The growth of pilot confidence

The day you earn your private pilot’s certificate, people are quick to tell you that you’ve just received your “license to learn.” And with a little more than 40 hours under your belt, you’re keenly aware of how much you just don’t yet know. In fact, the most terrifying flight of my life was probably the short hop from Frederick to Gaithersburg whilst the ink dried on my temporary certificate.

Yet thankfully, no pilot has to stay in the young, inexperienced state. I pursued additional training, including getting my instrument rating and facing my fears of night flight and crosswinds.

The change is remarkable: with almost 130 additional hours since that day in November, I’ve reduced the number of flights I scrub due to weather to almost nil. Sure, windy days still spook me, and I have a date with those come winter time this year. Yet for all the challenges that summer flying brings, I’ve had the confidence to venture into the clouds more than once, fly around thunderstorms, and take my wife to Savannah, Georgia (as promised when I started flight training two years ago).

Of course, this transition takes time. It takes effort, learning, and experience. There’s a reason the instrument rating requires 50 hours of cross country time: the experience gained is invaluable to a pilot who is learning. Some lessons can’t be taught by an instructor in the right seat. As I look back on flights I scrubbed, I realize which flights I would have taken given my experience level today, and it feels good to realize the growth.

I can’t wait for my next 200 hours.