Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Good news and bad news

We sat in the least scuzzy of the classrooms for our debrief session. I was cautiously optimistic in that I knew I hadn’t done anything majorly stupid. I hadn’t steered 180 degrees of course during the navigation section, I hadn’t kangarooed my way down the runway. I mean I had no illusions that it had been a perfect flight but I wasn’t expecting TOI to say “who the hell ever put you in a plane solo?”

“I’ve got good news and bad news” TOI started.

“The good news is, you are really only making one mistake. The bad news is that it carries through pretty much every exercise.”

I knew what was coming.

I’m chasing the needles, staring at the instruments. My head is inside the cockpit. I’m not looking outside nearly as much as I should be.

And the worst thing…. I can’t argue with this assessment. I know he is 100% correct. I was so engrossed in making sure I hit all the tolerances for the exercises I was obsessed with monitoring my progress inside the cockpit. What I should have done is had faith in my ability to fly the plane and have faith that if I did it right then the needles would magically find their way to the right values. All that would be needed was a quick cross check occasionally.

Taken to its extreme “failure to maintain an adequate lookout” is an automatic failure, no partial pass, game over time.

TOI was quick to point out “you’re a good pilot WMAP, all the exercises were done well. Make it easy on yourself. Flying on the instruments like that is exhausting, you’re fighting the plane. Take a breath, slow down and you’ll do it. Just look out the window while you are doing it!”

Although I am a little annoyed at myself, I know better than that really. I’m also kind of okay with it. When I think back at how much I’ve struggled with some of the basics, how much blood, sweat and tears it has taken me to get to the stage where I can even bring myself to put the plane in some of the configurations I have to. To have someone mention so casually “oh yeah , your airwork is generally fine”

They’ll never know how far I’ve come.

But I do, and so does Bob and I have no doubts that between us we will fix this issue easily.


  1. I have the exact same bad habit. In my case, I've done it to myself over many years. I told Randy from the get go, in the middle of my discovery flight, after I'd successfully done a few climbs, and turns, that I wanted to come into this like I knew nothing, when in fact I had been flying in FSX with yoke and pedals for over 10 years. My reasoning was I didn't want any bad habits I'd picked up in FSX to transfer into the real cockpit.

    One thing he's always commended me on is my ability to hold airspeed and altitude, telling me several times he's got guys he's been flying with for 20 years that can't do it that well. He was amazed at how well I did under the hood with less than 10 hours under my belt. According to him, it's common with pilots who've spent lots of time on PC flight sims, they're awesome at instrument flying.

    That's the Catch 22. In a home flight sim, you don't have any vestibular feedback from the plane. You have no sense of what the plane is doing unless you look at the instruments. Even with a TrackIR, I still hone in on the gauges rather than looking around outside, although I'm trying very hard to get in the habit of doing this in FSX.

    You're absolutely right though, it's something that can be fixed, so keep at it. I'm definitely determined to overcome it myself. And keep talking and explaining as you go through your procedures and maneuvers - I do the same (or used to, kind of got away from it). I'm told if I do that during my checkride, it'll blow the examiner's socks off (and make Randy look good lol).

    1. Yeah , this was kind of a new habit for me TBH. I've never done the flight sim stuff so this hasn't usually been an issue for me. Bob was quite surprised when I told him. But at the same time during the debrief I knew that i'd been doing it.

      So it isn't an ingrained habit and should be easy to shake.

  2. Ahhh one of my worst habits. I solved it by doing two things. 1) Competing in non instrument circuits. You kinda need to develop those nose attitudes vs horizon pictures for different airspeeds quickly. Try doing a few with Bob, strategically placed postit notes are a good way to obscure them from your cheeky glances yet he can still see them from the right seat. 2) Work out a scan sequence where you briefly glance at the instruments in an order that you like and then look outside. Then work on cutting down the time spent looking at them until you can do the scan over a couple of seconds when you need to cross reference what you see with what the plane says its doing.