Hold on. I know the title is trite. Your enthusiasm for reading further may be at a low point, but hang on for a minute. I mean to persuade you that this is something other than a cliched rehash of admonishments to stabilize your approach.
It is hard to believe that, after flying continuously for 45 years, I might be learning something new. It is hard to comprehend that after rocking along in the same airplane, a Cheyenne turboprop, for 13 years, that there might be some things I could do better. Yet both statements are true.
When you think about it, where does new knowledge come from? I’ve always felt that experience, especially survivable experience, is the best teacher. Certainly early encounters with thunderstorms and ice left a lasting impression and stirred interest in avoidance. Those are the big things.
There are other little things that accrue on the back of the frontal lobe that shape your approach to flying an airplane. A takeoff with a mis-trimmed elevator is done once. A close call on fuel at the destination makes a more conservative flyer out of you. I’ve forgotten to turn the pitot heat on a few times, and twice I was alerted to this fact by staring at an airspeed indicator that read zero. Slowly, over time, each such episode in a pilot’s life adds to the compendium that makes things easier and safer. There is less thrashing about.
The other source for wisdom is reading. For as long as I can remember, I have read Aftermath religiously each month. I’d wonder to myself if I would have found myself in the same predicament as the unfortunate pilot whose actions warranted a 1,500-word column or whether I would have avoided the problem in the first place. Or maybe I could have solved the dilemma successfully in the end. I Learned About Flying From That has been my second stop in this magazine. Many events, some humorous, some downright scary, have left me a bit more contemplative than before. In these cases, I learned not from my mistakes and misadventures, but from those made by other pilots.
The best source of aeronautical knowledge comes from stories told by other pilots. Hangar flying is more interactive and the color commentary much more memorable. How often have you heard a tale that begins, “I know a guy who ...”
Narrative is so compelling, in part because the teller and the listener are bound together by intense interest in the outcome.
The surge in my education has come because, for the first time in my life, I am flying with other pilots. Elite Air of St. Petersburg, Florida, took on this old pilot as a Lear 31 first officer. In this delightful capacity, I studied at the knee of some masters. And I learned a lot.
Some of this knowledge comes from the majestic difference between a Lear and a turboprop. FlightSafety in Atlanta started me on the road to higher consciousness in flying, and much I learned from the folks in Atlanta about the jet has proven very useful in relation to the turboprop. This backdrop augmented my Cheyenne training at SimCom, where I asked experienced instructors about the nuances of an airplane I thought I knew well. I am still learning to master an old friend. In both training environments there was somebody sitting in the seat next to me.
But it has been the Elite Air captains in the Learjet who have encouraged me to be more thoughtful in my flying. Their calm presence and reassuring countenance prompted me to fly better and smarter. Several examples come to mind.