Editor's Log

October 1999 Issue

Attitude Adjustments

Attitude is as important as the skills you bring into the cockpit

Apilot friend of mine is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to IFR flight and regulations. He has the FARs cold and knows the information in the AIM better than some people know their birth certificate. He flies VFR whenever he can.

Another pilot I know has to look things up occasionally. He admits to a certain befuddlement about some of the rules and, deep down, I suspect he’s a little leery of shooting approaches when the weather is at minimums. He files an IFR flight plan in the clearest weather and accepts non-direct routings as the price he must pay to be solidly in the system.

Both guys are good pilots. They both have good stick and rudder skills, use the radios efficiently and grease far more landings than they bounce. The main difference between them is attitude.

Mr. VFR pilot has an independent streak a mile wide. He follows the rules to the letter, unless it suits him not to and there’s no chance of a violation. Then he’ll bend them to suit his purpose. He thinks he’s been around enough that he knows how far he can bend them without getting into trouble.

Mr. IFR pilot is a team player. He’s willing to pay a small price if it helps everything move more smoothly. He follows the rules to the letter, unless he forgets one or something falls through the cracks. He thinks he’s being conscientious, but in some ways he uses the system as a crutch to make up for his perceived shortcomings.

A good instructor can teach just about anyone the mechanics of flying an airplane. While some have a natural feel and others have to acquire it, anyone of normal intelligence can learn to take off, land, navigate and recover from stalls. As with my friends, attitude is the great divider.

Some people demand perfection. They roll smoothly and power changes are nearly imperceptible. Others enjoy the crispness of high performance maneuvers and fly the airplane to the limits of what its designers intended it to do.

The question becomes, who would you rather fly with? The answer, of course, should be neither. Or both. For each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and only by knowing the context of the situation could we show one to be a better choice than the other. Ideally, one could take the best of each pilot’s attitude and merge them into one highly capable pilot.

These two guys have never flown together. Maybe the time is ripe to throw them into a neutral cockpit, just to see what happens. We’ll just have to make sure whatever airplane it is doesn’t have dual controls, or we may end up going nowhere pretty fast.

-Ken Ibold