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  • Mattie Bohanan

Life's Trim Control

When I came to college to pursue a degree in Professional Flight, I was new to the part 141 world. I was already a private pilot, and so I would immediately start working towards my instrument rating. In school, I had always performed well academically, but I also had to study to maintain my good grades.

This picture was taken after my commercial single add-on check ride. Next up, was CFI!

Shortly after I started my instrument training, I realized I was not doing well. For the first time in my life, I was struggling academically. I knew that it would be okay if I didn’t make “perfect” grades, as long as I was putting in honest effort – but even my effort wasn’t enough to keep me afloat. I knew how to study, or at least I thought so. After all, my study methods had never failed me in prior applications. I felt overwhelmed, and I even contemplated giving up my dream of being pilot.

I continued to splash around in what seemed like a deep pool until I finally diagnosed my problem: I wasn’t asking for help.

I wouldn’t ask questions for the thought that I should already know something, and I wouldn’t ask for extra clarification because I thought that the subject matter should be self-explanatory. I also felt like I should know how to navigate the new collegiate-level expectations as a new freshman. When in reality, there is no shame in asking for extra help.

As soon as I started truly utilizing my flight instructor, being honest with my struggles and asking the appropriate questions, I learned that I could stand up in the pool after all.

If you fly, you know the importance of using trim. We trim to relieve pressure needing to be exerted to keep a control surface at a desired place; it makes flying easier, and in turn safer.

In fact, it is even deemed as improper flying technique if a pilot neglects their trim control.

We can learn something about life from using trim in the airplane. Just like a pilot isn’t expected to exert undue force and energy to keep a constant attitude, we aren’t meant to not use any resources in times of difficulty. Utilizing resources (aka asking for help) is important!

We are not meant to bear our burdens alone, and we can become proactive in confronting difficulties when we voice our needs. If I wouldn’t have used my instructor as the resource they are, I would have eventually drowned.

From this experience, I learned that I can quite literally and figuratively fly through training, all it takes is a little bravery to speak up. Since then, I’ve learned to become my own best advocate and try to encourage others to speak up, too. I use my experience to relate to others who may feel the same way and are coming into their voice. If one person has, or had, a question about something, they are not the only one. We all go through life (and training) together. If we use the tools that are there for us, and provide the tools for our peers in return, we all have the power needed to succeed.

If you have ever experienced a revelation during pilot training, please share in the comments below. I would love to hear your tips and tricks on navigating through a hard time!

Mattie is a CFI/CFII and a Graduate Research Assistant at Auburn University, where she is pursuing an M.Ed. in Adult Education. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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