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Training and Safety Tip: Solo sandwich

At some point between your first solo and your checkride, you’ll be going out on your own to practice maneuvers and polish your skills. It’s an exciting time. But for many student pilots it’s not as much fun as it should be.

AOPA graphic.

Why is that? Well, everyone has a flight maneuver that they don’t…you know…really don’t like all that much. For some it’s stalls. For others it’s soft-field landings. For others, ground reference work. I promise you that all aviators have some maneuver that they are not keen on.

So how do you motivate yourself to work on maneuvers you don’t enjoy? Make yourself a sandwich. No, not in the kitchen before driving to the airport; instead, make a sandwich out of your day’s flight plan. Take the maneuver you don’t enjoy, and sandwich it in between two that you do enjoy and are good at. This gives you a joyful warmup and serves to remind you that—yes—you are pretty good at this flying stuff. Then knuckle down and practice that one you don’t really like. Take it seriously—everything you are taught serves a purpose; there’s nothing random in flight training—then reward yourself with another run at your favorite maneuver or a different one that brings you joy.

Will this add flight time and therefore extra expense? I don’t think so, and here’s my logic: If learning is painful, then it’s slow. If you only focus on maneuvers you don’t enjoy, it actually takes longer to master them and it creates a self-imposed learning plateau. If you maintain joy instead, and sandwich unpleasant tasks between pleasant tasks, it keeps the entire flight uplifting (mentally and aerodynamically). You’ll be in a good headspace that will prime you for learning, and you will master the unpleasant maneuver more rapidly than if you just went flying and metaphorically beat your head against a wall in the sky.

So warm up with a maneuver you enjoy—and are good at—before tackling maneuvers that you don't enjoy or have trouble mastering. When done with the hard work, go back and finish off the session with something you are strong at and love. Go fly and enjoy your recipe for a successful solo sandwich.

William E. Dubois

William E. Dubois is a widely published aviation writer and columnist. He is an FAA Safety Team rep and a rare "double" Master Ground Instructor accredited by both NAFI and MICEP. An AOPA member since 1983, he holds a commercial pilot certificate and has a degree in aviation technology. He was recognized as a Distinguished Flight Instructor in the 2021 AOPA Flight Training Experience Awards.
Topics: Training and Safety, Student, Flight School
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