What’s the process of becoming a private pilot and how do you avoid burnout along the way? It’s all about pacing yourself and taking steps at the correct and most efficient time. In this podcast I’ll go through a handful of steps, and the order in which to take them, that will help you in your journey to becoming a pilot.
In this podcast we will discuss:
- Starting with Online Ground School
- Preparing for and Finishing the Written Test BEFORE Flight Training
- How Often You Should Fly Once You Start Flight Training
- What the Pace of Flight Training Will Be Like
- Various Tips for Success Along the Way (this is where you’ll find the most value!)
I know you’re super excited to jump in an airplane and just get going on your training, but it’s best that you pace yourself and figure out which steps to take when. Also, a good bit of planning should go into HOW and WHEN you do these things. Really. Think it through, then execute. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.
You can find a full transcript on our website and other training resources at AngleofAttack.com
On this episode of AviatorCast, how to avoid study burnout in private pilot training.
Welcome aviators to another episode of AviatorCast. Load up your flight bag with useful flight training topics, interviews, and aviation passion. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires coming to you from an Angle of Attack headquarters in Homer, Alaska. Here’s your host and flight instructor, Chris Palmer.
Welcome aviators to another episode of AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer, coming to you from Homer, Alaska, as you heard. Now I do online ground school. I do checkride preparation. I have social media. You guys can check out YouTube, but here we are on the AviatorCast podcast. I hope you are enjoying the podcast. Maybe you’re new, maybe you’ve been here before, but we are having a good time.
So tell me if this describes you. Are you such a kid about this cool aviation stuff that you want to drink from a fire hose instead of a regular hose, even though your mom told you not to? Are you so eager to learn this aviation thing that you have a tendency to burn out? The fact that you want to drink from the fire hose or you’re so into it that you’ll burn out is there a really good sign. I think that’s a good place to start. But this podcast is all going to be about being strategic to avoid that burnout in your private pilot training.
So I’m going to walk you through the process of how I would do it, my best advice on how to go about your private pilot training and maybe give you a few tips to make sure that this goes smoothly for you. So that’s going to be what today’s podcast is all about. If you guys end up really enjoying this and you want me to do it for subsequent ratings, like instrument, commercial, CFI, I’m willing to do that as well. I might do it anyway. It’s not in the immediate future though. But if you do find this really valuable and you want this for the current one that you’re on and it’s not private pilot, let me know and I’ll be more than happy to put that in the hopper here and do an episode on AviatorCast later on along those lines.
So of course, I think one of the first things to start with, with anything when we’re talking about avoiding burnout is to make sure that you pace yourself. When it comes to aviation training, this is a journey. It’s not a race. There are so many new things you’re going to learn that it’s just going to take a little while for your body, for your mind, for your emotions, to understand how aviation is coming together, how all this works, because there’s a lot going on and a lot of things you’re putting together.
So I think aviation and learning aviation is a lifelong pursuit, it’s not something that you do just one license like private pilot. Even if you do just one license, like private pilot, you’re still always learning. The best way to be a pilot and the best attitude of a pilot I think is humility. But some of that humility comes from continually learning, progressing, growing as a pilot.
So the FAA will define times of this growth as licenses. And so you’ll have your private pilot license, you’ll have your instrument ticket, is what we call it. You’re actually adding that onto your private pilot. You’ll have your commercial license, your flight instructor rating, whatever it is. So they define these blocks of intensive training as licenses. But what we really want to do in pacing yourself, taking things as they come enjoying this journey, recognizing this as a journey and not a race is this attitude of, again, lifelong learning and coming from that perspective rather than just rushing into it. So again, we are going to go over how to prepare specifically for the private pilot license, that first license you get and working from there.
So this may be a little bit of a shorter podcast, but we probably will still end up around the 30 minute mark. And I’ll work you guys through how over the years me coaching people, mentoring people, doing these things on my own and seeing how people typically work on a larger scale through this, my best advice on how to get this done. So not everyone is the same. I get that. Some of you may be able to do it differently, do it faster, that’s fine. But I think that most people are just normal average pilots and this is the process that I tell everyone to go through. This is the type of advice I give. I’ve done these types of seminars before. If you want to call this a seminar through some online webinars, through forums at AirVenture, but this is going to be specific to just the private pilot and specific to the study of the material, not necessarily all the hoops you need to jump through like the medical, that’s kind of a different story. I actually have another podcast episode on that that you could go back and listen to.
So I think one of the best things to do in studying for and avoiding burnout in your private pilot training is enrolling in an online ground school. Of course it’s a little self serving, but I hope you check out our offering for online ground school. Go to angleofattack.com and check that out. But regardless, I think if you dedicate yourself from the very beginning to go through the written test, I’ll tell you why here in a few minutes, but it’s going to be very beneficial in the long run to get all that done ahead of time.
So I would say a good pace in enrolling in that ground school and thinking about being self-guided and how much time do I actually need to put in if you’re going to do this in a reasonable amount of time, it’s probably going to take about an hour a day to go through and do that. Now I realize that not everyone’s going to be able to do that hour a day, but pick a schedule even if that needs to be slower and stick to that schedule.
This is very, very important because again, it’s a journey. You’re going to be taking the knowledge one bit at a time, and as you learn the the concepts in ground school, you’re going to be thinking about those things and then you will be pondering on them and thinking about them during the day at work and then coming back and maybe learning a little bit about it again. And it’s just this constant upward trend that sometimes flattens out or goes down a little bit, but you’re for the most part trending upward through that entire process, learning more and more and more as you go along. We’ll talk about why that’s going to be so beneficial here in a few minutes.
So be a good student through that process. So you’ve dedicated yourself to a schedule. You’re doing that schedule. Your family’s on board. They know not to bug you, you’re, studying, you’re learning, etc., etc. Be a good student. So take notes along the way. Write down questions you may have. Study more of what you don’t know or of what you didn’t understand. Get active in online communities to ask those questions. If you end up in one of my ground schools, you can actually write me and I’ll help you along the way. I always like that feedback because maybe there’s a chink in my armor I’m not seeing or some part of content I could do better on. So I’m always wanting to improve what I’m doing.
So I love to hear from you and I’m willing to help you, but have a place where you can go and get answers. Google is very useful that way. If you feel like you’re good at searching on the internet, and that is actually a talent because of the way you have to phrase things sometimes in your search. But take good notes along the way. You’re watching those videos online, you’re taking good notes. You write down the things you don’t know or the things that weren’t clear and you go get more clarification on that. You go into the books, whatever it is.
Now, an online ground school, a video ground school, no matter who you get it from is not going to absolve you of that need to do your own deep study. I don’t like the excuse that says I’m not a good student and I was never good with books and this and that. Okay, fine. I totally get that. I am largely the same way. I’m a visual person. Most pilots are visual people. I think that’s why ground schools work so well, or these video ground schools online works so well, but that’s not an excuse. This process you’re going through, why it’s a journey, you are going to grow into a better and a different personal. So you have to find what works for you to get through this because so many people have done it before. It’s possible. You can get there and got to find a way to get through it and be a good student.
So for me in grade school I kind of went through the motions. I didn’t get terrible grades. I did fairly actually really decent at the very end of high school. But that’s because I was really enjoying the work I was doing. So be open to that being the possibility here in this bookwork that we’re talking about or this deep training of the written knowledge test, the things that you need to know before you get in an airplane, and be open to that being a fun process that you learn well.
So put the past behind you. Put away those excuses that you’re not a good student and go for this and have fun doing it. I recognize that even though I didn’t have a super great time in grade school, that I connected to aviation so well. I was passionate about it. So it was a lot easier to put in the work.
Now while you’re going through this process of doing this online ground school and working toward the written test. And just as a really quick review, the written test is something that is required when you go to your checkride at the end of your license. So if you don’t have that written test done, you can’t actually go to your checkride after you’ve received all the training. So what I’m suggesting is that you get it done ahead of time and be prepared for your actual flight training and just have it out of the way because it becomes a big monkey on people’s back. So going in that direction of just having it done all ahead of time.
So this isn’t really optional. One way or another you’re going to have to do the groundwork. You’re going to have to do it either with an instructor one-on-one, which I don’t know of any instructor that really wants to do that, even though they’ll make a lot of money because they’re going to charge you their rate for every single hour and it’s going to cost you thousands and thousands of dollars just for the ground training. Or you can be self-directed and do it yourself through the ground school, be a good student, practice the tests, all that stuff. I guide you through that on my website, on my ground school, and engage you in a place where you have what’s called a written test certificate. So you take that certificate to your checkride, you have two years to take your checkride from the time you pass that test. That’s quite a long time. And then that monkey is off your back for your entire flight training.
So set a goal to get that training done, get it done in a reasonable amount of time, something that you can actually keep, a goal that you can keep and then work toward it little by little keeping in mind it’s a journey, not a race. Not everything is going to make complete sense when you do this. There are some practical application of some of the knowledge you’re going to go through that’s going to be more applicable when you get to the actual airplane, but we’ll talk about that in a second. It’s going to be hugely, hugely beneficial to just have this all done before you actually reach training.
Now, a caveat there is I don’t necessarily believe in people just completely putting off their training to say they’re going to get the written tests done. If you have a window of opportunity to get your training done and you need to get it done quickly, by all means go through it. Put yourself through the ringer. It’s going to be harder doing it in a shorter amount of time and mixing in the ground school with the fight training. But I’d rather you do that than not do it at all, if that makes sense. But best case scenario, you plan ahead, you’re saving money for your license, you’re maybe even saving the time. Maybe it’s time you’re getting off from work or whatever it is, you’re setting aside everything to get ready for a good healthy push on your flight training, and during that process you can get started. He can start learning this ground school knowledge, written test type of material. So set that goal, go for it and that’s going to be hugely, hugely beneficial to you.
Now let’s kind of move forward and transition into the flight training and this is a really important transition to make clear. So you’ve just gotten your written test done, you have all of this knowledge you’re armed with, you understand a lot about aviation now because you’re going to be getting an 85% to a 90% on your test. That’s where I like people to be when they take a test with me. You’re going to be getting a score like that on your test from a randomly generated multiple choice test. So if you really want to put it in perspective, you’re going into your flight training, understanding 85% to 90% of the knowledge you need as a private pilot. That is pretty amazing that you understand all of that information before you ever get in a real airplane, theoretically.
So now you show up to flight school, you’re ready, you have your written test done, your instructor is super excited and really eager to work with you because instructors love working with people that are good students. So they see that you’re willing to put in the work and that gets them excited. It’s a really great way to start that relationship. And then you get in the airplane and you start that first lesson with them after a discussion on the ground, and your instructor, from my perspective as an instructor, your instructor verifies what they thought. You know a lot already about all that’s going on. When you say altimeter or altitude for the first time, you know how to read that altitude. When there’s other vocabulary things that come up, the flight controls, the surfaces, the weather, a lot of these things that you learned theoretically in your ground training, now it’s going to start mixing in practically in your flight training.
But if you go into this without any of that ground training, so switching the scenario, you’re going to be hearing those things for the first time, your instructor’s going to be trying to explain them for the first time while the engine is running, while you’re burning a bunch of gas, while the time is ticking for your instructor’s time. And it’s very expensive to learn that way.
So already if you’ve done the ground training, you’re saving a lot of money, a lot of effort, and in the long run you’re going to be saving hours and hours of time, many hours of time that you would be paying for an airplane running or an instructor teaching on the ground if you have gotten everything done beforehand.
So we’ve transitioned from doing really well on the ground training, to do the flight training now and we’ve planned well. We’re set up, we’re not burning out in the flight training because we put in so much effort and a good slow burn effort in the ground training. So then you start turning toward the skills and the practical things you learn as a pilot rather than the ground stuff, because you’ve pretty much already covered that. You’re just kind of applying it to what matters in the real world.
So in terms of a schedule that might work three times a week I think is ideal. Two times a week is okay. I think that regardless of if it’s three times or two times in between those lessons, you are doing some followup work, some self-analysis of how you did in that flight, your bringing deep questions, thoughtful questions to your instructor for the next lesson, building off of what you did before and really getting deep, deep, deep, deep into what you did, how you can do it better, what you’re going to do next time and keep churning away at it.
I find that the students that fly often and have those thoughtful questions that they bring are those that succeed the most. So I really, really enjoy working with people like that and they progress so quickly. For me in a way sometimes they’re the more challenging students because I as an instructor always want to stay ahead of the student and keep that nice curve of learning going. If you’re willing to do it, I’m going to match it and let’s absolutely go for it. Saves you a lot of money in the long run because you are, again, you already know those things and we’re moving along quickly.
So three times a week, if you can, two times a week, if you can’t. If you are doing less than that, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice. You can still do your flight training, but it’s going to cost you more money in the long run. I’m not saying don’t do it, but the big thing we’re getting toward here is when you have flight lessons that are recent, so within the last few days, several days, let’s say several days, then you have something in your short term memory to build off of, and that goes for your actual memory. That goes from muscle memory. So that when you do the next flight, you’re building off of that instead of if you wait too long repeating the process.
So what we’re trying to do is avoid repeating lessons and getting through this process where we’re just always repeating a lesson because we fly every three weeks or a month or even longer than that. You’re just going to keep repeating the first lesson over and over again. Maybe getting a little bit more out of it each time. That’s a long and an expensive process. It’s better to have the time, have the money and push through it that way.
Now speaking of burnout and flight training, I think if you do any more than three times a week, for some people with a lot of energy, they’re going to be able to do it. That might be pushing too hard. That self-reflection and that ability to kind of let that last lesson settle in, in between the lessons is really important. And if you don’t have the time to quite process that, then that can also be detrimental is going too fast.
So I know people that are encouraged, they’re excited, they’re having a good time flying with me and they want to do two lessons a day or they want to do a four hour lesson. And for a lot of reasons, it’s not really possible because you don’t have the time to really think about what happened in the last lesson and even debrief. You don’t have the time to process it. And people get burned out physically and mentally too. So I can see it if I have a lesson that goes over several hours, if it’s kind of a local lesson that’s fairly intense and we’re doing lots of landings or something, people start tuning out. And it happens to almost everyone. It’s just the human condition. iT’S not for everyone. There are some people out there that have a great capability of doing all those things, but these are tips, I guess, for the average pilot rather than those of you that are unicorns out there flying around.
So if you fly three times a week, even two times a week, then you’re going to be able to do your license in two to three months. So imagine that you’ve had this dream to fly, you did all your ground school, you got that done, you got your written tests done, you came to fight training, YOU dedicated yourself to several times a week, two or three times a week, three being ideal. And in several months you’re a pilot. That’s amazing. I know so many people that ask how long it takes to be a pilot.
Well, here’s a real practical guide on how to do that. So that’s the process. That’s how I would avoid burnout. I know it sounds really simple. You guys can ask me more questions about that. But at the end of the day, starting with the knowledge stuff, really preparing yourself for the expensive part, which is the flight training. And then focusing on just the flight training, the skills, the practical skills when you’re there, and then putting in the work yourself to study and do things during your flight training. Reflect, ponder, bring good questions. That is the ultimate, I guess, recipe for success when it comes to flight training for your private pilot license.
So here are some final tips for success. So focus during this process. If you’re going to sit down and you’re going to do ground school, don’t have any other distractions. Think about putting your phone on do not disturb or something like that. Just really treated as kind of sacred time that you’re dedicating toward this goal. Give it 100% when you’re doing it. That’s how I found it’s the easiest. As counterintuitive as that is, it’s the easiest when you’re dedicating just 100% of your effort when you can. So for me I had a young family at the time when I recently did some training and it was just 100%, that’s all I did all the time, was that training. And the family dynamics and everything were worked out to where that could be my goal. So set yourself up for success there to focus.
When you need a break, take one. Don’t burn yourself out with your energy. Just do it. take care of yourself because your mind is very connected to that process. The environment matters, where you do it. I had really good times studying just at my kitchen table, but if that wasn’t quite working, I’d change it up. I’d go to the airport. Find your happy place, or at least find a place where you can really focus and buckle down. I think changing your environment or setting up your environment is really important. Don’t spend so much time on that, that it’s an excuse to not do the work. Eventually, you just need to do it. So set yourself up for the environment if you need to, but don’t let that environment be an excuse for you not doing the work, if that makes sense. Just do it.
So use a multitude of resources. You’re going to have your ground school, you’re going to have books, you’re going to have apps, you’re going to have just organic search out there. You’re going to have social media you look into. I release a lot of free things. I’ve got this podcast and plenty of topics here that you can glean from that are directly related to your training. So build a a library of resources free or otherwise that can really help you.
Make friends and mentors. This is probably the most important one. You don’t need to go through this process alone. There’s so many people out there that can help, that have been through it, that can give you a little bit of knowledge or a little bit of encouragement to help you in the right direction. And sometimes even just sharing in that journey with others that are going through the same thing is very helpful. So make friends, make mentors. We call this hanger talk where you kind of just hang out at the airport at the hangar and everyone talks about stuff. That’s what aviation is all about, at least on the general aviation level. It’s people helping people achieve their dreams and get where they’re going.
So many good organizations I could name along those lines that are out there to help. But if you have a healthy local airport environment, good flight school, then that’s just something that’s going to come natural. Surround yourself with aviation people and it’s going to be a lot easier for you.
So one last tip for success, and don’t underestimate this one. It’s so very important. Enjoy it. Enjoy this process. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not going to learn as well. And there’s no rule anywhere that says that you can’t have fun during this process. I even encouraged students to pull out their phone for a couple seconds during a flight to take a picture and enjoy this. Remember this, because your training’s going to go by in a flash. You’re going to wish you have more pictures and videos of of what you had done. And there’re so easily taken these days with all of our smart phones. Just enjoy the process. If that’s how you enjoy the process.
But make sure that you’re always enjoying it. If you’re not enjoying it, for whatever reason. And you haven’t been enjoying it for a number of days, then you need to switch it up. I don’t know if it’s your environment you need to switch up or if it’s the flight school you need to switch up, but this should be enjoyable and it can be just so much fun. Even if it is at the same time difficult.
So that’s my advice on how to avoid study burnout or burnout in general in private pilot training. Hope you guys enjoyed this. As always, reach out on social media or otherwise. If you guys need any encouragement or you have any questions, I’ll see you there. Join the conversation, join the community and until next time, throttle on.
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