January 2010 Issue

Failure To Multitask?

Pilots have to be able to do more than one thing at a time, without thinking or becoming complacent.

Whenever Iím around non-pilots and the subject of personal aviation comes up, the conversation inevitably turns to the skill set one needs to safely operate an aircraft. (Iím sure this is nothing new and has happened to you.) My generic answer is something to the effect of if you can drive a stick-shift car, you can fly a fixed-wing airplane; the motor skill requirements are pretty much the same. Of course, thatís not the end of it, especially if youíve never driven a stick but have several thousand hours of flight time; in addition to the requisite motor skills, pilots also must be able to prioritize tasks, often performing one or more simultaneously. An example of the latter might involve maneuvering in a traffic pattern while conversing with ATC over the radio and changing the engineís power setting, all at the same time. When the smoke clears, itís not unlike downshifting, braking and turning a stick-shift car, all at the same time.

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