind of reinforcement. I was an active contributor to the FlightGear open-source flight simulator at the time, and every time I noticed something new in the 172s I was training in, I'd make sure it worked the same way in the sim (including realistic instrument lag).
     
  25. Dana

    Dana En-Route

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    I never heard that before, but it was dead on in my case.

    All the lawnmower or "garden tractors" I've operated had throttles that you pull to increase power. Ditto for the hand throttles on Fiats. I don't recall being confused by an airplane throttle, but I was used to pushing the left stick forward to open the throttle on R/C transmitters. The rudder being opposite of the foot steered go-karts we built as kids was more of an adjustment.
     
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  26. Mxfarm

    Mxfarm Line Up and Wait

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    There's no right or wrong amount of time, it's just about the skill and performance. Granted some of that is natural, much is learned. If the only other machine one has operated is their self-parking automobile it's going to take more time to get comfortable w/the airplane machine than if you grew up on skid steers, backhoes, combines, and the like. Then there's the whole thinking and problem-solving skills required for a 3D world of aviation. Sometimes there are no good choices, only the best of what's available.
     
  27. Jim K

    Jim K En-Route

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    I was a few hours over the "half my age" number, so I guess that means I'm a below average pilot :(

    Oh well, I'm still a pilot :D

    Now that you mention go-karts, I had a lot of hours on an old "Super Trike" three-wheeler that was primarily foot steered and did the push left to go right thing. Thankfully I also got many more hours as an impressionable youngster operating tractors with differential brakes, so airplane rudder pedals made intuitive sense to me. I remember my CFI being really surprised how good I was at handling the aircraft on the ground; apparently that's usually a challenge for people. Unfortunately getting it BACK on the ground was (who am I kidding...still is) hard for me.
     
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  28. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    Funny, I had that same trouble with the throttle for a couple lessons. You think, a knob, hmm, to activate it, I pull it. Nope. (unless its carb heat, then, yep)
     
  29. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    Q: What do you call the person who graduated last in their year in medical school?

    A: "Doctor".
     
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  30. sarangan

    sarangan Pattern Altitude

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    I've had students who had the similar mixups. Pushing in the throttle may feel like you are closing it. You need to create a mental picture of the throttle cable that opens the valve more when you push rather than pull. Trim is also a common confusion. You need to picture the trim wheel as connected to the aircraft tail, so the nose movement will be opposite of the tail. It will come naturally in a couple of hours.
     
  31. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    The wheel isn't so bad. How about the overhead window roller trim! :)

    I think someone posted on here a memory method for that, imagine your hand hitting you in the back of your head as it turns the handle when you're trimming nose down, front of your head, for nose up!
     
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  32. TCABM

    TCABM En-Route

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    Normal behavior

    Again, normal behavior. Fine motor skill integration with hand/eye coord and cognitive recognition/decision making required for input-recognition-assessment-follow action requires a lot of repetition no matter the age.

    More frequent practice with more repetition helps bake that in. Even when I have a break of more than a week or two, I feel more rusty and less confident than if I fly every 3-5 days and that’s with a lot more experience than you have.
     
  33. Ashlyn Maria

    Ashlyn Maria Pre-Flight

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    To finish up primary training, I recently transitioned from a Cub with a trim roller handle to C150 with a trim wheel. The Cub's trim handle became second nature. Now, I can't seems to turn the trim wheel in the right direction to save my life! Eventually it'll click, (I hope) but until then, my instructor will be saying "other way, other way!" every time I start trimming. Those few extra seconds of fussing with the wheel really get me when trying to establish a gliding approach abeam the numbers.

    Sent from my SM-A515U using Tapatalk
     
  34. Ryan Kuse

    Ryan Kuse Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm a freshly minted Private Pilot. So I feel your pain :)

    Your first solo will do a lot for your confidence - as will any other solo's you do.

    Also - I know, for landings - what really helped me (your mileage may vary) was a lesson that involved 10 landings in a row. We did NOTHING but pattern work and landing work one evening. Doing them at night really made me focus.

    After that - it made landings 'slow down' for me - like you mentioned take-off has for you.

    The other best advice I got when landings were still rough for me - was the whole 'Every landing is an aborted go-around' --- Once I actually quit thinking about any pressure to land - once landing was 'optional' (they aren't really, but just a perception thing) --- It was much easier to focus on making the plane land how I wanted it to. If I didn't like how things were gonna go - we didn't land.
     
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  35. libertas

    libertas Pre-Flight

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    You are here and asking questions. Sounds like you are doing just fine. And, keep asking them.
     
  36. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    And check all the answers with your instructor. :)