Welcome to The Confident Pilot!
Bang! Bang!… Bang! Rumble rumble skid lurch thump. Shaking, I opened the glider's canopy and turned to look at the small crowd gathered on the porch outside the FBO. Breaking the awkward silence, Rhett the tow pilot said, "Wow, Kennan, that was really something!"
Yes, it was. The most spectacularly bad landing I'd ever made. Well, three of them, if you count the porpoising. I was a student pilot returning from a solo glider flight on a bumpy afternoon in Northern California's wine country. Terrified of a turbulence-induced stall in the traffic pattern, I kept pushing the stick forward for more airspeed. I was doing about 80 knots when I attempted to "land" by forcing the glider onto the ground. The usual touchdown speed for that glider was more like 40 knots. The result: what pilots euphemistically call an "arrival."
That event triggered my first but certainly not last crisis of confidence in my abilities in the cockpit, but like so many other pilots, I loved flying enough to keep coming back. I learned about turbulence. I learned airspeed control. I learned to listen to what an aircraft was telling me. I earned my private pilot certificate in gliders and then went on to earn a single-engine-land airplane rating, an instrument rating, and an advanced ground instructor certificate. Now I'm working on my commercial and plan to become a CFI so I can share my love of flying with the next generation of pilots.
I know my students will experience the same kinds of ups and downs in their flying careers that I've had in mine. All pilots do. Whether you fly commercially or just putter around your home airfield on weekends, I'm sure you've had days when you wondered whether you really had what it takes to fly safely and well. Other days you were at the top of your game and it all seemed easy. It's the same with any challenging endeavor, and that's one of the things I enjoy most about flying. It continues to challenge me as long as I keep doing it.
However exhilarating the ups may be, though, the downs are sometimes bad enough to stop pilots from flying altogether. I've heard so many stories about people who used to love to fly but gave it up after a bad experience. The reason for their decision? A crisis of confidence that went unaddressed. Even when such an experience doesn't stop us from flying, it can sow the seeds of doubt and anxiety that take a lot of the fun out of flying and discourage us from challenging ourselves and growing as pilots. Ultimately, this lack of confidence is dangerous because it undermines our decision making and makes us susceptible to passivity and resignation.
Webster's Online Dictionary defines confidence as the "faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way"—in short, that we'll do the right thing. While we need this faith to keep us flying, it's not enough to keep us safe. Even more dangerous than a lack of confidence is overconfidence. The NTSB accident database is filled with stories about pilots whose unwarranted confidence led them to bad decisions, such as pressing on into deteriorating weather, ignoring signs of mechanical trouble, or attempting maneuvers that exceeded their skills or their aircraft's capabilities. What we need, then, is a true confidence: a well-founded faith that we'll do the right thing in the cockpit.
My name's Kennan Rossi and I've started this blog as a forum for dialog about the experiences that give us pilots the true confidence we need to keep flying — safely. I want to share the experiences that have both challenged and built my confidence in the cockpit over the years, and I want to hear the stories of others, providing a place to share and discuss them.
Over the past few months, I've been writing a book I'm calling The Confident Pilot, and I'll be posting draft excerpts here and reporting on my progress as the book takes shape. For myself I'm hoping that income from book sales will allow me to fly more than I currently can, but I know that will happen only if the book offers practical ideas of lasting value to the aviation community that has helped make it possible. I believe the best way to do that is to involve the community in the creation of the book by soliciting ideas, stories, and feedback. My dream is that pilots will flock to this site to buy, read, enjoy, and discuss the book, and contribute their experiences to future volumes that will benefit us all.
We pilots are incredibly lucky to belong to a close-knit and supportive community. From the cutting of shirttails after first solo to the first flight with a passenger as pilot in command to pilgrimages to EAA Airventure, aviation is full of rituals and customs that celebrate and elevate the practical process of flying an aircraft to an exciting shared adventure. One of my favorite aviation customs is "hangar flying," the swapping of flying tales (some taller than others) that capture the fun, mystery, and magic of flight in a way that rings true for people who love to fly.
May this site serve as just such a hangar. So come on in! We're just getting started!
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