Tanker Bob's Flying Wisdom

As a 3700+ hour military instructor/evaluator pilot, Iíd like offer you some quick pieces of flying wisdom. These all apply to any and all aircraft you may fly. If you master these points, you will master your aircraft, and move easily and confidently to new ones.

At all times, first and foremost, fly the airplane. No matter what happens, if you donít fly the airplane first, nothing else you do will matteróit will only occupy your time until the earth reaches up and smites you mightily. Also note that flying the airplane is in contrast to letting the airplane fly you. You, as the pilot, must demand the aircraft do the maneuvering (within the aircraft envelope and limits) that you require. If you accept less than that and let the airplane fly you, you give up being a pilot and become a passenger along for the ride. Your tolerances under normal circumstances should be plus or minus zero.

Second, the airplane is always talking to you. Your job is to pay attention, interpret the messages properly, and use that information to fly the aircraft. A prime example is trim. If you are trimmed at approach speed and you find yourself pushing on the yoke, youíve sped up, which will cause you to go high on glide slope and shift your aimpoint down the runway. You donít need to be staring at your airspeed to know whatís going on, the aircraft is telling you. Flying in trim also frees you from constantly fighting the aircraft and immediately telegraphs deviations from your intent. This, in turn, improves your navigation, communication, etc. Aircraft may disappoint you from time to time, but they should never surprise you. Never get complacent. Common wisdom holds that if everything is quiet, something bad is about to happen. Stay alert!

Related to this, become an expert in your aircraft and its systems. Smaller, general aviation aircraft are not very complex, but they can kill you just as dead as larger, faster, and more complex aircraft. The better you know your aircraft, the more natural and correct your response will be to an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, the first step in dealing with almost every emergency is to wind the clock. Few emergencies require an immediate response, but all require some thought to recognize the problem and analyze it correctly before doing something that's possibly irreversible. The Air France crew of Flight 447 violated that basic rule and 228 people died when they pancaked into the Atlantic Ocean in a perfectly good airplane. Remember - aviate, navigate, communicate in that order. Violate that order of precedence at your peril. Communicating your problem to someone on the ground who can neither help you or fix the problem should not be anywhere near your top priority in any situation. Read and learn from others' mistakes.

Lastly, the four most useless things in flying are sky above you, runway behind you, gas you left on the ground, and approach plates left in your car. Donít cut corners or get in a hurry.

The best book Iíve ever read on flying is "Stick and Rudder" by Wolfgang Langewiesche. Originally written in 1944, it offers invaluable information that transcends time and aircraft type. I highly recommend it to youónot just for reading, but for study and application.

Flying doesnít involve luck. Growth as a pilot comes through hard work, challenging yourself every flight to improve your knowledge and skills. Flying is a lifetime studyónever be satisfied.