Experience.

My dad used to spend time in his favorite chair reading aviation magazines. Like most pilots, he would review accident reports, mostly as a learning exercise. He commented to me on my more than one occasion that an accident occurred due to pilot error. He’d say that 90-95% of general aviation accidents were due to pilot error.

Experience makes us better pilots. No matter what type of license we have, how many certifications we carry or how often we go on a checkride, we are always learning. A good pilot is always a student pilot. A fellow aviation videographer once commented that experience can be the hardest way to learn, because the test comes first. If we pass the test, we gain knowledge through that experience. If we fail the test, the results can be fatal.
I freely share my errors and mistakes with others. On a recent flight I called out the wrong runway for my intended landing on the unicom. Someone responded that the runway didn’t exist at that airport. When I called out the correct runway, the same person informed that that the runway was closed. I had missed that NOTAM when I reviewed my briefing material from 1800wxbrief.com. Slightly rattled from all this, I kept my head together somewhat, but not together enough and I came in a little too slow and “landed with authority” (I plopped it down on the runway). I learned from my mistakes:
  • Have the airport diagram in front of me instead of trying to follow someone else’s lead on the unicom
  • Thoroughly review NOTAM information instead of just taking a glance when briefing for a flight
  • Try to do better about keeping my head together
I learned from my experience. Luckily, I didn’t screw anything up bad enough to have dire consequences. When I got home, I took a moment to reflect on what I had learned from that flight. I keep a notebook with all the things I learn through this sort of experience and I try to write something down after each flight. This is what makes me a better pilot.
During my student training I scared myself to the point of questioning if I wanted to continue this journey, but then I remembered how much I love being in the air, behind the yoke, thousands of feet above the planet and I realized that I would not be content with my feet planted firmly on the ground.  I treat my love of aviation with the utmost respect. I balance my ability against the conditions of any given moment. I minimize the risks to the best of my ability and I strive to never be too comfortable or complacent.
And most of all, I never stop learning and I try to never let my ego get the best of me.
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