It doesn’t matter how good you are. Poor decisions will lead to poor results.
Ahh frustration…the deceiving villain that always seems to lurk in the recesses of the mind of a student pilot (pilots too I should say!)…Not very conducive to learning and it always seems to come up when you least expect it.
Weather had been holding my student and I back from completing our cross country for some time. Finally a day came that we thought we could get it done. Weather was reported to be fine, good VFR (Visual Flight Rules) weather.
About half an hour into our flight we came across an ever thickening layer of clouds. Perfect scenario.
“What should we do?”
I was no help. “What do you wanna to do?”
We contemplated back and forth but ultimately he made the right decision despite his desire to continue on. Did his mind let him believe that? Maybe the frustration, as it crept out from between the cracks, wanted to sabotage a perfectly sound decision.
I could tell he was feeling pretty down and I wanted to help cheer him up. “You want to do a little landing practice before we head in?” Like a little more frustration would help…I wish I could go back!
“Sure,” was the not so sure reply.
We changed course to an airport near our home base. 10,000 feet long. How can you go wrong?
- We overshot final. Three times.
- We did a go around. Twice.
- We climbed out on go around 20 knots too fast. Every time.
This was my star student! What happened?… Well partially, I happened.
He was frustrated. I later found out he missed a gathering with friends the night before so he could make the flight at 7am. He had really wanted to go to the party. But that doesn’t matter. As an instructor it’s my job to tell when someone is just not ready for learning. This was bound to be “one of those days” from the moment he decided not to go out the night before. That part can’t be avoided. Had the clouds not been there we probably would have continued on not knowing how close the flight was to a mental disaster.
We flew back to our home airport as if someone had just died; Tip toeing our words around each other for the benefit of the other. No fun. If anything was learned we both learned how quickly things can go downhill.
There was a lot I did wrong on this flight.
- While the weather reports pointed to good weather I failed to make sure my student was ready to go (as much as I could).
- I took us from one frustrating event and put us in a situation that can often be the most frustration-producing …landing.
- I overestimated my students abilities to cope with frustration.
- I tried to make him feel better (at his expense)…
Remember, as an instructor it’s not our job to make a student “feel” better, it’s our job to show them what they did well and what they need work on. Positive is good but a healthy dose of reality is key. Most of all take responsibility when it’s due…I completely own up to the fact that I alone screwed up the remainder of the flight.
For the students out there:
- Things will not always go your way, be prepared for it and realize that it’s not just you…and like everyone else you will need to keep working at it.
- Don’t let frustration get to you, yes I know that’s why it’s frustration but don’t let it own you. Even once you have your license there will be frustrations and you’re going to need to be able to handle them…
Did I miss anything? Let me and everyone else know your thoughts! Comment below and you’ll be helping both me and others improve. Thanks!
Up in the Air