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Alex arriving back to PVD for the first time as a licensed pilot.

Alex became a licensed private pilot on August 24th, six months after beginning his flight training. While this alone is a huge achievement for any aspiring pilot, Alex was able to complete his license in only 42 hours of flying, just two more than the legally required minimum.

We asked Alex what he did during his flight training that enabled him to keep his hours as low as possible:

Incorporate aviation knowledge into your daily life: Alex made it a point to constantly have his mind engaged in flying. He would spend time at the flight school when he wasn’t working and didn’t have a lesson, just to absorb what other students were experiencing. A handheld radio was always nearby so that he could listen to air traffic control, helping him be more prepared and relaxed when it came time for his next flight. His curiosity did not abate when he left the airport. He stopped looking at regular weather reports and only used aviation weather forecasts, even on days he wasn’t planning to fly.  His learning continued at home as much as possible.

“Backseat” as much as possible: Spending additional time at the flight school brought with it the added benefit of becoming friends with many of the other students. He would take every opportunity to ride along in the back seat for others’ lessons, increasing his exposure to new situations and scenarios, without incurring the cost of a flight lesson. His tip for how to be a good backseater (and get invited along next time): “Keep quiet and look for traffic. Don’t interrupt the learning in the front unless you are helping to keep the flight safe.”

Don’t just take the test: It is common for people to take the written exam just to get it out of the way. Many study for it by memorizing the questions and answers without gaining a full understanding of the subject material. Alex’s approach was to use the test bank as a tool to discover areas where his knowledge was deficient. His goal was not to just take the test and get it over with, but rather to achieve a deep level of understanding that then made his flights more informed and productive. All the written-test material is fair game on the checkride anyway; so, by preparing for the written test so thoroughly, Alex was also preparing for the oral component of his stage checks and practical exam.

Be willing to accept honest evaluation: The only way to learn something well is to be honest about your talents and your shortcomings. Learning is a process and every time something doesn’t go perfectly as planned, it is an opportunity to learn and grow. Alex evaluated each flight, looking for those opportunities. He would “chair fly” each lesson, practicing what he did well and what he needed to improve upon.

The biggest factor in Alex’s success was his decision to treat his flight training as a lifestyle and not as a hobby. He set a goal of getting his private pilot certificate and found ways to move closer to that goal every day regardless of whether he was flying.

Alex’s approach to flight training may not suit every person that dreams of becoming a licensed pilot. Some may want to be more leisurely in their pursuit of a license and take their time. For those who are seeking a career as a pilot, Alex’s approach to his flight training should serve as a road map to success.