Session 1
5 November 1997

I'm undergoing the "returning student" experience, like so many of my own JSRCC students, and am finding that it takes up a lot of my time and attention.

I've been flying twice a week--each lesson taking up three or four hours, counting driving time, ground lesson time, and an hour or so in the air.  I've spent at least that much time per lesson in preparation, mostly reviewing the previous lesson, reading the texts and manuals, and visualizing flying situations in my mind.  Last night I started ground school, which is going to be three hours of lecture a week, plus the studying necessary to know in advance what the evening's lecture will be about.  Altogether, I'm probably putting in 25 or 30 hours a week at learning flying.

I'm also trying to pay attention to the studenting experience and to observing the teachering.

I have one flight instructor, the same guy each time, Adam Coulter, so that part of it is essentially a tutorial.  He teaches flying full time, and has a number of other students.  He's about (my son) Chris's age--so that adds another complication to the experience.  Our age difference doesn't matter to me at all, but I think he still feels a little uncomfortable about it, and that does bother me a little.

This groundschool session has two instructors, Kris Helms and Chris Edwards, both probably under 30 (no, after I wrote that Chris told me he's 34), and with very different personalities and teaching postures. They're very different from Adam, too, so I get to learn from--and about--three distinct instructors.   They team-teach--both in the room together, with a lot of interaction between them.  They use the same syllabus and split it up (so far) into before-the-break and after-the-break shares.  (It's a once a week, three-hour class meeting.)  There are about 15 in the groundschool class.  All but one are male.  The youngest looks to be about 18, and I'm probably 20 years older than the next-oldest.

I confess that I did notice the groundschool class age range--and of course the others must have, too.  But the only times it's really a problem to me is when I'm in the terminal or on the ramp and someone assumes I've been flying forever.  They generally look confused and sort of cheated when I say I'm just a student.

Anyway, groundschool is set up to cover everything in the Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual.  I'd already read the first half and understood most of it pretty well, so this first class didn't offer anything new.  On the other hand, it was good to review, and I assume that most of the things they emphasized in class will be on the FAA exam.  Kris said they'd never had a graduate of the class flunk the exam.  That's good news, because a lot of the stuff in the second half of the text are going to be demanding--weather and navigation--and I expect the gourndschool to be very helpful.  Even the first class was good because they presented several things in ways I hadn't encountered before, which made them clearer and easier to remember.

I spoke briefly about the class with Chris Edwards today.  He seemed a bit apologetic about last night's class--because it was in a large,  uncomfortable room--too many of us to fit into the conference room they usually use.  He said that usually about half a class drops out before the end of the course.  That surprised me because--despite this "returning student" stuff--I'd assumed that most people wouldn't get into a groundschool unless they were already committed to getting a license.  There were several people there last night, though, who hadn't flown yet.  Well, we'll see.

It's always somewhat daunting to hear about 50% attrition rates.

There's also the pressure--the threat--of a review test at the beginning of every class.  That's all very normal for courses like this, I guess, but it's so very different from the way I've been running my own classes, the past 25 or so years, that everything seems rather strange.  I'm in a class with people for whom this method is probably the norm--for me it's alien now, and I never really ever took to it as a student--so it's bound to be "interesting."

Back to "Learning Flying"
My home page.