I am a student pilot with 60 hours. The first 50 hours I received 5 years ago and the last 10 is what I have received within the past month.

I need some advice:

Throughout training My instructor points out I do well, however when flying I forget certain things and its like my mind goes blank for a second. Blank in the sense of not knowing what to do next.

My question is how can I become a better pilot with great multi-tasking skills even with radio calls I would get. I am familiar with the calls, but there are some calls tower sends out that throws me for a loop. I am feeling discouraged but I know that this is what I want to do for a living because I love it. Please help

  • $\begingroup$ I agree that repetition is the key, this will improve with practice. Don't worry about it too much, just remember Aviate, Navigate and Communicate. Relax and enjoy flying and this will come on its own. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 28, 2022 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Practice, prioritising & planning. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Jul 30, 2022 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


The trick is repetition repetition repetition, and drill drill drill. You need to drill all of the tasks, data and procedures that you more or less know, but are not fully internalized, or automated mentally, until they are fully programed and automated in your brain.

Get in the habit of repeating things you have to be able to recall from memory all the time, while driving, or whatever, like an engine failure drill. Get to where you can recite things you have to recall from memory in emergencies while someone physically distracts you somehow, say by talking over you and even poking you while you do it.

Use MS Flight Simulator and practice activities on that. Computer sims are a very powerful tool for getting the repetition required to internalize tasks. It's when the tasks are fully internalized through repetition so that they come to you without thinking, you gain the ability to act while thinking ahead to what to do next.

When the instructor does some kind of nasty trick, your hands fly around the cockpit automatically, while you think through your next steps or options, while telling the instructor what you're thinking. Getting to that level is like acquiring a superpower.

Really, your instructor should be teaching you this as part of your training.

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding engine failure drill, don't forget to train the initial reaction to push the nose down and establish safe gliding speed. Even very experienced pilots often say it's quite hard to resist the urge to pull up and stretch the glide, but obviously physics won't let you get away with that. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Oct 18, 2022 at 5:00
  • $\begingroup$ And you could say that's the whole point about drill drill drill. It leaves your mind free to fly the plane AND think ahead to the missed approach procedure while your hand flies around doing this and that. When I was flying CRJs, it was very infrequent, 100 hrs a year, and I got a lot of mileage out of a $40 CRJ simulator for WIndows and an elaborate homemade control column/thrust lever apparatus I built that gave me the luxury of doing hundreds of V1 cuts and MAs at home. When recurrent came up, I was calm and cool doing emers, like an experienced capt. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Oct 18, 2022 at 14:10

This is called mental overload, and believe me it happens to every pilot. In fact it happens to every person who has ever tried to do multiple complex tasks concurrently.

Our brain is good at concentrating on doing one thing well, and when you try to bring in other things then the brain has to share its ability to process those tasks and often this can lead to dropping parts of one of the tasks that the brain feels is unnecessary.

The way around it is to get the brain to perform some of the tasks autonomously - that is to say without having to consciously concentrate on doing them. If you've ever gotten from A to B in a car and thought "Hold on, I don't remember getting here I was thinking about something else" that is because driving has become somewhat autonomous. You were probably not unsafe in getting there, but you didn't have to concentrate on the task of accelerating, braking, looking at junctions etc.

Flying is the same. Once you have practiced more and more, many of the acts of flying become semi-autonomous. Like the act of just staying straight and level, a task you no doubt have to concentrate on getting right at the moment will become more natural, allowing your brain to be freed up to process some of those radio calls.

Practice makes perfect, in every sense.

I've shared this little quip a few times; the act of actually flying an aeroplane is the easy bit. It's all the other stuff going on at the same time which is the hard bit. The bit that requires practice. The radio is one of those "bits". I can honestly say that I learn almost as much sitting next to another pilot while they are flying than I do in the left hand seat. Gives you much more mental capacity to listen to what is going on. See if you can find a flying buddy and share some flights - or sit in on another student's lessons in the back if that's a possibility.


John K is correct in that repetition is the key. The trick is to repeat and rehearse until certain tasks become automated because surprise surprise, when it comes to non-automated functions, humans actually are unable to multitask. When performing multiple tasks that require focus and thought, people resort to switchtasking, which is costly:

Multitasking: switching cost

According to Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein, converging evidence suggests that the human "executive control" processes have two distinct, complementary stages. They call one stage "goal shifting" ("I want to do this now instead of that") and the other stage "rule activation" ("I'm turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this"). Both of these stages help people to, without awareness, switch between tasks. That's helpful. Problems arise only when switching costs conflict with environmental demands for productivity and safety.

Your current "problem" lies within the fact,that many of the tasks required by successfull operation of an aircraft are not sufficiently automated yet, so the switching cost becomes very high. Over time with practise/repetition the switching cost will become lower, and some tasks will become fully automated only requiring an impulse to set the task sequence in motion.

There are huge variations across individuals on how quickly one learns new tasks to cut down or omit the switching cost. That's totally normal.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you everyone for your input. I will use this knowledge to become more proficient and being a better pilot. $\endgroup$
    – youngpilot
    Jul 30, 2022 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ A major factor in your situation is the very long pause you had during your training. You basically know what you are doing, it just takes time to make it all "easy" again👍 $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Jul 30, 2022 at 15:06

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