Before you choose a flight school here in sunny Scottsdale, AZ – or if you are considering changing schools – think about the “Kid Sister Rule”. (aka, the “Kid Brother Rule”) That is, if you had an older brother that was an experienced pilot, what do you wish he would tell you before you start?
ANSWER: Consider three critical issues.
“When I started to learn to fly, I was 68 years old. God, I wish I’d known these questions – and the answers to them before I started.”
— Tom Noon, founder, Leopard Aviation, Scottsdale, Arizona
The three Critical Success Factors in choosing a flight school in Scottsdale, AZ and other cities for that matter are:
#1. BE PICKY. Picking a flight instructor (a “CFI”) is a critical consideration. It is not like picking a teacher in college. In college, you get whichever teacher is teaching that class. Flight instruction is a much more intimate relationship. The best instructor is one that can adjust to the learning dynamics of his/her students and those dynamics vary between students. The CFI needs to teach the way you learn – PERIOD — this is made all the more important because he/she is not only teaching facts but also a physical skill involving hand/eye coordination. It’s akin to learning to throw darts while also learning about the aerodynamics of darts. One is physical, the other is mental. Our instructors are sensitive to these issues. We are picky in whom we choose to instruct you – because you should be too.
This is not just an exercise in: “Need an instructor. Got the CFI license? Great. Hire him or her & GO FLYING.” A CFI that may make a great airline pilot someday is not necessarily one that will be a great CFI. Being a great teacher takes great people-skills combined with an astute sense for the plane. It takes great communication skills – being both a good listener and a great person at explaining. It takes patience – not everyone learns at the same pace. With some, long lessons will overwhelm; with others, short lessons will frustrate them. With some, you can talk too much while flying during a lesson; with others, they enjoy the frequent inputs from the instructor. It’s a creative process – one style doesn’t fit all.
And, it ain’t the job of the student to adjust; it’s the job of a great instructor. The Instructors at Leopard Aviation are chosen for their communication and people skills…..and their love of all things aviation.
#2. CHOOSE THE BEST to LEARN THE BEST.
Do we choose a surgeon because he has lower rates or well-worn equipment? Do we want our dentist to use cheaper porcelain in the tooth caps he gives us? Choose the best to get the best results. Best equipment, safest avionics, best maintained aircraft, best instructors. Flying is something you don’t want to learn “pretty good”; you want to be the best at it as possible. Start with the right people, planes, methods.
Then, remember that you are doing it because FLYING IS FUN.
“Flying is fun, learning to fly should be also.”
– Amelia Earhart
So, learn in planes that are fun to fly!! When you are beginning, you want a plane with a “big sweet spot”. Like a great beginner tennis racket, the plane needs to be forgiving, to allow for being “off-center” a lot. The CESSNA 172 is a very easy plane to learn flying; it has a really large sweet spot.
Planes are also like golf club sets. There are golf clubs you can get at a garage sales for $50 and there are new ones with latest technology and a larger sweet spot that will cost $500 per club. This plane is going to be your partner in learning a critical eye-hand-coordination skill – get the best one you can find.
And, learn in planes that are as close to current technology as possible. Newer planes are: (a) in better condition/safer, (b) have most modern technology, and (c) are the most fun to fly. Current technology is the Garmin G1000. These system are also known as “glass cockpits”. Not only is current technology safer due to their systems for proximity awareness and backup systems, but they are also what you will find in commercial planes when you are hired by the airlines.
#3. MAKE MISTAKES. You will learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes!! – expect them to occur!! Take this from us:
“You will learn more from your mistakes – than your successes.”
– Ray Dalio.
It is a good day flying when you’ve run across something that you’ve never experienced before, get it wrong, and learn how to handle it. The more this happens, the fewer things that you’ve never seen happen in an airplane. You want that, buddy.
Mistakes can rattle your nerves in an airplane. The job of the instructor is to get you through it safely and then to give you all the tools you need to increase your senses about what may be coming. A common mistake is called, “Falling behind the airplane”. Your head and thoughts need to be 5-10-30 minutes further along the flightpath. Long before you land, you’ll have checked the weather and winds at the destination, you need the radio frequencies set up, the altitude needs to be low enough for a gentle descent, passengers seatbelts and instructions on a quiet cockpit, etc, etc.
But, every mistake fine tunes that tickler file in your head to be better at staying ahead of things, anticipating problems before they can occur.
Make mistakes – or at least, don’t have anxiety over them. Mistakes are sometimes your best teachers.