"Bad" Lessons and What They Teach Us

"Bad" Lessons and What They Teach Us

By Jacob Tacke, CFII

Asking What Went Wrong

Pursuing flight training can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life, but it is also expensive and challenging. In a perfect world, every flight would go as planned, and you would progress smoothly. However, chances are that you will always have some critique for yourself at the end of each flight lesson, and you may not always progress as quickly as you had hoped. If you are frustrated with your performance after a flight, it is important to find out why things didn’t go as planned.


Lack of Preparation

Newer student pilots can underestimate the study time and preparation required before a flight to put concepts together and build their skills in the aircraft. I’ve previously written about ways you can study more thoroughly before a lesson, and I recommend that you also consult your instructor about what you should be using your time to study before your next lesson.

Lack of Self-Inspection

At the beginning of your student pilot training, your flight instructor will likely introduce the self-inspection checklist 'IMSAFE', and have you go through it to ensure you are fit to fly. The FAA Safety Team outlines the checklist as follows:


I'M SAFE Checklist:

  • Illness: Do I have any symptoms?
  • Medication: Have I been taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs?
  • Stress: Am I under psychological pressure from the job? Am I worried about financial matters, health problems, or family discord?
  • Alcohol: Have I been drinking within 8 hours?
  • Fatigue: Am I tired and not adequately rested?
  • Emotion: Am I emotionally upset?


Oftentimes, the checklist is taught with another "E" for "Eating" to cover any other physiological needs


Unfamiliar Conditions

We delved into the importance of personal minimums and proficiency in this article. Whether it’s higher winds than you normally train in, a different aircraft than you are used to flying, or a different airport than you normally land at, good risk management will help prevent mistakes during your flights and also make you a safer pilot! Most likely, you will learn the PAVE risk management checklist. While it has some overlap with IMSAFE, it encompasses other risk factors besides the pilot, and includes the following:

PAVE Checklist:

  •     Pilot
  •     Aircraft
  • enVironment
  •     External Pressures.


A personal minimums checklist that you can fill out to make safer decisions can be found here.


Understanding Errors Never Completely Go Away.

The Aviation Instructor’s Handbook (3-33 - 3-35) discusses errors with the following introduction: "Errors are a natural part of human performance. Beginners, as well as the most highly skilled experts, are vulnerable to error, and this is perhaps the most important thing to understand about error. To believe people can eliminate errors from their performance is to commit the biggest error of all. Instructors and learners alike should be prepared for occasional errors by learning about common kinds of errors, how errors can be minimized, how to learn from errors, and how to recover from errors when they are made."

This passage outlines that errors can never truly be eliminated. It also outlines that we, as pilots, should never stop our efforts to mitigate errors, whatever form they may occur in.

This brings us to an important idea:

The ways you prevent undesirable flight outcomes in training also apply to the real world!


Learn From Errors

(The following scenario involves a student pilot identifying fatigue, but this point can really be applied to any pilot and any potential source of risk.)


Let’s say you are a student pilot learning to land with your instructor. You had set a goal before this flight that you would get three good landings in a row. By the end of your flight, you are frustrated because you just couldn’t get three landings in a row and flared too high on the final attempt. Upon reflection, you realize you scheduled your lesson after you had been working outside in the heat all day. You can therefore get a valuable lesson in self-inspection and risk management by paying more attention to your level of fatigue before you fly. Learning from this experience in the relatively safe environment of flight training with an instructor by your side can prepare you to better identify fatigue in the future, making you a safer pilot.

by Jacob Tacke, CFII

Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIMDIY tabs for your FAR/AIM and other pilot resources so that you can more easily study the regulations that form the foundation of your flying career or hobby. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs page or contact us. Check out other blog posts here.