Warning: ob_start(): non-static method anchor_utils::ob_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/auto-thickbox/anchor-utils/anchor-utils.php on line 33

Warning: ob_start(): non-static method sem_seo::ob_google_filter() should not be called statically in /home/kradmin/public_html/wp-content/plugins/sem-seo/sem-seo.php on line 540

Confidence and Success

Last weekend at AOPA Summit in Long Beach, California I had a chance to talk briefly with instructor, author, speaker, and aviation funny man Rod Machado about a recent installment of his regular License to Learn feature in AOPA Pilot magazine. In the piece he raised the question of why flight training has such an appallingly low completion rate, with approximately 70% of student pilots quitting before they earn their certificates. Rod identifies one of the main causes as "an unfavorable comfort-to-discomfort ratio experienced during flight training." I asked Rod to what extent he thinks this problem is related to student confidence.

"That's very important," he answered. "Ultimately, we're teaching to the FAA practical test standards, but if we try to hold students to this standard in the early stages of training, setting unrealistic expectations, they can quickly become discouraged. It's no wonder they quit. That's why I've always practiced and advocated success-based training. I always make sure the student doesn't get out of the airplane without having some experience of success."

This attitude is a very important quality to look for in a flight instructor, but even when we're not in a training situation, I believe we can still apply this principle in our own flying. The thesis of the book I'm writing, The Confident Pilot, is closely related and can be summarized this way: true confidence is based on experience; we can build confidence by actively choosing our experience; the most efficient way I know to do this is the observe-act-observe cycle. By paying close attention to our environment, the condition of our aircraft, and our own mental and emotional state, choosing our actions accordingly, and honestly appraising our results, we can quickly improve our skills.

When approached with this attitude, even self-doubt doesn't have to be a debilitating problem, but rather a call to action—an indispensable indicator of where we need to go next in our flying. Sean Tucker, one of the most skilled of all airshow performers, gave a perfect example of this in an FAA safety seminar I attended a couple of years ago. He described starting out as a fearful pilot, afraid of stalls and steep turns. But rather than just waiting for time and experience to confer confidence, he went out and got some aerobatic training. He actively chose the experience he needed to build his confidence—and the rest, as they say, is history.

We can do this ourselves by seeking out new experiences that require us to stretch but are within reach of our current skill level. For example, if we're uncomfortable with crosswind landings, we can choose a day with winds just slightly outside our comfort zone and find an airport with crossing runways. Traffic permitting, we can practice landing on the crosswind runway, but if the crosswind gets too strong or we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, we still have the "out" of landing on the favorable-wind runway. If an honest self-assessment reveals any doubt that we can do this safely, it's time to find a good instructor and get some dual. Throughout the process we can use the observe-act-observe cycle to refine our skills and expand our comfort zone. Actively choosing challenges in this way keeps us safe while maximizing our opportunities for repeated experiences of success. This in turn builds a true confidence that keeps the comfort-to-discomfort ratio solidly in our favor.

So why is this so important? In one of his talks last weekend, Rod spoke of the transformative power of aviation. I can attest to that. For me, the most important transformation has been learning to persist through doubts and fears to develop a confidence that I wouldn't have thought possible, or necessary, when I started training. In that respect, flying has been unlike anything else I've learned to do. I regularly draw upon that confidence, those experiences of success, whether I'm negotiating with a client, learning a new technology, or even writing this blog. That's why it's so important to me that those who desire the joy of flight get to pursue it, experience success, and earn their wings so they can undergo their own transformations, whatever form they might take.

Post a comment

Filed under Pilot by  #

Leave a Comment

Comments are queued and moderated daily.

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.

Register Login