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Pilot

Posts about pilot skills, knowledge, and judgment

"Argh! What the hell?!" I growled aloud to no one in particular.

I was sitting at my desk hunched over my laptop and a pad of paper struggling with an ADF bearing-intercept problem. I'd been studying for the Commercial Pilot knowledge test and it had been going pretty easily until I hit this group of questions, and for some reason I just couldn't get my head around them.

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Remember Stuart Smalley, Al Franken's self-help guru character from the old Saturday Night Live show's "Daily Affirmation" segment? His catch phrase was, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" It was funny shtick, poking affectionate fun at the self-help and recovery movements and their penchant for using affirmations to change mental attitudes.

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It's often observed that most aircraft accidents are caused not by a single error but by a chain of compounding errors. The NTSB accident database is filled with examples.

I've experienced this myself, having occasionally made a series of bad decisions that nearly led to grief, such as the harrowing go-around I wrote about last year. In that case, the error chain continued because at each decision point, I felt bound by previous decisions. I couldn't correct my distance from the runway on downwind because I'd committed to fitting into the flow of traffic in a certain way. I couldn't go around when I realized I was too high on final or when I realized I was too fast on short final because I'd committed to landing. It finally took a badly porpoised landing attempt to prompt my go-around, at which point it was nearly too late.

More on Breaking the Chain

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I sat at my desk in my home office leafing through a couple of months worth of kneeboard notes and entering the flights in my logbook. I confess I tend to get lazy about logging my flights. Sometimes I'm only prompted to do it to show flight currency. It's not enough to make the flights—you also have to log them! I filled a page and turned to the next. It was an endorsement page! I had just filled a logbook.

More on A New Logbook

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How many times have you heard someone say, “It’ll come with time,” when referring to learning a particular skill or technique? I’ve heard it quite a lot. Often, it seems intended to end the conversation, or at least change the subject, when the speaker is tired of talking about it or has exhausted their knowledge of the subject. Still, the implication is that only time will bring the skills in question and there’s simply nothing more to say or do about it.

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