One of my tasks as a flight instructor is to prepare new pilots for their first solo cross country flight. When the big day arrives, the excited student arrives at the airport armed with snacks, water, map and flight plan to be reviewed before they are signed off, ready to depart. As a new instructor, it was a major disappointment to both myself and my students how many times the outcome was ‘sorry, we need to go over your planning again before I can let you do this trip’.
Besides making sure that they know how to control the airplane and how to navigate to their destination, I have to be sure my student has learned how to properly plan their flight. Running out of fuel is the single biggest cause of private aviation accidents, so this is more than just an academic exercise! In order to receive their pilot’s license, a student must demonstrate the preparation of a ‘navigation log’ for a cross country trip. This included a detailed accounting of distance flown and fuel and time required, dependant on many factors such as aircraft type, winds, altitude and power settings used.
Ideally, the student learns this while attending classroom training or performing guided self-study (ground school). Practically speaking, I found that most of my students did not retain this important skill by the time it was needed, and I often found myself spending hours reviewing the material to help them prepare for the solo cross country. This is costly for the student and definitely not good for anyone’s morale or enthusiasm!
To remedy this situation, I created an on-line course using LearningZen, which went step-by-step through the process of creating a student flight plan. By requesting that my students review the course before attempting to create their own cross-country plan, I found the rate of cancelled trips due to poor planning went down significantly. Students enjoyed being able to go through the material on their own time, and seemed to learn the material more thoroughly than they did by simply reading about it in a book or by sitting in a classroom. Of course they appreciated the cost savings of taking a free on-line course instead of paying me to sit with them to go over an incorrect plan. It was great for me too, as I could be sure that each student had reviewed the material they needed to learn, and it was presented in a consistent and methodical way.
Best of all, I knew they could safely plan their trip and now I rarely have to frustrate a student by sending them back to the drawing board on their big day!
Over 1400 students have taken this highly rated LearningZen course, which is also eligible for FAA WINGS credit. Check it out yourself at http://learningzen.com/Sgold
Steve Gold CFII