Guess what? I can’t juggle as many things in my head as well I used to. Yeah, I’m shocked too.

Call it old age. Or maybe I never could. The solution? I’ve upgraded my scrappy bits of papers I had in the cockpit to a fully fledged spiral-bound notepad.

Total investment: about $3. It’s my new best friend. I’ve flown almost 50 hours so far this year. That’s a lot for me, and some of the legs were over 5 hours long. That’s 750+ nautical miles, which is a lot of fuel management and a bunch of airports, radio frequencies and other bits to know. Not to mention a sore behind.

Plus, with 180 litres of fuel spread over three tanks, I prefer to keep a close track on what’s been used. So, I note down tank and litres consumed as I go. As a bonus I get to feel like Charles Lindberg crossing the Atlantic. Sort of… I like to jot down quick notes on alternate airfields — runway directions, radio frequencies elevation and any local conditions. I also like to write down my course waypoints and navigation checkpoints as I pass them.

You know who my other new best friend is? The ERSA. I have an electronic copy courtesy of my OzRunways subscription. I thought I was good at reading the ERSA, but the more I fly, the more mistakes I realise I make. That is particularly true when visiting new areas and airfields.

In the last trip I flew in to 7 airfields, all of which I’d never seen before — usually after a 3 to 5 hour leg. You need to have it squared away well and truly before you get there. So, a bit of ERSA time before the flight, some study on the leg (remember that the ER in ERSA stands for En Route).

When you’re on to your third untried airfield for the day, it’s all too easy to confuse local rules. Note to self: read and fully understand the local traffic regs flight procedures and additional information section. This also begs the question: why is the important information, like the CTAF, way down the page? I digress…

Then, I transfer the important bits to my new best friend the Spiral Notebook, and guess what? I make fewer mistakes. Like many of us, I have been flying a long time, but I’m not a ‘thousands-of-hours’ pilot. Flight school was long ago, so I’m on a bit of a self-help program here. I am no big fan of change, but to improve, this old dog is having to learn new tricks.