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This morning I went out to do a flight and I wasn’t my usual self. I was just sloppy in the pattern, not hitting my speeds, overshooting the final, radios were sub par.

Backstory. Last week I was doing well, my instructor said we need to keep this momentum and if you can, you’ll be able to do a stage check for your checkride. I was excited now this week comes along and all of what I mentioned above happened. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s times that I have as a student where as I’ll do well then other times it’s just like what’s going on today?

Some factors I believe contributed to this was a bad morning it was an early flight but I couldn’t get a ride to the airport because of Uber (external factor) then the plan I had in my head was to fly at another airport other than the one my instructor chose. And it’s ok I understand that but maybe that’s why I was just unprepared for it along with the storm that was coming in and I’m not trying to make excuses just creating a picture for Clarity.

But my question is how do pilots stay at their A game, do they ever fall off because at this point idk I just feel pooped man but I have in my head that I’m going to get it done but also I’m feeling like maybe this isn’t for me?

But I can fly, I do my maneuvers within standards most times today was just not it, man.

Any advice is well appreciated

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    $\begingroup$ A more specific title suggestion: "How to avoid or cope with a bad day where my flying felt sloppy?" (perhaps including the phrase "As a student pilot,"). There are lots of reasons why a student pilot might feel discouraged, so help future readers find this one. I left a suggested edit, but commenting as well in case you want to put "student pilot" into the title somehow. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 14:35

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But my question is how do pilots stay at their A game

The answer is they don't, and don't try to. I have ridden motorcycles most of my life and that was my first realization of being on some days, and off my game some others. Some days I just felt like my lines in every turn, even just going to the store, were super-crisp and I was just "on." Other days, I was just "off." Every maneuver just felt sloppy. This gets more and more noticeable as you challenge yourself and strive for higher levels of personal performance. Major league pitchers have unhittable days and days they get rocked.

So here's the answer: I am going to have A days, and B days, and C days. And so my job, along with my instructor, is to:

  1. Develop my skills to the point where even on my B days, I still fully meet the standards of a pilot. You aren't there yet, but you're a student, you're not supposed to be there yet.

  2. Develop my own self-awareness about whether I am having an A day, or B day, or C day--and the objectivity and commitment that goes along with that, expressed through personal minimums. "I am not having the kind of day where I can do a low IFR approach to minimums, even though I am qualified and licensed to. So I am not going to today, period."

  3. Develop a toolbox, a list of mitigating strategies for my C days. Maybe that means I still fly, but only if another experienced, current pilot comes with me, or only if my weather is almost amazing. Maybe I reschedule. Maybe I commit to making my go/no-go decision early enough that I can still drive the 5 hours to the meeting I was going to fly to in 1.5 hours. I set strict personal minimums for myself, and some of those are based on my full acceptance that I will have off days.

It is the combination of these things--fully accepting you will have off days and having ways to be fully safe on those off days, no matter how off they are. And then developing the awareness to know when you are off.

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    $\begingroup$ Wonderful answer, +1. There is also a natural up/down cycle in the human learning process, be it aviation, learning a musical instrument, a foreign language, whatever. To the OP: you will have periods where you feel like you aren't making progress or even regressing. Just stick with it. This is natural, normal, and temporary! $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ If there was an answer of the year award here, this would most probably win. All the essentials in a very tight package, bravo! $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ This is good advice for learning to drive a car too. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ This is good advice for living life. There will always be up and down days. Recognizing when you're in a down day and not doing anything critical or life-threatening, and especially not dwelling on the down days, is vital to being successful in anything. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 15:55
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Chances are things like that will happen to you for your entire career as a pilot. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Flying an airplane is a kind of art, similar to playing a piano. And like all performance artists, some days are good days and some are bad ones as well. I’m sure you’ve also heard the old saw that getting a pilots license is simply a license to learn. That’s very true. As an aviator you are going to make errors. They are going to happen on every flight you make, some big, some small. The big question is what are you learning from them? From your experiences the other day, what did you learn about radio comms that can improve the situation? What about turning base to final? Maintaining a stabilized approach? These events should have offered you a lot of perspective and insight in the handling and flying the airplane. And if you’re not doing this or having these experiences, you’re doing something wrong. You should be learning something new on every single flight and acquiring new insights into airmanship every time you’re up. There are pilots with 30,000 hours of logged flight time and they still learn something new every time they fly. Every flight is different and unique, even if you’re flying the same route. There’s so many different variations, be it weather, aircraft loadout, winds, temperatures, aircraft condition, pattern entry locations, new airports, narrower or wider or uneven runways, ATC instructions - you name it. And it will make every flight unique. This is one of the reasons that a thorough preflight briefing is very necessary for preparation for any flight. Both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds take that advice to heart. Even if they put on a show at Seafair multiple times, they are well aware that every single performance will be different. They carefully consider all aspects of the flight for any differences that are obvious so they can minimize the amount of unforeseen variables they have to deal with at any given moment. They also will fly the flight in their mind - the Blues call it ‘praying’. It’s a kind of meditation where they will fly the entire show in their mind thinking about flying each maneuver and how they’re going to apply the control inputs throughout.

Now you may not have to do that for each of your training flights, but chair flying can be an extremely useful preparation for each maneuver as well as developing cockpit workflows for NPs and EPs in order to accomplish tasks quicker and easier. Those posters that Sportys sells aren’t just for wall decorations. They’re training aids for chair flying. Make use of them prior to going on an actual flight.

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