As summer falls upon us and we begin the exit of what can only be described as a tumultuous year, my mind returns to flying. Throughout the year I haven’t had many opportunities to fly much and so the thoughts in my head centre on how to get back to aviating in a safe manner.

I am not an instructor and consider myself as a pilot who is still learning. I like to think this attitude will prevail right through to the day when I choose to stop flying and in the meantime will take every opportunity I can to reflect on my flying, seeking out the lessons I can learn. One that stands out to me as relevant, right now, is that we get rusty when we don’t get the chance to practise our skills. To this end, I will be taking care to get it right when I turn the key next time.

My approach will be fairly simple. I will take the time to go flying with someone who is more current than me. This may be an instructor or it may simply be someone that has had more flexibility than me and who has managed to stay current. I feel that even if I can’t find someone who is current, I will seek out a trusted and experienced person to come with me. Here’s my logic behind that.

We often hear the discussion around incidents that have occurred because of the Swiss cheese theory where the holes line up and then the unthinkable happened. By reducing the likelihood of the holes lining up we can reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring. Even better, taking the holes away means they can never line up.

With two experienced aviators in the cockpit the likelihood of both forgetting something is reduced. Forgot to remove the pitot tube cover? Chances are that your trusted partner in crime will let you know. Of course, none of this will work unless we all remain open-minded.

In airline operations, there is much focus on crew dynamics and the cultural aspects of interactions between junior and senior flight crew. A well-managed airline will encourage junior people to speak up when they see something that is not quite right. This must be done in a respectful manner, however the outcome is that things that might otherwise go unnoticed and potentially contribute to a less than optimal outcome being picked up. There is much we can learn from professional operations that are well run and this is one of them.

When we go flying we should always look for the opportunity to learn, improve ourselves and share our experiences. Taking the time to listen to others, be unemotional about what is being said and choosing to be objective instead is a great way to better our skills and absorb knowledge from others. And we should not stop there.

A trick that I learned quite some time ago, from someone way wiser than I imagine myself to be, is to practise an emergency procedure at a random point in your flight. For example, the next time the radio crackles to life practise an engine failure. This isn’t perfect because you have planned what you will practise but it still helps to solidify things in your mind. Ask yourself when was the last time you practised stalls or steep turns. If your answer is further back than you would like to remember, then perhaps it is time to brush up on your skills.

I have always felt that the day we stop learning is the day we should hang up our flying headset for the last time. No one is perfect but by taking the opportunity to learn a little more each time we fly is a good way to get as close as we can to being perfect. And when we stop trying to get a little closer because we think we know enough already or we just can’t be bothered learning anymore, we may be about to pose a danger to ourselves and others.

So if you are like me and about to start flying again after a bit of a hiatus, then use it as a learning experience and get someone to second guess you for your own good. You might be surprised to learn something new or relearn something you already knew. Or maybe you will just have someone who is equally passionate about flying as you are along for the ride. Either way, that is a good day out flying right? So grab a friend and get in the cockpit, I can almost guarantee you will have some fun.