It’s that time of year again. Time for reflection and resolutions. What did you do well this year, and what are you planning for the next?
It’s easy to race through the syllabus to pass your GST and get your pilot’s licence, and then think you’re done. That’s not quite true. You really never do stop learning, but once that milestone has passed, it is sometimes difficult to see how you progress as a pilot.
Greg Burns, of TwoTwoFly, often bemoans the fact that people rush the learning process and far too frequently, get their licence and then do nothing with it. His advice to new pilots is to get to know their own back yard really well. “Start with small flights, get used to your aeroplane and build your confidence.”
I decided to ask a few pilots, new and not-so-new, about their own progression since getting their licence, what they love about flying and what challenges they feel lie ahead.
I know for myself it took me almost a full year after getting my wings to truly feel like I deserved them. As far as challenges go, the weather has to be the most constant challenge and coping in different conditions and with passengers will probably keep me engrossed in the coming year. What I love about flying is a little more difficult. It gets in your blood, and you need that fix. It’s the challenge that you feel every time you open the throttle and take off, knowing getting down will always be different to the previous time. Above all, for me, it’s the view of angels you get while you are up there.
A windy winter’s day had instructor Ed complaining to me: “This is what winds me up about flying. People not flying on a day like this. If you don’t, you won’t get any further skills. Phah! So what if the wind is strong. You should be up here practising cross wind landings, rough weather handling and getting used to it or you never will, and you may as well take up carpet bowling.”
And in the wild winter weather, carpet bowling often seems like a great option!
My fellow club member Dan, who got his licence about six months ahead of me, has his sights on getting a new plane which means he can go further and faster. He has added as many new airfields to his logbook as he could this season. Weather was a major bugbear a year ago, but he’s now getting more and more resilient to the vagaries of the British weather. “You just need to get up and make the most of all the flying time you can get,” is his advice. “You need to keep pushing yourself, but make sure you never scare yourself. That way you stretch your limits all the time.”
John – another John – who lives further north and flies from his own strip, says: “I love flying because of its unpredictability. One can fly to a random field or indeed a field that you have visited many times before and meet new people.
“One constant challenge for me, is analysing the weather and the go/no-go decision making that stems from that. Being based at my own strip means that the decision is mine alone and I am happy with that. I have always used the maxim, “If there is doubt, there is no doubt.” It took me a while to really understand what that meant. I also use, “There is always another day.” These phrases have stood me in good stead.”
Sarah would love to go out to France to do some advanced flying and mountain flying courses. She says, “For me, listening to other pilots talk about their adventures means I learn a lot. Also not being afraid to ask questions of other pilots and instructors.
“I’d like to fly further afield and do more out-landings. Flying from East Fortune to Bagsby in Yorkshire was a great experience for me but I needed the help of more experienced pilots to plan the navigation and make sure I knew what I was doing. But I was very proud of myself for doing it.
“I’ve just done my revalidation. I was keen to practise certain things I felt I needed to brush up on, especially powered approaches to enable me to land in crosswinds and less stable weather. I really enjoyed the lesson. I’m going to do several more lessons this year in advanced training such as spot landings, low flying, curved approach, one-wheel landings in crosswinds.
“I think the best way to learn is to do it. Keep flying, building hours. Don’t always fly in perfect weather, learn to cope with more difficult conditions. It’s the only way to build confidence.”
Mark found his progress stalled in the three years after he got his licence, until he got his own aircraft. Now, he says, “I fly whenever I can, and I’ve clocked up nearly 80 hours as P1, but I still feel I need to step out of my comfort zone and fly to different airfields and spread my wings a bit.”
James, a former biker, says, “I love the freedom of moving in three dimensions – the heightened thrill that additional dimension gives. As far as challenges go, it must be how the available airspace is constantly being eroded by growing restrictions. That’s probably where I need to extend my confidence this year – in coping with restricted airspace.”
“You can’t distil something like what you love about flying into a few words,” counters Greg. “What’s not to love. When I get in that aeroplane, I come alive. As a pilot, you are part of a club and I feel privileged to belong. Nobody gets it until they do, and then they do!”
John, my instructor, sums it all up when he says, “Every flight is a challenge. And that’s what I love about it.”
So, what do you love about flying, and what challenges will 2019 hold for you as a pilot? I would love to hear your comment below.
Nushin…your blog kinda got me thinking about what’s actually getting me off the ground. It’s odd, but from the moment I decide to go flying, I get this little knot in my stomach… a feeling of mild anxiety that the outcome of the day is uncertain. It’s a somewhat incongruent emotion for an activity I keep telling myself… is a new hobby…something I’ve wanted to do for years and probably spent more on than the world cruise my wife would have prefered. But nevertheless, I continue to pack my mud caked Mini with various flying paraphernalia and head for the A10.
Yes…the car is mud caked because the airfield is accessed by mile long, potholed, rain filled mudfest of a farm track…so I ‘m thinking….what’s the point ever washing it again.
For the 45 min drive …I ponder on all the things that I don’t like about what I’m going to do and what might go wrong…like unwrapping and untying the plane (a prelude to re-wrapping/tying it up afterwards) after which I have no idea if I’ll even manage to start the engine…coz last time I tried, the carbs flooded and I flattened the battery.
If I do manage to get the thing fired up and out to the runway, I begin to angst about whether I (and/or the plane) will actually get airborne…and of course…back down again…in one piece.
I never have such feelings when I get in a car or on a motorbike…both of which are by far, more dangerous exploits.
And even though I’ve now done maybe 50+ solo landings on a 400m strip barely wider than the plane, I still find it a buttock clenching experience. Blimey!… what kind of hobby have I got myself in to. I have to admit, at the moment, I don’t get any real sense of pleasure from the experience …. just a massive sense of relief when I’m safely back on the ground.
And once the main wheels have touched down, I get this a sudden urge to just taxi back to the clubhouse and have a pee. So I actually have to force myself to open up the throttle and re-expose myself to another few minutes of….uncertainty… i.e. the “touch and go” – not the pee…..hmm… interchangeable terms?
So there must be something that keeps pushing me to go flying…but I’m not sure what it is. I don’t actually “enjoy” the flight or the views…I’m really too busy looking out for landing fields if the engine cuts out…or other planes and myopic birds with whom I might collide.
But one thing’s for sure…I’m not thinking about anything other than flying. Definitely no day-dreaming or thoughts about other worries in life….sitting in that cockpit takes up my entire consciousness.
I guess with only 10 solo hours logged, I’m hoping things might get a bit easier, but I’ve asked some more experienced pilots how long before these feelings of apprehension will diminish…and they all tell me….never.
Perhaps I should have persevered with the golf, or taken up Salsa…or gone on that world cruise.
But no, I masochistically keep checking the weather ahead…and when I see a nice day…I stick “flying” in my diary…and then start feeling anxious again. Mad or what?
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Alan, I hate to tell you, but that feeling of anxiety doesn’t ever entirely go away. Nor should it, in my opinion. You need to be dialed in to what you are doing all the time, or things go wrong. I am sure you don’t get it if you play carpet bowls though!
For me having recently qualified, my goals for 2019 are to visit as many new airfields as I can and share my passion with as many of my friends and family as I can 👍
Above all, I want to build my confidence….reading Alan’s post reassured me that some anxiety is normal and actually essential before each and every flight. I asked Greg Burns, during my training, if he still got nervous and he assured me that he still has butterflies before every flight, going on to say that this is important as we must always respect the risks involved in what we do.
Happy New Year Nushin! Thanks for your enlightening articles…long may they continue 👍👍🤗🤗
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Thanks Ian! It’s great to get feedback from readers, so I am delighted that you find the articles interesting. Looking forward to meeting you at one of those new airfields!