Have you dreamed about flying since you were a little kid? Or maybe you’re always itching to learn something new. Or perhaps machinery and driving new types of vehicles is a passion of yours.
Unfortunately, none of us are born with the innate ability to fly. So whatever is driving you to want to fly, you’re probably looking into pilot training and flight school.
If you’re signed up for flight school or are getting ready to apply, there are things you can do beforehand to get yourself ready. You don’t need any qualifications to use any of these resources we’re about to go over, either.
Keep reading to learn 10 resources that can help you get a jump on your pilot training and set you up to be the best aviation student you can be.
1. Observe Flight Lessons Before You Start
Just because you haven’t started your own flight lessons yet doesn’t mean you can’t observe one in action. This is a great way to get a feel for how flight lessons work, what you’ll be expected to know, and how the instructor interacts with the student during the flight.
You can also observe how the student operates and does certain action so that you’ll know what to do once you’re in that situation.
2. Play Video Games
This might be a dream come true for some people: playing video games to prepare for school? But you might be surprised to hear that video games can help increase and hone skills that are necessary for pilots, including:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Operating machinery
- Understanding both visual and non-visual skills
- Situational awareness
- Communicating effectively while performing particular tasks
There are also flight simulators that are specifically designed to mimic a classic aviation situation that you can play online or on consoles.
Ones that are especially helpful are those that use VR, aka virtual reality. These will make you feel like you’re really operating a plane and will mimic the exact controls you’ll be expected to use in a real aircraft.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Air Traffic Control
Air traffic control goes hand in hand with flying any sort of vehicle. They’re the way you’re going to communicate with people on the ground, relay information, report emergencies to, and more.
How people speak over air traffic control, how things are reported, and the protocols you need to follow are all specific. You should be familiar with the terminology, language, and protocols before you start your pilot training.
You can listen in on live air traffic control frequencies to get a feel for what it sounds like and how people communicate. Check out the Live ATC website for free access to airport traffic control frequencies.
4. Learn the Phonetic Alphabet
On the topic of air traffic control terminology, you’re going to need to learn the phonetic alphabet, preferably before your first lesson or your first day of school.
Movies that showcase pilots yelling “Foxtrot Niner Niner!” during tense situations aren’t entirely fictitious (well, they’re mostly fictitious with the classic Hollywood plane barrel rolls, someone flying a plane with no experience, and snake infestations). But the plane speech like “foxtrot niner niner” is something that’s actually used.
It’s called the phonetic alphabet that’s standardized for all pilots. It’s used in order to make sure that air traffic control and other parties listening to pilot reports get the correct information. Saying, “Flight DEL7932″ can get garbled: did they say D or B?
To avoid potentially dangerous confusion, you would instead use the phonetic alphabet that has a word for each individual letter and number. So the above flight DEL7934″ would actually be: Delta-Echo-Lima-Seven-Niner-Tree-Fower”.
Notice how some of the numbers are their name (“Seven”) while some have special pronunciations (three is “tree”). It’s best to have this memorized before you begin so you’ll be confident using the proper language in the air.
5. Study, Study, Study
Studying before you even start school might seem rough, but if you want to be fully prepared, it’s a step you need to take. You’ll already be studying air traffic control language and the phonetic alphabet, so why not spend a bit extra time to look over some aviation textbooks?
You can buy some of these textbooks or workbook online to go over parts of the plane, standard practices in aviation, FAA safety training regulations, and more. The more information you know before your first day the better.
6. Look Over Old Pilot Exams
Another key study material besides textbooks and listening to air traffic control is old pilot exams.
In order to become a certified pilot, you’re going to need to pass a written exam. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has a particular exam that you must pass that involves questions on:
- Airplane terminology
- Common aviation practices
- Proper communication
- Laws and regulations
You can find sample questions to use as practice on the FAA website, and you can also find troves of old exams to use as practice too. You’ll notice some general themes of questions, which can help you both during school as well as when you finally sit down to your own exam.
You can also speak to certified pilots that have taken the test before to see how they studied. Learning how they learned, and eventually passed, the exam will be helpful during your own studying.
Knowing this information before you start lessons or school can make the work and flight time a lot easier than if you jump in knowing nothing.
7. Download Some Aviation Apps
Besides the video games and flight simulators we mentioned, there are apps you can download on your phone and tablet to help you out. We’ll mention a few of our favorites:
The AOPA Flight Training Magazine app is great for getting all of the latest aviation news so you can stay up to date while you’re learning.
Remember the Live ATC website we mentioned earlier? You can have it on the go with the Live ATC app as well. You won’t have any excuse to not be familiar with air traffic control when you can have it anywhere you go.
You can also download a virtual version of the FAA regulations so you don’t have to lug around a huge book with all the rules and laws. This will be perfect for studying as well.
8. Visit an Aviation Medical Examiner
Remember the scene in Little Miss Sunshine when the aspiring pilot who had what looked like Simfly cockpit posters all over his room and an obsession with planes and pilots found out that he was colorblind and, thus, couldn’t be a pilot?
Don’t let something that heartbreaking happen to you. Before you start following your dream, check that you’re physically able. You’ll need to get a medical certification at some point, anyway, so you might as well get it done ASAP.
They’ll check your vision, your overall health, your hearing, and go over any medical issues you have.
Just like with any career or educational goals, one of the best ways to get your foot in the door is by networking.
Try linking up with instructors on LinkedIn, asking previous students to speak over coffee, going to aviation conferences, etc. Anything you can do to make connections will help you both during school and after school when you’re looking for work.
It might sound hokey, but visualization has been shown to help people gain confidence, achieve their goals, increase learning comprehension, and reduce stress. So if you’ve been worried about doing well in pilot training or wanting to get your confidence up, visualization can help.
Formulate a clear goal in your mind. In this case, it could be doing well at your lesson, passing your exam, or even flying solo.
Next, vividly imagine yourself completing that goal. Go through each step in your mind, taking the time to fully understand how you’ll do it and what you have to do to get there.
Then when you’re actually doing those things, it will feel easier, as though you’ve done it before.
Pilot Training Made Easy with These 10 Resources
Just like any other goal that you’re trying to reach, succeeding in pilot training will take preparation, dedication, and hard work. Using these 10 resources and tips will make that preparation a little bit easier and a bit less overwhelming.
It’s also fun: who doesn’t want to play with a flight simulator in the name of education? You’ll go from flight simulator to flying solo in no time.
If you’re struggling with the school and exam side of things, check out this article on how to improve your grades and your studying.