DIJKKIJK
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Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:45 am

I've heard the word being bandied about in pilot circles, but what is airmanship exactly? Is it something that comes with training or should one be born with it? I've heard statements like "While you can be trained to fly a plane, airmanship is something you should be born with. As a consequence, natural born airmen make better pilots". I've often wondered whether these are a specific set of traits we have inherited from birds, who are our very distant ancestors.

Can any pilot shed some light?

[Edited 2011-03-26 23:47:25]
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Mir
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:40 am

The definition of airmanship is going to vary from person to person, but here are some examples I managed to think of - they're not in any order of priority, and it's certainly not an all-inclusive list.

I'd say you've got good airmanship if:

- Your mind is always several minutes ahead of the airplane, and you're constantly planning ahead, trying to manage your workload appropriately so as to give you maximum situational awareness.
- You know the capabilities of your airplane, and you can plan your flight so that you never find yourself needing more out of the airplane than the airplane can realistically give you. At the same time, you also know how to get the most out of your airplane if need be.
- The mechanical act of flying your airplane (either by hand or through the automation) comes so naturally to you that you can do it without expending much mental capacity, leaving plenty of mental capacity free for planning, evaluating, and managing.
- You manage a crew well, maintaining appropriate authority while still making sure that if anyone thinks something is amiss, they'll bring it up without being prompted.
- You treat each flight as an opportunity to learn something that could come in handy on a future flight.
- You can work effectively with minimal resources if necessary, but you don't let that stop you from using as many resources as you can to help you when they're available.

You'll notice that most of these are mindsets rather than physical skills. And I'd agree that some people just naturally fit into those sorts of mindsets better than others. But by the same token, these things can certainly be taught - it's not a "either you have it or you don't" sort of deal. Some people just need to work harder at developing it.

Airmanship also evolves - what's prized these days isn't what was prized forty years ago. In another forty years, everything I listed above might become irrelevant (I don't think all of it will, but it would shock me if some of it didn't).

Quoting DIJKKIJK (Thread starter):
I've often wondered whether these are a specific set of traits we have inherited from birds, who are our very distant ancestors.

I'd tend to think not. Birds don't have to worry about cockpit management. They don't have to troubleshoot system malfunctions mid-air. They don't have to worry about complex enroute airspace structures. I'd equate avian traits to be more related to pure flying skills than airmanship. But that's just me.

-Mir
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Pihero
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:16 am

Quoting DIJKKIJK (Thread starter):
I've often wondered whether these are a specific set of traits we have inherited from birds, who are our very distant ancestors.

I don't think so, but airmanship entails having a good relationship with your environment : an intimate knowledge of the weather and how a given situation could evolve.
I'd take Mir's above list and add :
- You have a high-ish degree of self-discipline . That includes a very good grasp of the interface but also a healthy attitude of cross-checking the displayed data.

Quoting Mir (Reply 1):

Airmanship also evolves - what's prized these days isn't what was prized forty years ago.

Very true. Forty years ago, a lot was about "materialization" which was the ability to use the navigation raw data to know at all times one's position. With modern NDs, that requirement has gone.
On the other hand, high performance airliners have brought the need of better understanding of high altitude flying and transsonic phenomenae.

I'd like to submit this little definition I found -forgot from which book...it's just on the first page of one logbook -:
"Airmanship is the cornerstone of pilot competency. Competency has been defined as the combination of knowledge, skills and attitude required to perform a task well or to operate an aircraft safely — in all foreseeable situations.
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Faro
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:09 am

Quoting Mir (Reply 1):
- Your mind is always several minutes ahead of the airplane, and you're constantly planning ahead, trying to manage your workload appropriately so as to give you maximum situational awareness.

I find, from amateur flying experience in any case, that this is by far the number one consideration. You need quality flight experience and a good number of hours to get to a good level of flight anticipation, which is hard to do when you fly infrequently as an amateur...

Faro
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Mir
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:45 pm

Quoting faro (Reply 3):
You need quality flight experience and a good number of hours to get to a good level of flight anticipation, which is hard to do when you fly infrequently as an amateur...

That's part of it, but as I said, there are certain people who that comes more naturally to than others. And if you have experience in a field that also prizes anticipation and awareness, the skills you gain there are transferable to aviation. So it really depends.

-Mir
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Magcheck
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:52 am

"Airmanship" transcends the physical manipulation of the controls ("flying")-- it's a qualifier of a pilot's aeronautical decision-making (ADM) process. I just drove an hour to the airport and I have a friend with me who's excited about going flying....is that oil leak [low ceiling/cold I've got/fast-approaching sunset/extra piece of baggage/gusty crosswind/high density altitude/lack of recent experience] really a big deal....or not? A pilot doesn't have to leave the ground to be a good airman.
 
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Jetlagged
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:11 pm

I'm not a pilot, but I would say it is the flying equivalent of a sailor's seamanship. The ability to appreciate the entire situation and take safe appropriate action in good time, rather than simply react to a situation and follow procedure (though that ought to be safe enough as a baseline). As others have said this very much means being ahead of the aeroplane.
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DIJKKIJK
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:57 pm

Thank you all for your very insightful answers.   

@Mir: man, you sure you're only 21-25 years old?   Your answers have the insight and maturity of a 40 year old. Great work! Happy to have met you   
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smartt1982
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:41 pm

Just on that, would you say a guy who lets say has been flying for five years can be as good an airman as a guy who has been doing it for thrity years. Is it possible to be ahead of your years or is there just some things you have to get over the years ie knowledge, experience and skills?
 
Mir
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RE: Question To Pilots: What Is Airmanship?

Sat Apr 02, 2011 2:45 am

Quoting DIJKKIJK (Reply 7):
@Mir: man, you sure you're only 21-25 years old? Your answers have the insight and maturity of a 40 year old.

Sometimes I feel like I'm 40 - does that count?  
Quoting smartt1982 (Reply 8):
Just on that, would you say a guy who lets say has been flying for five years can be as good an airman as a guy who has been doing it for thrity years.

In certain cases, sure, especially if you're comparing someone who's flown for five years in a professional environment vs. someone who's flown just for fun for thirty years. But I'd say that in general, no - being ahead of your years is certainly possible, but 25 years of experience is a heck of lot to make up for, even if you start off with good airmanship skills.

-Mir
7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day

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