I know. Just what you didn't need to hear. Another batch of New Year's resolutions that are most likely to wind up forgotten before the spilled champagne dries from your carpet. Well, here they are anyway: five areas in which we could all benefit from a little more attention.
1. Read something old. There was some back and forth in Flying over Wolfgang Langewiesche's classic Stick and Rudder. It sent me back to my copy for a refresher, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. I also enjoy myself whenever I pick up Gordon Baxter's 'How to Fly.' The fact that I renew some fundamentals of airmanship along the way takes some guilt out of the fun.
2. Read something new. Or take an online course, maybe. Pick something you'd like to do to expand your horizons — whether it's training for a new rating, learning to fly a seaplane or a taildragger, or even checking out an instructional video on glass cockpits, whether or not you expect to own or fly a G1000- or Entegra-equipped aircraft.
3. Plan a flight you'd like to make, even if the chances are you won't. For me, the planning process is an education in itself. And even though I don't expect to be flying coast to coast; or to the Bahamas this winter, it's illuminating to see what would be involved. How many fuel stops would it take, and where are the likely candidates? What winds and weather are to be found en route this time of year? The best part of this exercise is that you just might realize the trip isn't as unlikely as you thought, after all.
4. Fly with another pilot. This could be your airplane or his/hers. First, it's illuminating to see how someone else approaches flying, from preflight to securing the airplane. You're bound to see some shortcut or healthy precaution you hadn't thought of. And chances are also good that you can pass along one of your own to the other pilot. Experiencing what it's like to fly as a crew of two is also an eye-opener, at least it is for me. Helping out from the right seat or asking for the other pilot's assistance from the left seat provides insight into what you could be doing to help yourself when flying solo.
5. Spend more time at the airport, just because. When was the last time you indulged the guilty pleasure of simply hanging around for no particular reason? This year, make an effort to carve some "me" time out from work and family obligations to sit around critiquing other pilots' landings — and then giving them something to critique by botching a few of your own.
Most of us have got some darn good reasons for being glad the 2010 calendar will soon be soaking up droppings at the bottom of the canary cage. But that's all the more reason to take a positive approach to 2011. And we've got one big advantage over most people. We can fly.
Call to action: If you have any tips of your own you'd like to share, or have any questions about flying technique you'd like answered, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you.