Alyssa Miller

‘That’s easy,’ yeah right

August 24, 2011 by Alyssa Miller, AOPA Online Managing Editor

Sometimes, the most well-meaning comments can do more damage than good. And in the aviation world, “That’s easy” can actually discourage students and already certificated pilots instead of pumping them up for that next certificate or rating.

I remember talking to seasoned pilots before I started my commercial certificate training. Everyone said, “That’s easy,” or “It’s a glorified private.” So, in my mind, getting the commercial should be a cinch. Then I tried chandelles and lazy eights. Not so easy the first time, or the second, or the tenth. I got it, but it took lots of practice (and patience) and working with two different instructors to get the maneuvers set in my head and then transferred to the cockpit.

I’ve talked to other pilots who have either thought about getting their commercial certificate or are working on it, and they share one commonality. Everyone told them it would be easy but they’re either discouraged or wonder why it they can’t master the maneuvers right off the bat. Some might just give up instead of sticking it out because it’s not as easy as they were led to believe.

That made me think. If those two words can discourage pilots who already have their private pilot certificate and, in many cases, the instrument rating as well, how damaging can they be to a student pilot? If a pilot calls a maneuver easy that students don’t understand, they might fear that they aren’t cut out for flying.

There’s no “easy button” in aviation. Even the most naturally gifted pilot has to work at it. While some maneuvers may be less complex, that doesn’t make them easy. And what is easy for one pilot isn’t easy for another.

So how about we stop telling future pilots and students “that’s easy.” Really, our intent is to give them a pep talk. Instead, why not say, “You can do it! It’ll take practice, but you’ll get it”? Then, when the going gets rough, as it always does at some point in the training process, they might not get as discouraged because it isn’t coming “easy” to them.

What do you say to encourage pilots instead of “That’s easy”?

6 Responses to “‘That’s easy,’ yeah right”

  1. Ken Wilson Says:

    I feel fortunate. My instructors and other pilots I have encountered have always presented flying as challenging yet something that can be accomplished with persistent and practice. When I now speak with other pilots and those achieving certification, I do my best to pass along the same message; As difficult as the training may seem now, you will achieve your goal through persistence and practice.

  2. Jolie Lucas Says:

    I think that the old saying “practice makes perfect” isn’t borne out by research. Practice makes practice and by practicing we gain mastery. I agree with the bottom line here….encourage future pilots. And inspire the love of flight. Can you think of anything instant that is good? Coffee, pudding? Nope. We have to keep practicing.

  3. stuart lane Says:

    I tell potential instrument students that this will be one of the the toughest things they will ever attempt but that it will also be the most rewarding. I also let them know that there will be days when they will feel overloaded and have doubts as to whether they will ever ‘get it’. When that day comes (and it will), I just remind them of what I said at the beginning of the training. That little comment can go along way to relieving some of the frustrations that they are sure to experience later.

  4. Bill Renaud Says:

    Reminding students about persistence and practice is good advice. But I also think that it is good to have them try to pick an instructor that is good at explaining details. Much of flying is like learning to shoot 3-point shots in basketball or playing the piano. Transfer of correct knowledge from the master (instructor or teacher) to the student has to occur first. Like Dr. Edwards Deming once said: “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do,
    and THEN do your best.” This is somewhat problematic in flying though, as there are so many aspects where the “correct action” is not agreed upon or understood very well by everybody!

  5. Natalie Turner Says:

    I am a student pilot. It has been a long, sometimes exciting, frequently frustrating journey. I am fortunate because my CFI, my flight school, and friends and family have been very supportive. I had the opportunity to talk to “would-be pilots” at a recent pancake breakfast at the airport. All of them had one thing in common. They didn’t think they could do it, and they all wanted to try. If someone tells me they don’t think they can fly, I always ask them why. The fears range from air sickness, to a physical disability, including getting into a low winged airplane, not having enough upper body strength, fear of heights, not being able to pick things out on the ground, turbulence, falling out of the sky, not being able to judge distance, not knowing where to look, and feeling overwhelmed. Each time they tell me what they fear, I always tell them that I had all of the same fears, and you learn all of it.

    To the CFI’s out there, you are selling the impossible… you are selling the dream called flight. I understand that at the 2000th hour of dual given, you have heard it all. You know all of the fears. You know you won’t fall out of the sky if your plane decides to drop an engine, or chuck a propeller. If you hit a little mechanical or atmospheric turbulence the plane won’t turn into a lawn dart. You know your odds of going home at night are very very good. To the beginning student… every bump, every noise, every bird, every foot of alititude, every gust of wind means the world. If you tell them “thats easy” you are telling them their concerns are not valid. If their concerns are not valid then they have just proved to themselves they are too “stupid” to fly. I really think that is why so many students never finish their flight instruction. Be patient with us, we will get it… eventually. :)

  6. Jim Says:

    I can’t recall ever being told that the next step of aviation would be easy. The closest would have been, after I finished my instrument rating, when the flight school owner suggested I go on to get my CFI. But he never said it was easy, just that I should go for tit. I thought he was just trying to boost the school’s revenue, since he knew I was already a science teacher at a local high school. But I didn’t think I was that good a pilot, so I didn’t follow up on his advice until a few years later, and I wish I had done so when he mentioned it.

    And Natalie, the good CFIs who I know are fully aware of the student’s apprehensions about all these unfamiliar sensations and activities. We are reminded every day, with every student, about what is new and different. We are constantly looking for the connection that will bring this notion or performance into focus for the student – whether it is for primary training or commercial, instrument or CFI. Truly, that constant contact with the novelty is one of the incentives for instructing. Just make sure you remember that feeling, a few years from now, when you are the teacher.

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