I was flattered when a famous aviation author Jane Birch “They Flew Proud” asked me to contribute a few paragraphs for her project for the Piper Museum. Being an instructor for over 30 years she asked me to do a few paragraphs on what I thought made a Pilot’s Pilot.
What makes a Pilot’s Pilot?
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this having turned fifty last month. I’ve been reflecting back on my career in aviation. I started flying at age 14 as a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol and pursued this passion ever since. I soloed at age sixteen and had my CFI at age eighteen. I flew the popular trainers of the time the; Cessna 150, Piper 140 and my first complex airplane the Piper Arrow. I instructed every day of my flying career in one way or another ever since. During every position you hold as a pilot instructing comes into play. Today I’m a Boeing 767 captain with a major airline and I use my instructing skills everyday to mentor my first officers so that when they move to the left seat they have the skills necessary to do a professional job. These first officers are fine aviators in their own right however there is that je ne sais quoi as the French say that you can’t get from reading a book. It’s hard to put a numeric value on what makes a seasoned aviator but if you pushed me for one I’d say 10,000 hours. Why 10,000 hours? At the very minimum it takes ten years to accumulate this much flight time which means you have experienced the four seasons ten times. Granted there is the exception of a pilot who’s flown locally in a tropical climate for that ten years that would exclude him.
If I had to give you one quality that makes a pilot’s pilot it’s the willingness to learn.
I still learn something every time I fly even after 32 years as a professional aviator. You can learn from every one you fly with whether it’s a student on a demo flight or the senior captain at an airline. WOW, how can I the young stud CFI learn from a first timer student? Well I did and I’ll share it with you. I took this other young man at the time on a demo flight. After takeoff we entered the practice area and I gave him the controls for the first time. A few moments later he panicked and pushed the yoke full forward, locking his elbows. I looked over at him and for some reason I reached over, put my hand on his shoulder and said it’s OK, I have the aircraft. He released the controls and I took the aircraft back and landed us safely at the airport. I tried to comfort him the best I could however I never saw him again. I did learn something from him; how to deal with a panicked student.
In today’s flight operations the big push is towards CRM (crew resource management)
and if you really look at it it’s nothing more than a willingness to learn from others and effective instructing ability.
Ivan Klugman www.inavsol.com