Posts about pilot skills, knowledge, and judgment
"Doing any flying lately?" my buddy Anders asked me at a recent club meeting.
"Aw, man, I haven't flown in months," I answered ruefully. "It sucks!"
It's true. For all I've written about the importance of recent experience and persistence at this wonderful craft of flying, lately I've been totally, stubbornly earthbound. There have been good reasons for this. I've just started a new job that's taking a lot of my time. I've had some big bills recently. I'm spending most of my off hours preparing my house for sale. So both time and money have been tighter than usual. But really these are just excuses. If I prioritized it, I know I could fly enough to at least maintain proficiency. I mean, come on—it's Summer in California!
"What's your reference heading?" my instructor Bill asked. I was weaving drunkenly back and forth across the localizer beam and porpoising all over the glide slope in my attempt fly an ILS approach into Stockton airport in California's Central Valley.
"He carried himself with so much more confidence the last couple of outings. The confidence factor is so important. He realized how good he is."
Bruce Bochy, manager of my beloved San Francisco Giants, was speaking about one of his veteran superstar pitchers and his recent struggles with command. I've been a baseball fan since childhood and what most fascinates me about it is the mental game. It's a game of strategy, psychology, and emotion even more than physical skill. Ballplayers, like all human beings, are vulnerable to all the vicissitudes and weaknesses of the human mind. But some players seem able to perform consistently well regardless of circumstances—and as Bochy says, one of the intangible qualities that makes a key difference is confidence.
Whap! My instructor Bill reached over and gave Janet's hand a gentle but unmistakeable slap.
"Only one hand on the yoke!" Bill reminded her.
"Your instructor just hit your wife!" Janet called back to me in mock indignation. "Are you going to stand for that?"
The distinctive sound of a flat-four engine overhead got my attention. I looked up to see a low-altitude Cessna flying Northwest, probably climbing out from San Carlos airport just a few miles away. I watched as it climbed and turned to the West, heading over to the coast.