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Bruce
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Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:09 pm

I'm a non-pilot and am wondering: what are the most important skills or abilities that a person should have before embarking on flight training or considering flight lessons.

For those who are pilots, how did you know before you began that "journey" that it was within your ability to absorb all that knowledge and successfully operate an aircraft?

Bruce
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MrChips
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:09 pm

This should prove to be an interesting topic, to say the least.

You see, of all the people I have met throughout my thusfar short career as a pilot, one thing always seems to separate the "good" pilots from the "great" pilots. This thing is a drive to never stop learning about your profession. Of course, we all get the technical training during type courses and refreshers, but aviation goes far beyond the manuals, groundschool binders and QRHs. There is a whole world outside the cockpit. For example - get to know the mechanics/AMEs/A&Ps at your operation or local maintenance facility, and try to learn from them as much as possible. By doing this, when something goes wrong, not only will you know how to better cope with it, but when it comes time to tell the mechanic about what's wrong, you can speak his/her language. And this goes further - visit your local ATC unit, talk to your dispatchers, ramp rats, F/As...everyone in your operation. And forget about the hostilities between these groups - no one is more important than anyone else.

Also, listen to your elders - I am preaching to the choir here, since I know we all enjoy the golden bits of information and anecdotes provided by such members as SlamClick, PhilSquares, Bellerophon and the like - the old guys may seem surly and unapproachable, but remember that long ago, they were in the same position as you were. You'd be amazed (and more than likely entertained) by the stories that some of these guys have.

Quoting Bruce (Thread starter):
For those who are pilots, how did you know before you began that "journey" that it was within your ability to absorb all that knowledge and successfully operate an aircraft?

To be honest, I never would have thought that I could have done what I did. At every step of my training, I will admit, I was intimidated by amount of knowledge and work that it looked like I had to endure. I am not the smartest person in the world by any means, but I know that hard work and diligence can make up for any lack of natural talent.

[Edited 2006-04-04 10:12:43]
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bri2k1
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:52 pm

My instructor always said the hardest thing to teach a student pilot is good aviation decision making. The FAA has an interesting approach with the "dangerous attitudes" and their related "antidotes," but it's just one solution to a difficult problem. The problem arises when one's physical piloting abilities develop faster than his or her decision making prowess. That's the reason that high time is so valuable, because even if it's long-haul and with relatively few cycles, there have been many opportunities to experience system failures, impromptu changes of plan, and the like, and so many opportunities to make decisions and evaluate their outcome.

Quoting MrChips (Reply 1):
members as SlamClick, PhilSquares, Bellerophon and the like - the old guys may seem surly and unapproachable

I don't think they're unapproachable at all. Just treat your elders with respect and, as you know, you can learn much from them.
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:00 pm

Bruce

... what are the most important skills or abilities that a person should have before embarking on flight training or considering flight lessons...

The ability to make rational and considered decisions, appropriate to your level of ability and experience. Other skills are also very important, but ultimately, in my view, that is the single most important one.

Just as an aside, for anyone thinking of embarking on flying training seriously, say as a career, I would advise them to undergo a Class 1 medical exam first, before they spend any money on flying training. Better to find out right at the start, before you have spent any money, if you have a medical problem that will prevent you from holding the licence you want.


Bri2k1

... My instructor always said the hardest thing to teach a student pilot is good aviation decision making...

I agree totally with your instructor.

In the UK, a majority of all light aircraft accidents are weather related. In a lot of these accidents, there was sufficient time and there were sufficient warnings, clues, briefings, forecasts and PIREPS, for the pilot either to have chosen a different course of action to the one they did, or not to have got airborne at all.

Sadly, many otherwise competent pilots persevered with their original plan and found out the hard way just what an important skill good decision making is.

There are many skills in aviation which are important, no one skill can make up for deficiencies in other areas, but poor decision making is more likely to get you into serious trouble than just about any other aviation shortcoming.


MrChips

... SlamClick, PhilSquares, Bellerophon and the like - the old guys...

Old! Old!!! The cheek of it!

We’re not old – We’re youngsters who just happen to have thirty years of experience!  Wink


Best regards to all

Bellerophon
 
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:30 pm

What a wonderful thread to learn a lot of things. Thank you very much for every one who contributed their valuable advices.
 
Pihero
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:48 pm

Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 3):
The ability to make rational and considered decisions, appropriate to your level of ability and experience. Other skills are also very important, but ultimately, in my view, that is the single most important one.

I heartily agree with that statement.
That quality derives in great part from the ability to mentally process a great amount of data related to one's flight (weather, Technical, geography, ATC constraints, political situation, passengers' safety, medical...) into a manageable strategy.
Anybody can pilot an airplane. It demands a lot of work and discipline to achieve a safe and profitable flight.
Just my two cents.
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PhilSquares
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:18 pm

Personally, I think there's two tough things to teach, in fact, impossible to teach.

You can teach all the rules and regulations and have someone spit them back, someone can get all the limits and SOPs right. You can teach some takeoffs and landings until they're perfect. But the two biggest parts you can't teach is decision making and three dimensional thinking.

Decision making is enhanced by being in a training enviornment that allows mistakes to be made. Those mistakes are analysed and a better course of action is then discussed. Kind of a building block approach. A punitive approach were perfection is required all the time and mistakes are rewarded by punishment just doesn't work. I think most good instructors have their limits that they will let a person go to. I do, I try not to interject my technique in, if things are not going the right way then a simple question can normally get things back on track. On the ground you can debrief it to death.

Three dimensional thinking only comes as the result of mistakes, or rather than mistakes, "abnormal situations". Such as being kept high during a descent, having a runway change close in. Knowing how to maneuver the aircraft in a safe and efficient manner. What I normally see is the FO's head buried in the FMS trying to have the FMC do it.

Anyhow, those are my points. Anyone can learn to fly, it's not that tough. But learning to fly when things go wrong is the real challange.
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:39 pm




...And here I thought it all boiled down to knowing where the good restaurants are during layovers.  Wink




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Bruce
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:42 am

Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 3):
Better to find out right at the start, before you have spent any money, if you have a medical problem that will prevent you from holding the licence you want.

What kinds of medical things would strike an applicant? Aside from the ones I know of...diabetes, color vision deficiency - thankfully I have neither. I wonder what else they look for?

bruce
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SlamClick
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:53 am

Quoting MrChips (Reply 1):
- the old guys may seem surly and unapproachable

Dammit! I am NOT surly!

Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 3):
We’re not old – We’re youngsters who just happen to have thirty years of experience!

"Thirty" years!
Rookies!!!
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2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:59 am




Quoting Bruce (Reply 8):
I wonder what else they look for?

Examiner must disqualify if the applicant has a history of:

(1) Diabetes mellitus requiring hypoglycemic medications
(2) Angina pectoris
(3) Coronary heart disease that has been treated or, if untreated, that has been symptomatic of clinically significant
(4) Myocardial infarction
(5) Cardiac valve replacement
(6) Permanent cardiac pacemaker
(7) Heart replacement
(8) Psychosis
(9) Bipolar disease
(10) Personality disorder that is severe enough to have repeatedly manifested itself by overt acts
(11) Substance dependence
(12) Substance abuse
(13) Epilepsy
(14) Disturbance of consciousness without satisfactory explanation of cause; and
(15) Transient loss of control of nervous system function(s) without satisfactory explanation of cause.




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SlamClick
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:00 am

Quoting Bruce (Thread starter):
before embarking on flight training or considering flight lessons.

In large part this depends on whether you intend to be a professional pilot or if you want to fly for pleasure while pursuing some other career. My advice would be somewhat different for each.
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Bruce
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:54 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 11):
In large part this depends on whether you intend to be a professional pilot or if you want to fly for pleasure while pursuing some other career

Flying for money. Maybe not necessarily a commercial airline....but flight instruction, corporate, private, and the like.

I am well aware of the fragility of the commercial airline business today and I realize that I most likely won't ever get to fly for a commercial airline except maybe a regional (maybe) but there are other things you can do with a pilot license. I do have a certain passion for things that fly along with more knowledge than the average man or woman going in which would be an asset in jump starting a training program. I think I'm going to visit a flight school sometime and sign up for a discovery flight. Since I'm not happy where I am now, doesn't it make sense to follow your passion.

My goal of the original post was to get a sense of what kind of person....what traits or abilities....would make a good pilot - if that makes any sense. obviously the physical flying stuff you pay to learn.

I would guess that one thing would be a keen sense of direction and abillity to "navigate". obviously if you are always getting lost driving on your own street you may have a tough time with VORs and airways and approach vectoring! I have the keen ability to go to any new city and find my way around (by car) without getting lost - in college I worked for pizza delivery and had to find specific houses on specific streets at night in an efficient manner and aalmost always got it. So I'm sure that can help.

bruce
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2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:41 am




Quoting Bruce (Reply 12):

I'm no airline pilot, Bruce, but throughout my flight training, I learned that the ability to take vast amounts of input and information and appropriately prioritize it all counts for a lot.

In other words, you can more easily stay ahead of the airplane by being able to instantly identify what task requires action in the next 10 seconds, and what task should be handled a few minutes from now.

Whatever phase of flight (or taxi) I'm in, I've always made a point to visualize the next three tasks I'll be facing. As a result, things seem less rushed. That said, techniques certainly vary, and you'll figure out what works for you.

Keep us posted.  Smile




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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:13 am

Quoting Bellerophon (Reply 3):
There are many skills in aviation which are important, no one skill can make up for deficiencies in other areas, but poor decision making is more likely to get you into serious trouble than just about any other aviation shortcoming.

Sometimes known as (and I may be bungling it): "A good pilot uses his/her superior skills to stay out of situations where he/she might have to use said skills".
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:21 am




Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 14):

I'm also reminded of the one that goes something like this:

"Good judgement comes from experience, which comes from bad judgement".

Another I like:

"To become old and wise, one must first be young and stupid".




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Pihero
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 6:37 am

Quoting Bruce (Reply 12):
doesn't it make sense to follow your passi

Yes it does, and motivation will be your greatest help.

Quoting Bruce (Reply 12):
I would guess that one thing would be a keen sense of direction and abillity to "navigate".

Actually, you'll find yourself in an environment that will look alien and you'll have to reconsider that ground level skill.The sense you are taking about comes from innate above average observation and memory skills. That would help into what PhilSquares refer to as "three dimensional skill ". In the air forces they call it "situational awareness". You'll learn it.
Be aware that there is a great deal of experience around you and I'm quite sure these "teen-agers with thirty years'worth of experience" will be glad to help you along.
Good luck in your endeavours.
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redcordes
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:15 am

I took a ground school and passed the FAA written before taking any flight instruction. I was more than prepared for each lesson and for the last half of my flight instruction I would review the requirements for the practical exam and suggest to the instructor what I would like to work on in subsequent lessons (the instructor actually liked this proactive attitude--he knew I was a self-motivated student, and it was easier for him to decide what we would work on). Frequently we could work on four or five of these items in a one hour lesson. This reduced the flight training time, cost and by having done my homework allowed me to really concentrate on learning flying skills. If you make sure you have a good theoretical understanding of all that's involved in flying before you step into the cockpit, you'll make the most of your time in the air. Also, don't drag out your flight training. Can you imagine trying to learn how to drive a car by taking instruction for an hour once every couple weeks or so? In my case, and I am really quite modest, I was able to solo in eight days (at a fairly busy airport LNA) with 10 hrs. of dual instruction. Do your homework first, and have fun.

[Edited 2006-04-05 04:32:17]
"The only source of knowledge is experience." A. Einstein "Science w/o religion is lame. Religion w/o science is blind."
 
highflyer9790
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:29 am

Before we get into the details, being able to stay calm in emergencies, have good depth perception, and coordination are important too.
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:07 pm

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 14):

Sometimes known as (and I may be bungling it): "A good pilot uses his/her superior skills to stay out of situations where he/she might have to use said skills".

Yes, you bungled it backward. Here it is:

Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgment to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills.

Bottom line: If you have the knowledge and judgement you don't need more than average skills.
"The only source of knowledge is experience." A. Einstein "Science w/o religion is lame. Religion w/o science is blind."
 
2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:11 pm




"I'd rather be lucky than good, any day!" - Chuck Yeager




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redcordes
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:23 pm

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 20):
"I'd rather be lucky than good, any day!" - Chuck Yeager

Hey 2H4, that quote was originally from Lefty Gomez the baseball player, and I'll bet Chuck was aware of that when he said it!
"The only source of knowledge is experience." A. Einstein "Science w/o religion is lame. Religion w/o science is blind."
 
2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:38 pm




Quoting Redcordes (Reply 21):

Ha, cool. I didn't realize that!




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saintsman
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:15 pm

I think that remembering to obay the 'rules' is a good one. Not just the legal rules but the ones that say if you fly too slow you fall out of the sky or if its too windy you are going to have problems. Most aircrew accidents are caused by people forgetting the rules or thinking they know better.

Quoting Bruce (Thread starter):
For those who are pilots, how did you know before you began that "journey" that it was within your ability to absorb all that knowledge and successfully operate an aircraft?

Flying, to start with, is not as hard as most people believe. Whilst there are some people who will never be able to fly as long as they have a hole in their arse, the majority of people will be able to sucessfully fly an aeroplane provided they have the will and interest. If you are thinking about doing it have a go, particularly if you only want to fly just for the fun of it. There are thousands of people missing out because they mistakenly think that they are not capable.
 
SlamClick
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Thu Apr 06, 2006 3:07 am

Quoting Bruce (Reply 12):
I realize that I most likely won't ever get to fly for a commercial airline

Why on earth not? They are going to need pilots on a future date. If you are a pilot on that future date you could be one more resume in their stack. In the last round of hiring one particular airline did, they hired a 54 year old man with no time in any airplane larger than a cabin-class twin. The old newhire stereotypes have kind of gone away.

If you have a four-year degree and some hours and ratings you might just be what they are looking for. (Whether or not an airline is your best choice is another matter!) Also, given the wages they plan to be paying in the future they might even have to relax the bachelor's degree requirement to attact applicants.

I've thought about the thread question quite a bit. It got me to thinking about the advice I'd been given over the years, and something I eventually noticed about that advice. I've already seen it here.

People give you advice based on what gave them trouble.

This is not necessarily the same thing that is going to give you trouble.

That does not make it bad advice, it just means that you need to continue to filter, analyze and evaluate the advice you get. Early in my private license instruction my instructor advised me that when maneuvering near the ground, for example in the traffic pattern, to take a glance at my shadow from time to time. That advice saved me from a midair on three different occasions. (near-miss with a PanAm 707 near Saigon, another PanAm 707 at Reno and an Air Force T-29 over highway 50 near Sacramento.) Three times that one comment saved my life and others. That does not make it the best advice I ever got.

There was no best piece of advice. There was no most important single piece of information. It was all a tapestry, a mosaic of data and lore that kept me and my passengers safe for forty years.

Probably the most important category was advice relating to the pilot's attitude, mindset, professional ethic. There are hundreds of sources for this sort of thing. If you would be a pilot then get around pilots, tap into the way they think, the way they respond to changing situations. The advice in the posts above is good. Except the "I'd rather be lucky than good." one - that is one we say to each other as a self-deprecating joke. A pilot who truly felt that way wouldn't be worth a damn in my eyes. It is funny but it is not good advice. Never count on luck to be anything but bad. Make your own luck.

Early in my career - I'm thinking about my military training - I got conflicting feedback and it really made me ponder this stuff. On two consecutive checkrides I got the following:

1. "Your procedures are pretty good, but you are really mechanical - you have no natural talent as a pilot."

2. Your procedures are okay but they could use some more practice. On the other hand, you are a natural pilot - best hands I've seen so far."

You can see my confusion. I did not dwell on it. There were new maneuvers to master, new skills to hone. I put my head down and pressed on to get my wings. In a hundred checkrides I got praise and I got criticism that stung. I saved an airplane with my superior abilities. I crashed an airplane in part because of my complacency. All things taught me something.

Eventually I came to believe that I was a very good pilot. I finally realized, deep into a five-digit logbook that the closer I stayed to the middle of the envelope, the better I adhered to standard practices the better I was! Now there is a revelation for you.

The practices and procedures you'll be taught are the distillation of millions of flying hours. When you top ten thousand hours yourself, you will be a credible authority in this business, but the collective wisdom that went into the procedures called for by your company and enforced by the FAA are the summation of a collective experience that dwarfs any such logbook total.

In other words, you cannot possibly live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself. Learn from everything.

Set high standards. Work yourself hard. Most of us are way too easy on ourselves and that is a luxury no pilot can afford. On the other hand don't beat yourself up over a weak performance; learn the lesson it brought and move on. Do the next thing better. Take the satisfaction that comes from that and turn it back on the task at hand. Do the next one even better.

Yes, you are smart enough or whatever-enough to become a pilot. If you really want it, you can do it. I know people who have overcome difficulties that are hard to imagine in order to become pilots. If you are going to do it (and I loved the whole forty years) then be serious about it. Study hard, practice to high standards, give it your best. The profession deserves that.

"Between the amateur and the professional is a difference
not only in degree, but in kind."

- Bernard DeVoto


P.S. If you'd told me you were going to be an amateur pilot my advice would have been "then be a pro" You see, the airplane, the atmosphere, the runway, the crosswind, the mountains - none of these things care who is flying the airplane. The standards are the same for a student pilot and an airline pilot - don't crash. Simple enough, huh?
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
 
Poitin
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Thu Apr 06, 2006 3:50 am

The most important thing to learn is you "don't gotta".

You don't gotta fly in bad weather. You don't gotta land if the engine is still working, you don't gotta do this and don't gotta do that. Never do anything in an airplane you feel comfortable about doing. If you are too high or too fast for the landing, go around. Nobody is going to laugh at you for doing so, but they will fault you for not doing so and crashing. Pride has killed more pilots than any other single issue.

And secondly, learn to trust your training in case of an emergency. The average student pilot can fly an airplane successfully with just a few hours of training assuming nothing goes wrong. The reason you get between 6 and 10 hours before soloing and usually 40 hours before being given a license is to teach you what to do when things do go wrong.
Now so, have ye time fer a pint?
 
Pihero
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Thu Apr 06, 2006 6:49 pm

I have thought a bit about this subject these last few days and find myself asking the question : "What does this job bring to me ? "
- An almost perfect balance between physical, mental and intellectual activity,
- New horizons, new people, new cultures,
- A job where a task is finished at the end of every flight, yet never ending as the next sector will call for another challenge... More than anything else, that teaches humility. The quest for the perfect flight is as elusive as the Grail's.
- A job at the apex of technology where we've begun to touch AI,cybernetics,
- An undefinable sense of wonder on the beauty of our own earth, an almost mystical sense of belonging, an understanding of what the world is,
- A way to relate with others, be they part of my crew or just strangers...the power of respect and communication........

For all that, and much more, depending on the individual, what are you prepared to give ?

The skills will be learned later.
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redcordes
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Thu Apr 06, 2006 9:16 pm

Learning to fly is done in the same order as the priorities of the Golden Rule of safe flying: Flying the airplane; navigating; communicating.

Flying the airplane requires an understanding of the aircraft's aerodynamics, controls, flight instruments, but no more coordination than driving a car (probably less, because the highway is much smaller than the sky--driving can be a game of inches where flying is definitely not). Again knowing this stuff before you begin training is a big plus.

Navigating requires a knowledge of the navigational instruments, understanding of the various charts, and situational awareness. Obviously, a knowledge of the local geography is very important. Understand the nav. instruments before trying to use them. Look at some charts of your area; Sectional, Terminal Area; Low Altitude IFR. Learn what most the symbols/numbers mean.

Communicating is the biggest problem for the low-time, private pilot. This really separates the amateurs from the pros. Take a look at the Pilot-Controller Glossary in the AIM and if you're near an airport get a basic scanner at Radio Shack or somewhere w/ av. freqs. and monitor some radio transmissions (tower, approach, CTAF, high-altitude sector). At first it's like a foreign language but eventually it sinks in (for me, it was almost impossible to do this well while learning to fly and navigate).

Which (IMO) brings up the most important pilot talent--multitasking. As far as intellect--it's not rocket science. Average is adequate, but a good memory is a big plus. I'll never be a great pilot because although I'm pretty good in these three areas individually, I'm not much of a multitasker. I can do any two at once, but throw in the third and it gets sloppy.
"The only source of knowledge is experience." A. Einstein "Science w/o religion is lame. Religion w/o science is blind."
 
Skyslave
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Fri Apr 07, 2006 2:26 am

I know when I first started flying the whole process seemed very intimidating. But then again, so was driving a car before I got my drivers lisence. After a while it becomes very second nature... however, there are still people out there that have been driving a car for a few decades and are still bad drivers. I agree with every one here that the best skill you can have is good decision making, but I also think what defines a "good" pilot and a "great" pilot is combining good decision making with being able to logically analize situations. After you get up in the air, and get the basics hammered out, I think the next step would be getting to know your plane a little better. What exactly happens when you flip this switch? Why does it happen? What components does it go through before it happens? It sounds like alot, but its not so bad. Take the cowling off, have a friend pull some levers in the cockpit and see what moves what. Follow wires around and see what they're all connected to. This will come in handy if anything goes wrong. You can use a little bit of logic to visualize what is happening, and make a good desicion from that. Anybody can fly a plane, its what you do while you're up there that makes you a good pilot.
 
AirWillie6475
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Fri Apr 07, 2006 7:29 am

Unfortunately to be a pilot you have to have "it". Most don't have it, fortunately I have so much of it.

Here's what a retired AF/airline pilot said:

" Give me anything that has wings and an engine, it doesn't matter if the cockpit is in Chinese or Russian, and I'll fly it"

This is all that it takes.
 
2H4
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Fri Apr 07, 2006 7:39 am




Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 29):
" Give me anything that has wings and an engine, it doesn't matter if the cockpit is in Chinese or Russian, and I'll fly it"

Watching him try to start it would be entertaining...

 Wink




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AFHokie
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Fri Apr 07, 2006 1:05 pm

Obviously skills with a bo staff or numchucks come in handy....

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Starlionblue
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RE: Most Important Pilot Skills

Sat Apr 08, 2006 4:15 am

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 30):
Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 29):
" Give me anything that has wings and an engine, it doesn't matter if the cockpit is in Chinese or Russian, and I'll fly it"

Watching him try to start it would be entertaining...

"Think in Russian!"
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo

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