Think back to the subject or subjects that gave you the most trouble in school. There was, I’m sure, something that you just could not seem to understand, no matter how hard you tried. It happens to the best of us.
Now, think of where you are in your training. If you’re lucky, things are going well. If not, you may be in one of the inevitable training slumps that we all endure.
Landings are one example. Certain ground reference maneuvers are another, especially some of the commercial maneuvers. The same thing happens in instrument training.
One of the best tools to learn whether or not you fully grasp something is to try to teach it. Sit down with your instructor, or with another pilot, and try to teach the subject that you are struggling to comprehend. This will force you to go through all of the steps, and use the tried-and-true building-block process.
Take Eights on Pylons, which is a ground reference maneuver. With the Eights On, you have to compute your pivotal altitude, which is based on groundspeed. To know what the groundspeed is, you need to have an idea of what the winds are, which might require a check of the weather. Once the pivotal altitude is computed, you need to explain how to set up the maneuver, followed by what is going to happen based on the winds.
When NDB approaches were common, the failure rate on NDB approaches on checkrides was relatively high, because it isn’t the easiest maneuver to fly or understand. But, if you can discuss it and teach it, the NDB approach suddenly becomes much easier, and that kind of confidence is something you want to have when you are flying one in low IFR conditions for the first time—especially if it is the first low IFR approach you are flying by yourself, as it was for me.
It doesn’t matter if the subject is practical or academic. The reality is that somewhere along the way, you will likely have a bump in the road. By trying to teach the topic, you are forced to study it in a different way, and further, you are forced to try to fill in the gaps you have versus just trying to gloss over them.
I’ve used this approach for myself as well as for students with great success, and a good instructor will also let you use it as an opportunity to get the most that you can out of your learning experience.—Chip Wright
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