Acknowledgements: Dan Namowitz (AOPA USA) & Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.

(Ed. Note: Whatever new field of learning we undertake, there will come a time along the way when we feel that we are not making as much progress as we anticipated, and at such a point we can become discouraged and questioning of our ability to succeed. The following should serve to encourage any student pilots who find themselves in such a frame of mind ….)

“A plateau may be a nice place to take a photograph, or a convenient checkpoint for a VFR cross-country. In an aviation-training context, however, plateau is a polite, scientific-sounding word meaning stalled progress toward a student pilot’s goals.

Even there, a plateau has redeeming characteristics. A plateau still suggests an upwardly mobile place to be; one dictionary definition of a plateau is “an area of relatively level high ground. The reality, as numerous student pilots experience, is that the bad patch often referred to as a plateau may have a discouragingly downward, regressive component. That kind of plateau doesn’t simply stagnate along a “relatively level” plane.

Now we’re talking about a rut. And a rut, in the starkest of several definitions, is “any deep mark, hole, or groove.”

Symptoms of a training rut can go well beyond the plateau’s frustrating “state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.”

They also include:
·         making a hash out of manoeuvres you once flew with grace and confidence
·         indecision where assertiveness once flourished
·         a lost sense of the joy you used to feel at, or near, or even just thinking about, the airport.

Given those across-the-board debilitating effects, a rut can’t be cured simply by sitting through one more demonstration of a steep turn, a stall recovery, or a soft-field landing by your instructor.  And hammering away may simply aggravate matters in the short term.

Time for a fresh perspective to help you break out, and even accelerate your post-plateau pursuit of your pilot certificate.

Here are a few rut-reversal remedies to review:
·         Switch front seats. Try a dual flight sampling your favourite manoeuvres from that foreign country known as the other seat will suffice as an entirely new, refreshing experience.
·         Take a back seat. Fly along as a passenger on another student’s dual-instruction flight, and discover what a fine critic you are of someone else’s struggles. Don’t let them see you grinning ear-to-ear back there, and keep your commentary to a minimum.
·         Take a seat at the sim. You can’t hit the pause button in flight, or scoot down to the coffee machine for fortification, but in a flight simulator you can. Indulge yourself.

Then get back to business. Just don’t sit still on a plateau or in a rut.

Tony BirthComment