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7 'Wake-Up Calls' Most New, Confident Pilots Experience

Many newly-certificated pilots experience one of these "wake-up calls" within their few months of flying. Have any of them happened to you?

1) Marginal Weather Turns IFR

Scattered and broken layers of clouds can quickly become overcast, especially around a low-pressure system. It's a wake-up call to see how quickly conditions around you can change.


2) Experiencing A Systems Failure Flying Solo For The First Time

Having a systems failure or emergency feels different when you face it alone for the first time. Take a few seconds to breathe, follow your checklist, and use all the resources you have around you, including ATC.


3) Low Fuel Situation

Outside of the training environment, it's much more common for pilots to push the limits on fuel reserves. At some point, you'll probably wish you had a little more gas in the tanks. While the regulations only require 30-45 minutes of reserve fuel based on your type of operation, it's not a bad idea to carry 60 minutes of reserve fuel. More gas = more outs when things start to go wrong.


4) Pushing Personal Wind Limits

It's a good idea to establish wind limits for yourself even if your airplane doesn't have published criteria. If you want to get better in strong, gusty crosswinds, fly with an instructor as you strengthen your skills.


5) Saying "No" To Dispatching An Airplane

Someday you'll find a mechanical discrepancy or logbook issue with an airplane and you may feel pressured to dispatch. Saying "no" for the first time is a big step for any pilot.


6) Breaking, Or Nearly Breaking, A Regulation

It may be weather minimums, cloud clearance requirements, airspace, or any number of regulations. If something happens, file a NASA ASRS report.


7) A Real Weight and Balance Scenario

In training, you're unlikely to deal with any significant weight and balance problems. Once you're flying with friends and family on longer trips with bags and lots of fuel, you have to start making real-world decisions about how you manage your flight.


What was your wake-up call? Tell us in the comments below.

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