A well-planned and well-executed flight is probably pretty boring. You take off, climb to altitude, cruise along for a while, descend then land. There’s not much to say about it. If this sounds like most, if not all, of the flights you take in your aircraft, then consider this: it’s a sign of a higher standard of professionalism to which you conduct yourself as a pilot.
The truth is, the more professional you are, the less you might get noticed for what you do. But that’s the way it should be. The alternative is to be a statistic in an accident investigation, known for what you didn’t know and for what you should have done right.
Flying is a serious business, even if only undertaking it for recreational or personal reasons. There should be no gap between how pilots who earn their living flying aircraft conduct themselves versus how pilots flying ultralight for fun conduct themselves. The simple fact is: safety rewards professionalism. No matter what one flies, pilots should consider themselves as professionals.
A professional pilot is always seeking to learn more. Those who fly for scheduled airlines must undertake check rides regularly. As one who flies other than for earning a living, growing one’s knowledge base and enhancing one’s skills are ways to emulate the money- earning professionals of the aviation industry.
Seek out a new rating: instrument, seaplane, or tail dragger. Learn to fly gliders. Reap the benefits of the information resources poured into membership benefits by pilot organizations. There are volumes of articles available on the Internet that serve as excellent reminders of how one can enhance skills, sharpness and awareness in the cockpit.
Plan your flights carefully. Study all the aspects of what you intend to do, and of where you intend to go. Don’t rush it: contemplate it. Visualize it if you have to. Be systematic in your approach to every flight. For example, no matter how good the weather and no matter how clear the sky, check for weather information. Check the winds aloft; check satellite and radar imagery; check METARs, TAFs and NOTAMs. Professionalism has no place for complacency.
Maintain strict standards: it’s a hallmark of professionalism. No matter how simple the airplane you are flying, pre-flight it with the same attention to detail as you would a technically advance aircraft. And don’t cut corners on either type, simple or complex. The best of airlines pilots will do their careful walk-around, even if their ride is an Airbus A380. It’s a mindset of the professional. Adopt it, even if your ride is never more than a Cessna 152.
Professionals keep their radio calls crisp and succinct. They focus conversation on operational topics during all critical phases of flight. They are not distracted by cell phone calls, texting, and social media postings. When they are on-the-job, their job is the sole focus of their thoughts. They are concentrated, and not open to the temptation to play with the bells and whistles of ubiquitous handheld technology. If use of such devices relates directly to the safety of their flight, then they use it. If not, it’s firmly set aside.
Professionals keep a cool head. They don’t get frustrated and they don’t get angry. They keep their mind clear of clutter, thus keeping themselves mentally flexible when they need a Plan B. And they always have a Plan B.
A professional takes the conservative route. Taking chances is not in their code of conduct. A professional knows with certainty that a course that leads towards something for which they’ve never planned nor practiced, is a pathway into potential trouble. They know, then, not to take an unfamiliar path.
Professionals are dedicated. They train regularly, they prepare thoroughly, they contemplate deeply. They know that a flight with no fanfare is the mark of the truest professional. So, if your flights seem regularly boring, consider it a good thing. And consider yourself a true professional too.