Trying something new on for size can produce surprising results.
When many pilots get home from a trip they’re asked how their flights went. We like being able to respond with, “boring and uneventful.” Rest assured our love for flight is not fading, but an appreciation for a routine flight is not only a good thing, it’s something to strive for. Most of us do love a challenge and experiencing something new because that’s flying. However, the ability to anticipate surprises and keeping the aircraft on the planned trajectory is the ultimate goal. Come to think of it, anticipating surprises seems to contradict the definition of a surprise and they no longer surprise you. However, remaining situationally aware and ahead of the aircraft is what allows you to dampen the effect of those surprises. So, the question remains, how do pilots become good at what they do and make almost every flight seem routine?
The answer lies in practice. Ugh, that ugly, boring word…practice. And not just any practice, but practice in which you introduce yourself to new situations and dare we say it, surprises. Now take a moment and understand this is a safety article so the realm of surprise should not include flying outside the envelope of your aircraft or playing chicken with terrain. Rather, it should include introducing yourself to new aircraft, new airports, and other flight experiences outside the reach of your certificates and ratings (with an appropriately rated pilot or instructor of course). The simple choice of visiting a new airport is arguably one of the best ways to improve your skills as a pilot. Even pilots with as few as ten hours can handle flying to a new airport and those of you building time should follow suit. Time building should never be an act of repeating the same flight twice as there is very little to gain. Make each flight hour a quality flight hour. Introducing yourself to new scenarios that are within your capabilities is an excellent way to sharpen your skills and improve your depth as a pilot.
For those of you seeking even more, go for an introduction flight in a helicopter, glider, or float plane. Better yet, take on a new certificate or rating. Many of you may be weekend warriors who don’t necessarily need the certificate or rating, but you gain so much by going for it and it opens new doors. In conclusion, while it may sound contradictory to say this, to truly gain the skills to make a flight seem routine and boring, one should always take on new challenges and surprise. It will make every flight memorable.