Recipe for Success: How to Study to Become a Pilot
Coordinating my hands and feet while manipulating the flight controls, rudder pedals, and at the same time focusing on flying the airplane was a big challenge. Forty years of life experiences had not prepared me for the intense focus and dexterity required while learning to fly.
My first training airplane was a tired Cessna 150 with basic analog instruments. In fact, we navigated with a magnetic compass and heading indicator. The communication radio was an old tube-style with a hand-held microphone. Headsets were not an option. The instructor had to yell guidance over the loud engine noise.
Math was not my strength. Cross-country flying was a nightmare. I was alway lost as check points, headings, altitudes eluded me. I was extremely slow on time, fuel, and distance calculations. Once, at a check point, I was still trying to figure the prior check point time and fuel.
The learning environment at Epic Flight Academy is dramatically different. Students may still struggle with hand-eye coordination or navigation, but Epic’s new Cessna 172S training aircraft with the latest technology provides the best learning experiences possible. The aircraft are well maintained with the highest quality instructors. My situational awareness and experiences as a student pilot would have been more successful and certainly less stressful if I had these great training opportunities that Epic’s students have today.
Epic Student Success Stories
Epic is committed to supporting our students succeed. Read about three of our students in these inspiring stories. Need some good study tips? Scroll below to learn how to effectively study during your pilot training.
Nha Uyen Nguyen (Yuki)
October 7, 2019: Nha Uyen Nguyen (Yuki) began her student pilot journey at Epic Flight Academy. Yuki’s English was impeccable, and she was extremely focused. She also exhibited excellent study skills. Her goal was to complete training in a timely manner with the highest quality of skills and knowledge.
“My mother loved languages and taught me from a very early age everything she knew.” Yuki’s mom often told her, “English is the international language and essential for learning.” When Yuki was older, she attended a school special for learning the English language. Yuki also continued to learn the love of language from her mother.
Vietnam was a long distance from the United States, and she’d not been this far away from her mother before. What would she do if she did not like it? Yuki missed her home and mom so much during the first several weeks in America. She also did not feel confident in her abilities to accomplish such daunting goals. She knew very little about airplanes and had never been in a small airplane, let alone fly one.
“Learning the knowledge was not difficult for me. The most challenging part of my training was learning to fly,” Yuki told me. She was so disappointed with any failure during the first part of training and she cried “bunches,” as she put it. She then realized, “Life must go on. I began this journey and cannot go back. I would disappoint my mother if I did not finish.”
Determination and Focus
Yuki’s commercial multi-engine instructor, Chris Mautino, shared, “Training with Yuki was an absolute delight, from her first landing in St. Petersburg all the way up to her check ride. She would look for faults in her performance even when none existed. Her drive to succeed as a pilot is only rivaled by her inherent pop singing abilities. I look forward to one day being a passenger on an Airbus A320 piloted by Yuki!”
She succeeded in earning 100% on the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam (written exam) and FAA Instrument Knowledge Exam. Of the FAA Commercial Pilot Knowledge Exam, she expressed, “I am so very sad, I missed one question.” She passed all her FAA Practical Exams (check rides) on her first attempt. Yuki always strives for 100% success.
“My biggest motivator is my mom! She would have been very, very sad if I had not finished my training. After all, it’s not only about me, but also about other people in my family.” Yuki Nguyen completed Private Pilot, Instrument, Commercial Multi-engine in less than 11 months. Her next goal is earning the right seat for Vietjet Airlines first officer.
Chinedu Ikechi Alikor (Morris)
January 6, 2020: “I go by Morris and grew up in Nigeria,” Chinedu Ikechi Alikor calmly told classmates. He exuded a relaxed demeaner among the intensity of most students’ first day anxieties. With his polished English, he appeared poised to begin learning.
After the first week of ground school, he asked for a tutor. Morris expressed with an uncharacteristic sadness, “I do not know how to study.” He had attended the lesson on How to Study Smarter, Not Harder” in the practical lab course. When asked if this lesson helped, he said yes, but still needed extra help. He shared that he actually never studied much during school. “Knowledge was just sort of there or it was not.”
He wanted to be the best pilot and knew how important this knowledge would be once in the airplane. Recognizing this missing skill indicated Morris’s maturity. Some students just want to learn how to fly the airplane, not recognizing a good, safe pilot must understand why and how an airplane works.
We scheduled Morris for an exclusive session with Epic’s Study Smarter tutor. He also scheduled regular sessions with a tutor for content he did not fully understand. I paired Morris with a classmate each day at the end of class for review of the day’s lesson. These student study relationships are often carried throughout training.
Morris continued to grow concerned about falling behind. He started missing ground school and tutor sessions. He could not answer questions in class and failed his first exam. We increased private tutoring sessions, but he continued to struggle. When we discovered he was not using his time efficiently while at home, we coached him on practicing good study habits during his free time.
Epic sometimes must make a very difficult decision to recommend that a student should repeat ground school. When recommending this to Morris, he agreed. He wanted to reach his ultimate goal to become the best and safest pilot.
Morris observed his classmates moving from completion of ground school to accomplishing the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam, and then progressing quickly through flying activities.
He was focused and determined on his first day of the repeated ground school. He attended class every day and scored well on his first exam. His flight instructor, tutors, and classmates also noticed the difference.
Alex Bateman, Morris’s private pilot flight instructor, shared, “Throughout my training with Morris it was always evident that he had the knowledge to become a very talented pilot. During the time I was his instructor, I got to see him shift more and more of his time to training and studying. It was during this time that he became very successful and made me a very proud instructor. I hope other students can see the effort Morris put in and replicate it.”
It was a day to celebrate when Morris passed the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Exam. It was a team effort, but ultimately, it was up to Morris.
“To be honest, Epic Flight Academy actually kept me moving forward. I had so many problems in the private course, but no one gave up on me. My strengths are knowing I can do this and have a future with the airlines. Thanks, Epic!”
To date, Chinedu Ikechi Alikor (Morris) has completed his Private Pilot and Instrument check rides. He is currently working toward his Commercial Single-engine and planning on remaining at Epic for time-building and to earn his Commercial Multi-engine.
Hunter Ian McCarthy
January 13, 2020: Hunter Ian McCarthy tackles life full throttle and with conviction. We witnessed his extreme focus and determination on his first day of this year’s January private pilot ground school class. During self-introductions while sharing training goals, most students focus on short-term, such as training completed within a year. A few may add going to a regional airline.
Hunter shared his goals:
“My 5-year goal is to join a charter company or a regional airline grasping the ins and outs of the aviation industry. After that, my 10-year goal is to be a captain for a regional or charter airline or moving into a major airline. My 15-year goal is to purchase an aircraft and start a charter company of my own while still working for an airline. My lifetime goal is to own and operate my own charter company and continue being part of building the next generation of aviation enthusiast and pilots.”
During training, Hunter excelled in ground schools and flight activities. He attributes his learning styles toward his success. Hunter listens to lectures and is able to easily memorize and repeat information in orals with his flight instructors. He then applied the reinforced knowledge in the airplane solidifying and strengthening the information. “I was fortunate to have a little knowledge and experience in mechanics, which helped learning aircraft systems. Basic Principles of Flight also seemed to come together easily for me. Success just takes study and focus, not necessarily prior experience or knowledge. It’s knowing how to study smarter, not harder.”
His biggest challenge was sometimes focusing on the end result goal temporality losing sight of how to get there.
Tips from Hunter on How to Pace Yourself
“My biggest weakness would be getting too far ahead of myself. I would move quicker toward a goal than where I was in my training. This would confuse me or even cause stress, thinking I wasn’t moving fast enough. I would then beat myself up if I couldn’t get a maneuver down or within the FAA standards. The biggest hurdle was not the learning or flying skills but putting too much pressure on myself at one given time because I wanted to get done so fast.”
“Looking back, advice I would have given myself is to slow down. Don’t try to be the best or the fastest because you could end up hurting yourself. Always remember, not everyone gets every maneuver in the same amount of time. Some people may take more or less training in order to learn a concept or get a certain maneuver.”
“I learned that It’s better to take it slow and get all the knowledge you can. The end result: you will spend less time, money, and heartache. Do not overload yourself with activities or multiple ratings at once. The best way to get through flight training is to focus, stay stress-free, and study what your instructors recommend. Discover how you best receive and remember information. Try to never lose motivation and passion for aviation and remember why you got into it in the first place!”
CFII James Joao shared, “Hunter came in with zero experience in aviation. I had the privilege of working with him on private and instrument ratings. He excelled and grasped aviation very well. He has shown passion and knowledge in aviation. I’m super proud of how he has grown.”
In 8 months, Hunter Ian McCarthy earned his Private, Instrument, Commercial Single-engine and Certified Flight Instructor.
Determination, Focus, and Study Skills
Support and nurturing lead to success. What makes one student succeed while another struggles? The recipe for success, regardless of your goals: determination, focus, and excellent study skills. The students arriving at Epic with all these skills will build and improve their abilities. Students having one or two of these qualities strengthen the weakest skill.
Through the process of flying, Yuki, Morris, Hunter, other successful students, and I discovered more about who we are and how we learn. We strengthened our determination, focus, and study skills by not giving up even during the most challenging times.
Passion and the desire to succeed propel all of us to reach a goal. One of the most wonderful elements of flying is that the best and safest pilots are always learning! If you’re struggling with how to study, the following tips can help.
10 Tips on How to Study Effectively
How to Study Effectively
- Don’t do it all at once.
If you have a lot of content to study, pace yourself. Review the material and plan how you can break it into segments. Be consistent and have regular, shorter study periods.
- Plan when you will study.
You know what else you have going on in your life, so put your study time on you calendar just like a dentist appointment of a ground school class. Keep the commitments on your calendar.
- Study at the same time each day.
Develop a routine for studying at the same time. This creates effective study habits because you’ll feel mentally prepared. Of course, you will have to be flexible if something comes up, but stick to your routine as much as possible.
- Set a specific goal for each study session.
Perhaps you need to draft a flight plan or learn the parts of an airplane. Whatever the task at hand is, set a goal for each study session. You’ll feel great after achieving each of these goals and be better prepared for your next class or study session.
- Avoid procrastination.
If you have set 4:00 to 5:00 pm as your study time, don’t put it off and start 15 or 20 minutes late. Procrastination causes you to rush, and that is not a good habit to develop as a pilot. Respect your scheduled time. Respect yourself. Always start on time.
- Tackle the hardest topic first.
If you’re struggling with a particularly tough concept, start with that first. You’ll be fresh and at your best, and once you finish the hard part, the rest will come easily.
Always review your notes before you begin your study session. Then, review and updated them when you’ve finished studying. Whether studying alone or with a partner, reviewing your notes is a great way to build deep knowledge.
- Avoid distractions.
Turn your phone and/or social media alerts off. Turn off other distractions. When your passenger board the plane you are flying someday, they want to feel safe knowing their pilot is focused solely on flying the plane safely. Approach your studying in this way.
- Study with a buddy.
Whether you study with a friend or group of friends from class, make the most of this. Sometimes a fellow student can explain concepts more easily. Others may be able to sketch a concept. Regardless of who knows what, don’t be afraid to share what you know. When you teach something to someone else, you internalize it even more strongly.
- Reflect on your study habits.
Everyone has different learning styles and different approaches to learning. Be organized. Keep you notes up to date. Think about how you study and ask yourself what you can do differently to be sure you are getting the most out of your study sessions. Pilots never stop learning and training, so developing good study habits now is an essential skill.
What is your favorite study tip? Share below!