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 toilet and say, ‘Flush it! What’s next?’

This is sound advice that I pass along 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 something like ‘Boy was I stupid’ or ‘I’m definitely getting busted for that.’ These thoughts keep us from moving on to handling the task at hand, which is flying the airplane.

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

This clears the mind and lets us move on with the flight.  It gets us ready 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 #67 “A Swift Decision” is now available. A pre-takeoff briefing exists to remove hesitation and doubt from split-second emergency decisions after takeoff. The problem is that most real-world departures present several opportunities to go off script. Some of those improvisations could turn an off-field crash into an uneventful runway landing—or a disaster. Watch the Intro video.

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