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Things I Wish I Knew as a Student Pilot

By Anthony Geraci


Besides being a part of Stratus, I also hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate, Multi-Engine, Instrument Rating and Private Pilot, Single-Engine ratings. For me, flying gave me freedom to explore the skies and put me in control of where I wanted to go. Thinking back to when I was a student pilot (not so long ago), there were definitely things I wish I know now that I wish I knew back then. In no certain order, here is what I wish I knew:


Read the ACS
I didn’t know what the ACS (Airman Certification Standards) were until I was almost ready for my checkride. I wish I had read that in the beginning. I am a “think with the end in mind” type of person, so had I read it, I could have set myself up in the right frame of mind much earlier than I did.

The More You Study on the Ground, The Better Your Learning In Flight Will Be
I cannot emphasize this enough. I wish I studied on the ground more rather than showing up to my flight lesson expecting the CFI to teach me everything. Even after learning ground, I could have prepared mentally for the experience.

Chair Fly More… No, Seriously
When I was working on my instrument rating, my CFII would tell me to chair fly. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing. How can I fly in a chair? Until one day I tried it. I closed my eyes, imagining myself in the plane (a Piper Cherokee) and walking through an instrument approach in my mind. Tuning in the NAV VOR and ILS and listening to the morse code, turning the OBS, and then at the Final Approach Fix doing my GUMPS check. As some of you already know, Single Pilot IFR is some of the most demanding workload on a pilot, and there are a lot of steps all the while controlling the plane. In any event, chair flying will help you build the mental connections and reflexes you need in the airplane.

Spend More Time At Your Flight School
I was working full time during flight training, but if I had the ability, I would have spent a lot more time at the flight school. It is not just the learning you get in the air, or even on the ground. There is also learning in talking with fellow students, other CFIs and everyone part of aviation.

Find a CFI You Get Along With and Teaches You The Way You Learn
Top of the list: find a CFI that teaches you in a way that you understand and grow from. Does that mean CFIs are bad? Not at all. However, if you are noticing that for some reason you’re not progressing in your flight training, maybe taking training from another CFI will help clear the way to progress. I went through 4 CFIs before I found one who I understood and helped me become the pilot I am today.

Remember Why You’re Doing This
There’s going to be a time when you question whether you can be a pilot. For me, I was on my 30th landing and my CFI said after yet another poorly executed landing “Well, that was enough for today. Let’s head back.” The next day we went up and he said “Let’s do something different.” We took an impromptu cross-country to an airport 50 nautical miles away (which if you haven’t gone, KWJF (William J. Fox Field) has a great restaurant on airport). When we ate lunch, he said “it looked like you needed a day to just fly, so thought we’d come up here.” It was a great experience, and I soloed 2 weeks later.

There are going to be tough times through training, but guaranteed your CFI, flight school and everyone around you want you to succeed. Flight training isn’t a straight line, and sometimes you have a take a step back to go forward.

Don’t Stop
Finally, my advice to all student pilots would be to don’t stop learning. I am a low time pilot, just hitting 400 hours as of the writing of this article, and I am still learning something new every day. As I’m sure you’ve heard many times by now in your training, your certificate is a license to learn. Watch YouTube videos on training, read industry magazines, or just hang around your flight school. You’ll learn so much in such a short amount of time by doing so.


Remember why you’re doing this, don’t stop, and enjoy the ride. There was a reason you chose to be a pilot. You’ll be in the top 1% of people in the world – pilots. I look forward to seeing you up there.

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