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The FAA warns us of hazardous attitudes, but it can be difficult to modulate our enthusiasm when the aviation videos and performances we aspire to replicate make advanced flying look easy. We respect aviators, like Bob Hoover, not for their timidity but for their boldness and demonstrated mastery of the art of flying. But how do they do it? How do the pilots we respect balance thrill-seeking with the payoff of doing what they do safely?

The thing to remember is the amazing precision maneuvers, aerobatics and backcountry takeoffs and landings on YouTube have one thing in common: They were planned and executed safely. But for every video that demonstrates extreme competence, there are others that demonstrate the other end of the skill set.

To be in the first camp of extreme competence, you need a plan, not just for advancing your training but to stay safe while working on the edges of the envelope. You will need to get the best instruction, access to the right equipment, and then follow the rules and best practices to build your skills.

To be in the second camp, the opposite end of the skill set, you just need a video camera and someone to hold your beer. Before you do that, stop, wind your watch, and remember that the best aviation performances you see are not the product of chance.


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