We analyse the seven common mistakes that most student pilots make. These include poor situational awareness, over-controlling the aircraft, flying a circular traffic pattern, focusing much on flying than ground school and others. Let’s get going right away:
1. Poor situational awareness
This may either take the form of not looking outside the aircraft, not looking for other traffic, assuming that air traffic control is providing traffic separation on you, and fixation on the instruments and neglecting the primary role of the student – flying the aircraft. As a new pilot, you must understand that you fly and maintain situational awareness by looking outside. This is called visual flight rules. You must therefore just make a quick scan on the instruments while spending most of your flying time looking outside.
2. Over-controlling the aircraft
If you have driven a car, you will at some point make the mistake of using the yoke instead of the rudders and some brake pressure to steer the aeroplane on the ground during taxi. If you are a new student, you may also at some point find yourself being hard on the controls (including the throttle) and in the end finding that your hands get pretty tired quickly during flight. The moral of the story is: use trim to relieve the pressure on the controls but do not fly on trim! Be soft on the aircraft.
3. Flying a circular traffic pattern
This is because most of them are afraid to bank enough to be able to turn and fly a proper rectangular pattern. As long as you bank the aircraft enough and make proper power and rudder adjustments, there is no need to be afraid.
4. Too much or too late a landing flare
Flaring is that stage of the landing where you pull the control column a bit to allow the main wheels (the rear wheels) to touch down first before the nose wheel. Flaring also helps with aerodynamic braking — by raising the nose a bit, you increase drag and thus slow down the aircraft without undue pressure on the brakes. For most students who do not transition from looking at the near to the far end of the runway, flaring too late can be expected. If not corrected, the student pilot often finds themselves landing on the nosewheel with the ultimate consequence of porpoising.
5. Releasing the PTT button too early
In order to communicate with air traffic control, you need to press the ‘push-to-talk’ button. We have observed that most new student pilots tend to release the button before they complete sending their message. This means that some portions of their message may not be transmitted to ATC. This may also take the form of stepping on ATC – that is to say starting to respond before ATC completes their transmission. Remember that aircraft radios are two-way but it is only one person talking at a time.
6. Being afraid to ask for help
Air traffic control will understand your limited capability if you introduce yourself as a student. For example, if you do not understand a taxi instruction, it is best to request progressive taxi so that ATC can guide you on every step of the process. This is also a prudent way of operating at unfamiliar airport.
7. Focusing much on flying than ground school
Most students face the temptation and excitement of flying and in the process neglecting equally important components of their training such as ground school. This often results in a ‘plateau’ where the student is unable to get their pilot licence and in so doing being forced to continue flying (and spending money) to maintain the newly acquired skills. Our advice to students is that they should at least complete two ground school modules (Air Law and Radiotelephony) before they start flying. Once you start flying, continue working on your ground school and clear the exams as practically as possible.
Main image above: Our students Patience and Christine have started with ground school and can thus be counted among the prudent students.