As you start flight training, there is an excitement and eagerness. You just can't absorb everything fast enough. You can't wait to get your certificate(s). Then at some point, you find a plateau in your training, or you struggle with something. You try to study for your knowledge tests. You study and practice for your practical tests. Eventually, through the process, you acquire the minimum knowledge and skills, as defined by the FAA, necessary to earn your certificate. Sometimes after that checkride, you realize you don't know a lot. Now what?

Jason Schappert, of, is known for saying, "A good pilot is always learning." The learning doesn't stop once you get a certificate. A pilot certificate, or rating, is a commitment to continue learning. As pilots, there is always more knowledge we can obtain or skills we can practice and hone.

What is learning?

As defined by the FAA's Aviation Instructor Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A page 2-2), learning can be:

  • A change in the behavior of the learner as a result of experience. The behavior can be physical and overt, or it can be intellectual or attitudinal.
  • The process by which experience brings about a relatively permanent change in behavior.
  • The change in behavior that results from experience and practice.
  • Gaining knowledge or skills, or developing a behavior, through study, instruction, or experience.
  • The process of acquiring knowledge or skill through study, experience, or teaching. It depends on experience and leads to long-term changes in behavior potential. Behavior potential describes the possible behavior of an individual (not actual behavior) in a given situation in order to achieve a goal.
  • A relatively permanent change in cognition, resulting from experience and directly influencing behavior.

In summary, learning is developing or changing behavior based on skills, knowledge, or experience gained through study, instruction, or practice. So we can read AOPA or Boldmethod articles, study the FAA handbooks, watch YouTube videos, and go fly maneuvers regularly; but are we learning? Are we experiencing or developing a change in behavior? Are we putting to practice what we have gained?

I challenge you to commit to a life of learning, growing, and becoming a better aviator every day.


If you want to learn more on the psychology of learning, as it relates to aviation and flight instruction, check out the FAA's Aviation Instructor's Handbook (PDF).

FAA's Aviation Instructor Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A) Cover
FAA's Aviation Instructor Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A)

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