A Lesson in Self-Examination

Aviation has many old sayings: “It’s a licence to learn”, “Experience can be a cruel teacher” and “When we think we know everything it might be time to stop”. If any of these ring true, then please read on…

Going solo, then getting your certificate or licence are always memorable milestones in a pilot’s journey, but ask most pilots and they’ll tell you that most of their true learning has happened after these milestones. As the saying goes, experience can be a cruel teacher because it often gives you the test first and the lesson later. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get to learn from the test; but we always can seize the opportunity to take a lesson and learn.

Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you that training is their job, competing is the reward. Pilots who adopt the same attitude will always be looking for new opportunities to learn. At the end of each flight, I often ask myself, “what did I learn from that flight”? It may seem that for many flights this is a fruitless self-examination, but honestly just by asking yourself you have reinforced an introspective self-discipline and while we can lie to others it’s harder to lie to ourselves.

But more important than self-assessment is the value we gain from external sources. Aussies are great at putting the boot in with friendly banter about a landing that looked just like the kangaroos on the strip or cheekily asking whether you were saving fuel on that circuit. But seriously, there are so many worthwhile opportunities to learn in aviation we are spoilt for choice. Of course, we get our biennial flight review but what happens in between? Have you thought about getting that tailwheel endorsement? What about digging in and getting your cross country or even taking on some specialised training like formation or upset prevention? In most cases. any one of these activities will reset your BFR date but more importantly you’ll be in a different aircraft or with a different instructor and getting outside of your comfort zone. This is just the tool to confirm and recalibrate our basic flying skills.

Many progressive RAAus schools will organise days with the local gliding club, where apart from the beauty of this experience, there are so many things to learn – and if nothing else, you’ll reacquaint yourself with the importance of rudder! Many RAAus schools now operate in controlled airspace – what a great way to get ready for future endorsements and, if nothing else, gain a better understanding of how it all works. Everything we do to develop ourselves will add another dimension to us as pilots. It will force us to refocus and identify areas where we may have thought we were okay but, we can always improve.

So, as we wind down to the end of another year and with the shackles of Covid slowly releasing, now is the perfect time to take a few days, book in for something new or different and open your mind to new learning opportunities in your aviation journey. You might even take your flying in a new direction. It’s a big sky out there, don’t be afraid to explore it.