Pilot's tip of the week

Letting Go of Mistakes


Subscriber question:

"When I make a mistake flying, I get really flustered. What can I do to let it go and move on?" — Billy H.


“I once asked an unlimited-level aerobatic pilot how he moved on after an error during dangerous maneuvers. His technique was to visualize a little toy toilet and say, ‘Flush it! What’s next?’

This is sound advice that I pass on when teaching athletes and pilots alike. I tell them to picture the tiny toilet, say ‘flush it,’ and then take three slow deep breaths. This is the best way to recover from a mistake and move on.

The toilet trick works for two reasons. First, it blocks out any image we have in our mind of the error. It also stops our negative self-talk. After a mistake, most of us say things like ‘Boy was I stupid’ or ‘Oh I’m definitely getting busted for that.’ These thoughts keep us from moving on to handling the task at hand: flying the airplane.

The three breaths are important because when we are flustered our breathing and heart rate increase. This is a stress reaction. This little trick helps slow down our heart rate and reduce anxiety.

Once that’s done, we can think clearly about how to remedy our mistake and do ‘what’s next.’ “

Do you find yourself dwelling on mistakes made while flying so much it impacts safety?

(NEW) VFR Mastery scenario #56 “Adirondacks After Dark” is now available. It’s a short flight to a familiar airport you’ve done many times before. But, all of those were in the daytime when the hills on both sides were easy to see. Now a moonless night adds a substantial level of uncertainty. Will technology tempt you to make this approach in the dark? Watch the Intro video.

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