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Are You A Minimalist?

The FAA governs and regulates pretty much everything that relates to aviation.  Part 61 (subpart e) of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) outlines the specific requirements to become a Private Pilot. One word that keeps popping up in enumerating the flight requirements is minimum.  The FAA believes that there is a minimum amount of training and flight experience (measured in hours) that you must have before you are eligible to take your practical flight test (usually called a check ride).

So here is something you should consider as you embark on your flight training journey: Is your goal to get your Private Pilots License as quickly as possible or is your goal to become a safe and competent pilot?  I think one could argue that they are not necessarily the same thing.  
 
There seems to be a belief among some pilots that taking fewer hours to complete flight training is better.  The logic is that the student who completes his/her flight training in the minimum number of hours required has mastered the requisite skills more quickly…. and that is better(?).  In fact, the only thing that we can say for sure about hitting those minimums, is that it took less time and, subsequently, probably cost less money.   But there is absolutely no data to support the idea that a pilot who completed his/her training quickly is a better pilot than one who trained not-so-quickly.  In other words, the speed with which one masters a skill is not necessarily a predictor of future expertise and competence.
 
The FAA has done great job outlining its requirements for becoming a pilot.  But we shouldn’t take their list to be wholly complete and without the need for any supplementation.  The Flight Instructor is uniquely qualified to determine when a student has not only met the requirements, but has also demonstrated broad competence in the safe operation of an aircraft.
 
Remember, there is a lot more to piloting than taking off, navigating to a destination, and landing. Your decision-making skills, situational awareness and broad understanding of the many factors that go into planning and executing a flight are all required to reach a satisfactory level of competence.  Take your time.
 
Don’t focus on the minimums. Focus on mastery.

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