It's all up to you now: captaincy and self-reliance

Here's another vignette about trends I've noticed in my last few lessons of circuit training, in this case increasing independence.

Recently I finished with a note about captaincy: taking charge of things, being in command of the aircraft in any situation. It's an important part of learning to fly. The next big milestone in my flying career will be my first solo flight. That day, there'll be no instructor in the front seat to remind me to do my downwind checks, or who can take control in a tricky situation. Whatever happens, I'll have to deal with it myself.
It's a bit of a scary thought at this stage, but I know it will only happen when my instructor is certain that I'm ready. This idea of learning captaincy is a big part of getting ready. It starts with performing the pre-flight inspection every time. Even as a student, it's on me to check the aircraft and ensure it's in a safe condition to fly.
A trend I've noticed lately is that I'm getting less and less help from the instructors in flight. The first time I flew circuits, even after being briefed about how it should go, I got step-by-step instructions: turn now, close the throttle now, add some power because the landing is short, and so on. But more recently, there are fewer words exchanged between the instructor and me, and it's more like he's just an observer. Even on the ground, when the instructor would once have taken over to help me with a tricky turn (after backtracking the runway, for instance), now I have to plan and execute it myself.
Last lesson, during the base leg I announced, "I'm going to close the throttle now," hoping to get a hint whether I'd judged it right or should leave it later, but my instructor just said, "Do what's necessary." He only touched the controls once during the whole flight, and that was to side-slip us down on the first approach. That's a manoeuvre I'm not allowed to perform yet: I'd have had to go around if I'd been alone.

Before I can fly solo, I don't just have to learn independence during the normal course of things. I have to be ready for abnormal eventualities, even emergencies. Most of what I still have to learn before then is about handling emergencies. I've already practised stall recovery, but I still have to learn about spins, precautionary and forced landings away from the aerodrome, and engine failure. There's a lot to learn on the radio too. In my circuit training I've already had to deal with and answer some unusual requests, whether it's warnings of traffic, late landing clearances, or simply unreadable messages. This has also shown the same trend. When I first started making radio calls, the instructor would cut in to answer any messages you wouldn't see on the "example circuit" page of the textbook. But most recently, I've been answering everything myself.

It's good that this trend of decreasing help gently pushes me forwards towards the first solo flight, but there's a downside too. When I first started and I didn't get to do anything myself, I had plenty of examples of how to do things right. I could watch the instructor performing every manoeuvre, but I didn't have the experience to learn much from those examples. Now I'm doing those things myself, I'm doing them every time. Now I've experienced them, I could learn much more by comparing what I do against what the instructors do, but I don't get to see them do it any more.

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