How to ease nerves flying solo? (Commercial student)

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by L.Brown, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    I’m a commercial student with about 180 hrs TT. I’m working towards my 250 for commercial. I jumped right into instrument after private and now I’m jumping straight into commercial. I know I’m a good pilot, the CFIs tell me that, but I can’t help but constantly doubt myself or come up with things in my head that could possibly happen and it freaks me out. Since I’ve gone straight from rating to rating, I haven’t done much solo flying/ flying without an instructor. And I always find myself super nervous about that! (Also my vfr skills are crap right now from doing instrument training lol)

    like today, I was having such a hard time flying from airport to airport with my cfi. Fumbled on the radios, put in the wrong frequency for an untowered field, got confused on traffic pattern entry... it was a worse day than normal lol normally I’m fine with radios. But I ALWAYS have a hard time spotting the airport! I think that’s my biggest issue/concern. Also, afraid of atc asking something & I don’t understand/do the wrong thing. And second guessing myself. But has anyone experienced something similar? I know that I know my stuff, I just have a lack of confidence & PIC authority and I wanna get rid of this!
     
  2. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Go fly and fly and fly by yourself until you feel confident.
     
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  3. sarangan

    sarangan Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like a classic case of anxiety due to inexperience. That anxiety can become exacerbated when people around you expect you to have a certain level of experience based on your ratings. There is only one way to solve the problem. Just go fly a few long xc trips into areas you have never been to.
     
  4. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    I think that is EXACTLY what is happening! I feel like now I’m a commercial student that I should know more/be better and the CFIs kinda expect that so it adds to the pressure. Thank you!
     
  5. MacFly

    MacFly Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You need more solo time. Go rent the plane, spend some time in the pattern, shoot a bunch of landings, then make some short cross countries to nearby airports and shoot some more landing at airports you're not familiar with. Nothing fancy, just basic VFR flying doing routine good-weather flying stuff to get you confidence up and reaffirm your skill set to yourself.
     
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  6. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    working on commercial and getting confused on pattern entries? yeesh. that's probably why a whole lot of people recommend getting some real world experience, flying xc's, getting flight following, etc...…. pattern entries? c'mon, man!
     
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  7. Skip Miller

    Skip Miller Final Approach

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    This. But do it with a mission, not just in the pattern or back and forth between the same two airports. Draw a circle on your sectional and fly to every airport within that circle VFR. Make the circle big enough to include say 10 airports, bigger or smaller if you wish. When complete, do you feel better about your abilities? If not, draw the circle with a bigger radius, and land at the airports in the ring you just drew. Lather Rinse Repeat!

    -Skip
     
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  8. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    Ok when I say pattern entries, I mean in the sense of I have a hard time finding the airport so I get confused. But once i have airport in sight and they tell me to enter the traffic pattern in whatever way, I do it no problem.

    Edit to say: I’ve never gotten lost or entered a pattern the wrong way. I just have a hard time spotting the airport until I get super close lol
     
  9. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Cleared for Takeoff

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    Everyone is comfortable doing what they do most frequently. You have, most frequently, flown with an instructor, therefore you are much more comfortable in that scenario. To gain confidence flying solo, you must fly solo more frequently. Fly twice a week, minimum, by yourself, and include cross country flights and landing at other airports as often as possible. Fly to airports you've never been to as often as possible. After a month, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel.

    On the other hand, there really is nothing WRONG with having those "what if??!?!" feelings. It's part of what keeps us safe. Just make sure they are rational and well-managed. A fear of ATC asking you to do something you don't understand is, in my opinion, kind of irrational. They are almost always really good, helpful people. You can always ask for clarification.. no one's going to bite your head off, and they'd RATHER be sure you understood. If they DO bite your head off.... who cares?
     
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  10. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    1. Pick an airport within 100 miles or so that you've never been to. Plan a VFR flight there. Take a CFI and fly it old school with no nav radio just matching up what you see in the windscreen to the sectional on your leg.
    2. Pick another airport within 100 miles or so that you've never been to. Plan a VFR flight there. Do that one solo but still with no nav radio, just a windshield and a chart.
    3. Repeat step 2 3 or 4 more times.
     
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  11. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    where r u based out of?
     
  12. WannFly

    WannFly Final Approach

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    I was a high time student and this happened to me right after check ride... sitting in the plane alone was fairly uncomfortable. the back of my mind i always thought, there is no safety net. the only was to get over this is fly alone enough so that being alone in the plane becomes comfortable. no other way that i can think.

    dont be afraid of ATC-
    if you dont remember some specific jargon - use plain english
    if you do not understand what they are saying - say "say again please" and on those lines, read that book
    if you still dont understand fess up and tell them and then they will reissue the instruction in plain english or give you something simpler

    full disclosure - done all 3 of them
     
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  13. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Cleared for Takeoff

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    Don't know if you'd need to take an instructor for step 1 at this point, but otherwise I agree. One of the errors I used to make when flying by pilotage was looking for far too many small and near landmarks (and getting panicked when I couldn't see them or be SURE what I was looking at was indeed the land feature I was trying to find). Take in the BIG picture... look at the chart, find bigger lakes, prominent ridges, large towns/cities, then compare that to the much bigger picture out your windscreen and side windows. Find the same BIG, distant landmarks, then compare/triangulate your position to them. Then you can be much more sure if the smaller details closer up are the ones you think they are.

    Same thing with airports. Figure out where the airport should be located in relation to the BIG picture around you, then slowly sweep that area. A few of the airports I fly to are hidden behind ridges from various directions, and you can't see them until you get pretty close. Knowing where they are in relation to the surroundings helps locate them.

    As far as entries go, visualize your destination runway superimposed over your heading indicator. That'll clear things up instantly.
     
  14. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    Does your plane have GPS? Do you have an EFB? Use all available tools to help you identify the airport. Or maybe go back to the basics and do a couple of cross country flights with pilotage and dead reckoning. Solo until you are comfortable. Fly at night and try to spot airports.
     
  15. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Cleared for Takeoff

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    I still remember on one of my earlier solo flights in Charlie airspace (I was training out of the main airport). ATC instructed me to "turn left downwind 33." I Freaked me out, because my brain, as a newbie pilot, heard "Turn left, downwind 33," instead of "Turn, LEFT DOWNWIND 33." To turn downwind 33 from where I was, I needed to turn to the right. I keyed the mic, and asked if it was OK if I turned to the right. The kind controller laughed politely, and explained, "Sure.. I was asking you to enter the left downwind for 33. Right turn is what you need to do." No drama, no issues, no worries.
     
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  16. kath

    kath Cleared for Takeoff

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    I still struggle with this, as an 800-hour CFI. The darn things can be so hidden away, behind trees, or disguised amongst roads...! Don't sweat it. Practice "pilotage"; often the way I find the airport is to find something else that is near it (a bend in a river, for instance) first.


    Also perfectly normal human things. Remind yourself that "everyone feels this way sometimes."
    There are still days when I land at an airport and taxi to parking thinking to myself: "I can't believe it's legal than I'm allowed to do this..." :)
     
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  17. dmspilot

    dmspilot En-Route

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    You are nervous about flying solo because you're used to having a safety net sitting next to you all the time. That will cause certain skills to rust. Since you're nervous about it, you do it less, and it becomes a self-perpetuating problem.
     
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  18. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sectional open in front of you (or, skyvector open in one window) and google earth on your screen. Play find the airports. Not quite the same because you are coming at them from a different angle, but you start to pick up on cues - runways are long thin shapes that are different shade of green (or sometimes, even pavement). A row of hangars, etc. Where is the airport in relation to landmarks?

    Look outside more when you are flying. Do you spot those un-charted farm strips?
     
  19. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Line Up and Wait

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    You're not alone -- I've encountered this sentiment from applicants who participate in accelerated professional pilot training courses. It can be a byproduct of fast-paced training in which there's very minimal opportunity for "solo" flying.

    In my experience this is not indicative of a major overlying problem. You're simply gaining experience at a rapid pace and in an ideal world, you'd get some additional solo hours to build that PIC mentality.
     
  20. TommyG

    TommyG Cleared for Takeoff

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    Gotta start going out on your own a lot more. Start with local flights, and then start expanding out further and further on your own.
     
  21. sarangan

    sarangan Line Up and Wait

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    I don't think 100 miles is far enough. To get a sense of being in a new place, you need to fly far enough where the landscape and weather are different and people speak in a different accent. I'd say at l;east 500 miles. For me, all airports within 250 miles feels really like home.
     
  22. snglecoil

    snglecoil Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Yeah It is all about experience at this point. You said you know you are a good pilot. Do you really believe that or are you only saying that because that is what your instructor is telling you? For me the commercial time-building phase was really about breaking out of a "student pilot" mindset, not ceasing to learn, but taking more direct responsibility for honing decision making skills and really challenge myself with flights that help expand the edges of my envelope out. You have 70 hours of experience to build. The commercial maneuvers aren't that big of a deal. Get the instructor up there with you to run through the maneuvers a couple of times and then you can practice them on your own. But use the majority of the next 70 hours to fly solo, preferably cross country. Seeing airports from the air can still be difficult, but it does get easier with practice. Coms get easier with practice too. You just have to do it.
     
  23. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    no GPS, just ForeFlight on my iPad
     
  24. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    We used to have to have a sectional open and determine runway direction relative our flight path pretty much in our heads. Now we have Foreflight and many other equally good programs that give us a moving map in the cockpit, oriented to our direction of travel. You can set it up so there are big runway lines on the map, makes it easy to figure where and how to enter. Good stuff, suggest you get something if you don't have it, and use it. Also, you should be briefing airport approaches, preferably on the ground, but things change, so a quick look at pattern altitude, runways, lengths, lighting, notams, frequencies, you need all that stuff before you get there. When I know what runway right after getting weather, that's when I think about how I will enter the pattern.

    The problems you describe happen to me when I fall behind. So I stay ahead. I generally don't mess radio calls up, but when I do, I stop, regroup, then call again. Remember the basics, who you are calling, who you are, where you are and what you want, every time. Add things like atis codes or other things as needed. Take a second before you call. Leave out extraneous words, it's easier without them. For instance, I fly out of Bedford, MA, When I call to land, I say "Hanscom tower, Cirrus 123T, 10 North West, Tango, land. That's it, the less words, the better I find.

    Finding the airport can be a real issue. Don't panic, again, you should be using some type of gps so you know where you are, or at a minimum, a sectional. I look for land marks in the general vicinity of the airport. The other thing is don't get too low too soon. I fly in New England, Nashua, NH KASH, is impossible to see from the west when you are low. You literally don't see it until you are with in a mile or two. Sometimes you just have to be patient. Generally what I do is look for the big blemish in the countryside. That's generally the airport. Some airports you can see from 20 miles out on a good day, some not.

    Practice makes perfect. For the ATC thing, when you realize they screw up kind of regularly, they mess up calls, stutter, give you a wrong frequency, you realize no one really cares what you sound like, just keep asking until you get what you need. Air line guys, I hear them mess up too, don't worry about it.
     
  25. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    Does your IPAD have gps?
     
  26. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    I really do think I am good! Everyone who I have flown with has said so and I have never had anything bad happen/done anything majorly wrong. I think I’m gonna definitely do some solo time once I finish my complex time next week.
     
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  27. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    thank you! This is very helpful. I fly in central FL, so often it is hard to spot the airport because there are MANY open areas and little roads and farms that look like they could be the airport. Then sometimes there’s a little haze or some clouds in the way that doesn’t help either. I think honestly my biggest problem is actually FINDING the airport. I feel like my Cfi sees it from 100 dang miles away! Once I have the airport in sight though and they give me my pattern instructions, I’m fine. But it’s before that I have a problem. I hate calling them that I’m 10 miles away and they tell me to enter a left downwind for runway whatever and I still have no f***ing idea where that even is! Haha I know WHERE I am at all times, I’ve never gotten lost. Just don’t always have airport in sight.
     
  28. murphey

    murphey Final Approach

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    "I think I'm gonna do some solo time...."

    The overwhelming opinion here is that you've rushed into the ratings which means you've rushed into NOT flying solo. You may have enough hours but you don't have enough experience.

    The telling statement "everyone who I have flown with ...." translates to always having a teddy bear/safety net/whatever with you. So stop with the CFI or other pax and start flying solo. Be amazed what you can learn by yourself. Your anxiety is simply a symptom of not flying by yourself.
     
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  29. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    yes, I connect it to the stratus. But knowing WHERE I am is not the issue. I’m never lost. I can identify landmarks. I know where I’m going. I just have a hard time finding the dang airport from miles and miles away like my CFIs do. There are a lot of little open areas that look like airports so it confuses me and I often have to make the 10mile inbound call and don’t even have the airport in sight yet lol
     
  30. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    yes I know. I do have to finish my complex time though. But I’m at 6/10 hours. So I’m almost there. Then I’m gonna start just going for it and going solo. This forum has made me realize that not doing it is the problem. Which makes sense, considering back when I was forced to get a certain amount of solo hours, I was MUCH more confident and gained confidence every time I’d go up.
     
  31. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    central Florida/Orlando
     
  32. murphey

    murphey Final Approach

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    No reason to have the airport in sight more than 5-10 miles away. There's an airport I frequently fly to that even after all these years, I have problems finding it. More than 80% of the time it's a go-around because I lost it against the surrounding area and I'm too high and too fast to land.

    Why does your CFI spot the airport so far away? They really don't. It's that they are so familiar with the area they know exactly where to look. It's just an act to make them appear more brilliant than they really are.
     
  33. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    take a nice lil xc down to X01. bring the wifey/girlfriend and get some lunch on the island. even better if u can stay a night. do a few of those to places you haven't been yet, you'll be cured in no time.
     
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  34. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    I fly right to the center of the airport, follow the magenta line baby. The pattern entry they give you should make sense for the direction you are coming from. If they give you a left downwind when you are on the right downwind side of the airport, you need to question if it's correct, then how they want you to do it. Sounds like you are just nervous, happens to me once in while. Just go out and do it.

    Oh, and use the procedure button in Foreflight, try it out on the ground. If you are not using FF to navigate, touch the airport, hit "direct to", the magenta line appears. Go to the flight plan (FPL) on top, open it up, push the procedure button, go to traffic pattern, pick the one the works (it tells you which is best) push the button, voila, it's all drawn out for you.
     
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  35. snglecoil

    snglecoil Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Who else had no clue FF had a traffic patterns in procedures?
     
  36. L.Brown

    L.Brown Filing Flight Plan

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    this makes me feel sooooo much better! I always feel like an idiot not being able to see it from that far away. Sometimes I’m right on top of it by the time I see it lol
     
  37. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    I'm still finding stuff, the G1000 does it too (at least the perspective does).
     
  38. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route

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    Capt Thorpe has it right...use Google Earth, www.runwaymap.com or (if you are an AOPA member) www.aopa.com to see an aerial view of a destination airport and its surroundings so that you have a pretty good idea of what easily visible landmarks will help you find it. I like to use Google Earth to see the approach and departure paths for a strange airport so that I know whether there is a lake or a junkyard to avoid in the event of a problem.

    Bob Gardner
     
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  39. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Nobody has really touched on this yet but you don't have to fly solo. Fly with a non pilot. That way YOU are the safety net and the confidence you need to convey to your passenger will come naturally and calm you down as well. It works for me.
     
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  40. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, one of the problems with some of the schools and their straight through training is that it is producing ATPs sitting in the left seat of commercial airliners with the absolute minimum amount of time being solo and in command by themselves of the airplane.

    One of the things I found very fun after getting my private was just picking out new to me airports in the vicinity, flying there using dead reckoning, figuring out how to and then landing at them.

    I felt it was a big adventure and a blast. Lots of benefits because then you really know your local air environment and gain a lot of experience and solo time.

    Have fun with it.
     
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