We all know that proper aircraft attitude is important for getting our aircraft to do what we want it to. But it is our mental attitude that plays a major role in the type of pilot that we become. A proper mental attitude can do more for your flying ability than almost any kind of training available. This is true for pilots at all levels of experience. Now I am not talking about the five hazardous attitudes that we have all heard about, they are important for keeping us out of trouble, but I am talking about a mental attitude that will make us a better pilot.
How can you tell if you have a proper mental attitude? Is there an indicator you can look at in the aircraft? Do the instructors have a list of those who have a proper or not so proper attitude? Is proper attitude something like the right stuff, you either have it or you don’t? Sorry, none of the above.
My view of the proper mental attitude is described as the ability to be “self critical”. We as pilots must continuously be in the business of mentally reviewing each of our flights. We need to be self critical of everything we do in or around the aircraft. This applies not only to how we fly the airplane but how we are thinking and planning as well. We should be constantly reviewing our conduct to see if we can recognize areas that may lead us into trouble.
By now you are saying that sounds great, just like motherhood and apple pie, but how does one accomplish it? Well actually it is not very hard; I believe you simply must spend a little time thinking about what went good and what went bad on every flight. The goal of course is perfection. While that may be a high standard to meet, the person who walks away from the airport saying “my flight was not great but it was good enough” is a person who is in trouble. Do not be satisfied with that kind of attitude. One needs to be thinking about “what could have been better”. If you know how to improve an area make sure you give it some thought and attempt to make it better on your next flight. If you cannot fix a problem yourself, talk to an instructor.
Another sign of the proper attitude is the ability to take responsibility for your own flying errors. The most dangerous pilots are those who blame outside factors for their flying problems. You must look deeper than a “gusty crosswind” to find the cause of a bad landing. Maybe the decision to fly today was a bad one, maybe I need more crosswind training, maybe I do not know the limits of my airplane, or maybe I should have landed on a different runway. You can bet the crosswind will be back again someday so an honest analysis today will make a better tomorrow.
When I hear a pilot blame the wind or the tower controller or the mechanic for their flying problems, I become concerned about that pilots attitude. A pilot who will not accept responsibility for his/her errors cannot correct them.
When someone invents a personal attitude checker we can all get a reading and see how we’re doing, in the mean time it is up to each of us to be sure we are checking our personal attitude as carefully as we check the aircraft’s attitude.