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All the Small Things.

I began my flight training in September 2019. My only prior flight experience came from my time as an International Flight Attendant for 3.5 years. My only connection to the aviation industry was my grandfather, who worked as a crop duster for many years.

I graduated from a prestigious part 141 training program, CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, in February 2021 with roughly 260 flight hours as a commercial pilot for both single engine and multi engine, an instrument rating, and a CFII certificate.

I took my first time building job as a flight instructor at a small part 61 school in Alaska. I currently give both ground and flight instruction to students through an accelerated curriculum for private student-pilots and instrument student-pilots.

Having recently reached 500 total flight hours and over 200 flight instruction hours, I'm shocked at the amount of "little things" I wish I would have known when I started this journey.

I'm sure this list will only continue to grow as I build my experiences, but for those of you that, like me, are figuring it out on your own, I hope this makes your life a little bit easier.

This list is geared toward students but I'll throw in a few things that help as you start your CFI journey as well.

  1. Write in your logbook in black ink and be as neat as possible. Write small and, any mistakes you make, draw one simple line through and initial next to them.... AVOID WHITEOUT

  2. Start an electronic logbook as soon as possible! Take it from me, you don't want to be 500 hours in, finding mistakes on every page of your paper log book, having to check and then re-check your math. Plus, it's impossible to spill coffee on a digital copy! Any mistakes you catch, you can correct easily: no lines, initials, or whiteout. (NO WHITEOUT)

  3. Have a grab bag ready to go with all your required flight items: medical, pilot certificate, government issued ID and headset. When you're in a hurry and don't have time to pack, it's helps to only have one thing you NEED to get that day's flight done. Solid move if it's waterproof... trust me.

  4. Invest in a noise canceling headset!! It's an expensive purchase, but it's a worthy investment. I went with the Bose (for the noise canceling and the Bluetooth capability) and couldn't be happier I did. They help eliminate background noise that can distract from radio calls, ultimately making each flight safer. I let my brother wear my pair when I first took him up because he was getting air-sick and playing his music helped him calm down and enjoy the flight. (Just don't forget to bring a spare pair of batteries!)

  5. Take the time to get comfortable in the plane. If you're a snacker, bring something small you can munch on. I like to fly with gum or ginger candy. Put your water bottle somewhere you can reach it. If you use a kneeboard, organize it and make sure it's on comfortably. Wear your favorite hat or sunglasses. Spending an extra 5 minuets on the ground to get organized goes a long way.

  6. Talk to yourself in flight. No matter what phase of training/working you find yourself in, talking through your decisions out loud will do two things: it will help you think through all the necessary steps, it will calm you down if you are nervous. On one solo mission during my own flight training I literally yelled at the air around me because I was tired of getting bopped around by "turbulence". I'm not saying yelling is a good idea but after I let it out, I was able to calm down and actually flew better.

  7. Collect as many endorsements as you can and fly as many types of aircraft as you can. Every new endorsement or type of plane is a resume builder; a chance to set yourself apart from a long list of applicants later on down the line. Every new tool you put in your belt is going to strengthen your skills as a pilot and build your confidence as PIC.

  8. Never turn down an opportunity to fly! There will come a time, when you're doing everything you can to build hours as quickly as you can, while making less than a bartender, eating ramen noodles, and running off of gas station coffee. You will look back at every time someone asked you if you want to fly and wish you would have said yes. Every 0.1 of flight time counts. It could be the difference between being qualified for your dream job or watching someone else fill the spot.

  9. Push yourself, but do it safely. If you've never experienced 3sm visibility, moderate rainfall, greater than 25k gusting winds, or instrument flying on a traditional 6 pack, find someone who has and go fly with them. You are capable of so much more than you realize... go find out just how much!

  10. Remember to have fun while flying! There's enough pressure on you right now: financially, academically, emotionally, socially, and physically. Remember why you picked flying as your career and what made you believe you could be a pilot in the first place. I'd put money on it that you decided to start this journey because it was fun. chase that feeling again. Fly to have fun. The rest will come.

I know there's more, but these things always hit you in the moment. If you can think of something I missed, drop it in the comments below!


Thank you for taking the time to share in my journey.

And remember, have fun while flying through this crazy life!


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