learned the discipline of flying in
order to have the freedom of
crashes." — Captain
John Cook, British Airways, Concorde Pilot
Freud says humans by nature "avoid pain and seek pleasure." It
hints at taking instant gratification rather than doing the hard work
required to be successful. This fundamental human concept is
incompatible with tasks required to be a safe pilot. When you
read the next accident summary, you will invariably read the statement,
"accident caused by pilot's failure to...." If you can
substitute the following phrase, you'll have a whole different
view of aviation safety: "accident caused by pilot's lack of
discipline related to...."
In case you ever wondered, the pilot is one of the most critical parts
of a flight. How a pilot flies is an advertisement to all aboard about
his character, his discipline, and his attitude towards safety.
If he controls every aspect of the flight with skill, good choices,
and discipline, the flight is successful. This is the essence of
airmanship. Without these three elements operating together, a
tremendous amount of potential talent is wasted. Right about
now you should be wondering what kinds of things strengthen flying
discipline as well as destroy it.
" Man is still responsible. He must turn the
alloy of modern experience into the
steel of mastery and character. His success lies not
with the stars, but with
himself. He must carry on the fight of self-correction
— Frank Curtis Williams
Things that destroy flying discipline
It's easy for us to justify an act which is not up to specifications
when the results of the act are successful. I had a student who
had a habit of taking off without aux fuel pumps on. No matter
how often I reminded him of the possible consequences, Paul had
stuck in his mind that it had worked 735 other times without the aux
pumps. Logic dictates that the next time would also be
successful. Paul had found a way to
justify the shortcuts he was taking in his pre-takeoff checklist.
Unfortunately, this was a lesson learned the hard way when Paul lost
power one bright morning and landed on the highway adjoining the
airport. His engine driven fuel pump had finally failed
him. Luckily there wasn't much damage, and he was able to get
the airplane back to the airport before rush-hour and News 6 found out
what he had done.
2. Lack of Confidence.
If we're not practiced in a skill, its easy for everything to fall
apart under pressure. This pressure could come in the form of a
checkride and sometimes even passengers watching your every
move. Under pressure, those things not permanently etched
upon us disappear. A former student told me about an experience
on a checkride in which he failed. He indicated that he had
failed to use and follow the aircraft's checklist on three
occasions. When I explained that the pressure had gotten to him
so he reverted to a primal state under the pressure of a
checkride, he understood. He asked, "How do I fix that?" I
told him about the two things he had to attack. First was the
self-discipline to always use a checklist when the circumstances
called for it. Second was the confidence in his own
abilities. When its crunch time, he has to be sure in his mind
and heart that everything is within his capabilities.
Attitudes. The FAA has long taught us the 5
("Don't tell me!") - Don't like anyone telling him/her what to
Resentful of rules & regulations.
Impulsivity ("Do something - do it now!") - Need to do something,
quickly. Don't stop to think about better alternatives.
Invulnerability ("It won't happen to me.") - Accidents happen to
other people, not to me. Therefore, I can take chances.
Macho ("I can do it.") - Always trying to prove themselves better than
others. Take risks and try to impress others.
Resignation ("What's the use?") - I really can't make a
It's going to happen anyway, why bother? Leave it to others.
Each of these has an antidote which should be used if these attitudes
affect your flying discipline. Learn more about aeronautical
Things that boost flying discipline
Training. Sometimes its hard for a 5000 hour pilot to want
to take additional training. He has determined by that point in
flying career that he's seen it all. Why should he subject
himself to the same
stuff. As a Flight Instructor, I do not find it hard to keep
myself current. I easily get 6 approaches, holding, and
interception/tracking courses. In spite of this, I subject
myself to a
yearly proficiency check by one of the local examiners. It has
failed me yet. I have learned something new each and every time,
and it was worth the couple hundred dollars because its a new skill I
can take to my students.
2. New Learning.
Subscribing to publications which suit your flying interests is a way
to enhance your skills and flying discipline. It improves your
self-worth, your thinking process, and your habits. Learning is a
way to alter a mindset which can result
in changes in patterns of behaviour and increased flying
discipline. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to
unlearn the ineffective habits. Entrepreneurs know that success
comes from non-stop
evolution by constant learning and adapting. Successful pilots do
the same by seeking out new opportunities
to learn and finding a learning experience on every flight.
3. Practicing Good
Habits. The human mind is amazing in its ability to change
its own chemistry and wiring. Our habits and preferences are
neurally wired and its the reason why we always revert back to those
comfortable patterns in our life. Any time we want to change, it
seems to be an uphill battle because we feel like we are "working
against the grain." Indeed we are, the grain of the wood, much
like our head is hard to change. There's hope for those that want
to overcome this trauma of their existence. Through practice of
good habits, using good flying discipline, the neural connections of a
new behaviour are strengthened. In time, the new habit becomes
the preferred method of operation over the bad habits of the
past. Its all about repetition.
Positive affirmations are statements which boost flying discipline by
directly attacking illogical thinking. Its a form of brainwashing
that starts you on the path of success. Its a creative
visualization that allows you to see yourself in the result rather than
experiencing anxiety about the process. The following statements
boost your skill by making you resistant to poor decisions and lack of
I can do this.
I am confident this is within my capabilities.
People depend on me to fly safely.
I am a safe pilot, I don't take shortcuts.
I have good situational awareness.
Fly the airplane.
5. Make safe
choices. Making safe choices puts you in the position of
controlling the flying environment. Such discipline allows you to
chose the outcome of a flight rather than being a slave to
coincidence. As a result of making safe choices, you'll
feel more confident as a pilot, more situationally aware, and more
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