Introduction to Flying
For the first flight, the instructor should give the student just enough flight experience to make the student want to come back for more. During the first flight, the CFI should allow the student to fly the aircraft and have fun doing it. An enjoyable introductory flight builds student motivation and the student will be more ready to learn. Solo flight comes after more flight experience, so there is plenty of time for the student to learn local landmarks. [Figure 2-2] This flight should be an introduction to flying itself and should follow the pattern of learning simple tasks before more complex tasks. The student should learn to fly first, and then learn where to fly.
The CFI must show the student that flying can be fun, and then introduce the student to the local flying area. During this flight, seat the student at the pilot’s seat. (Seat the new student at the copilot’s seat for the first few flights if access to engine starting or flight control friction is not easily accessible from the copilot’s seat.) Explain the general function of the controls and instruments. Demonstrate adjustment of the controls for comfort and safety, as applicable to the make and model of helicopter being flown. Relate this flight to the student’s flying background and level of experience. For example, a new student’s introductory flight can also be used to discuss basic air traffic control (ATC) functions and procedures.
A brief “hands on” for the student during cruising flight helps the CFI further evaluate the student’s level of ability. If at all possible, the first flight or at least the first portion of the first flight should be conducted in a calmer environment, such as in the morning or at a higher altitude, so the student has a chance to experience the helicopter flight without the turbulence that is often confusing to the student.
This flight also provides the CFI with an opportunity to evaluate the student’s attitude, tolerance, and temperament. The student should enjoy this first trip, creating a positive foundation for the rest of the course. Explain that procedures that seem complicated at this time become easier with more exposure and training.
Try to avoid confusing the student by presenting too much detailed information at this early stage in training. As discussed in the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, students tend to acquire and memorize facts when exposed to a new topic. As learning progresses, they begin to organize their knowledge to formulate an understanding of the things they have memorized. Progressing further still, students learn to use the knowledge they have compiled to solve problems and make decisions. Encourage and praise such behavior whenever students exhibit the pilot in command (PIC) input. Keep in mind that student performance should not be criticized or corrected at this stage; explain in general terms what occurs during flight to clarify student’s understanding.
In the early stages of flight training, the traditional lesson plan (see the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook) provides the CFI with a teaching delivery method more in tune with the student’s level of knowledge. Scenario-based training (SBT) works better with learners who have mastered the basic knowledge needed to make more advanced decisions. The samples used in the early chapters utilize the traditional lesson plan.
The most important lesson for helicopter pilots to learn is to be wary. As training progresses, the instructor can incorporate discussions of documented helicopter accidents related to the lesson of the day. The instructor can offer techniques and procedures that would prevent that type of incident from happening. While it is important to relate some of these stories to student pilots, the instructor should avoid too many accident discussions early in the training as they may instill fear in students that may not understand the details. Respect for the dangers in aviation can aid a student’s progression, but fear acts as a barrier to learning.
Instructors in the debriefing after the flight should always discuss what was satisfactory and then discuss what improvements the student could make and, even more important, how to make improvements. It does not help the student to say the flight was unsatisfactory that day if the instructor cannot describe in detail how the student could correct any responses or maneuvers.
After the debriefing, most successful instructors begin to brief the student on the contents of the next day’s training flight. This allows:
- The student time between flights to study and think about the next maneuver to learn at their own pace.
- The student to recall questions from the current flight about a specific point during the flight.
- The student to formulate questions concerning practices or procedures for the instructor to address before the next flight.
- The instructor to relate the current flight to the upcoming flight’s goals and maneuvers to further the student’s understanding of the relationship of the procedures.