Want to be a better pilot?

Bob Martens has recently written about maintaining proficiency through the use of more frequent training and I strongly agree with his thoughts. Nothing is better than practicing maneuvers and procedures to keep us sharp,  I would like to offer another route to broadening you flying skills beyond the usual flight review maneuvers by suggesting you try a little dual instruction in another  type of aircraft.

For example:

How about a glider lessons or two? Here are a few things you may learn. On every glider flight you will get a chance to practice formation flying while being towed to altitude. After release from the tow plane, you will experience adverse yaw at its best as you try to turn those big long wings. A good way to get your feet back in the game. Now let’s try a stall or two and see how a different wing behaves as we take it to its limits. Different gliders have different stall characteristic so you might learn a new thing or two here. Now as our altitude decreases we need to think about how we are going to enter the pattern. Remember, we have to do it correct the first time. No going away from the airport and reentering downwind.  We also need to know what is going on at the field as we are clearly committed to land when we enter the pattern. Judging and adjusting your approach by the use of spoilers will be a different experience and may give you some new perspective on your use of the throttle. Naturally the flare and landing will be lower than you are accustom to so again a different perspective.

How can you find a place to get one or more glider lessons? Go to SSA.org and click on the link “Find where to fly” on the home page.

Another great learning experience can be had by trying a flight or two in a float plane. Starting with the pre flight things are different from our world. For example, the walk around now becomes a swim around, well not really. Your instructor will show you how it’s done at their operation. I have performed pre flights from a boat and at a dock. Each has its own issues. However you do it, you will need to pump out any water in the float compartments. You don’t want that extra and unaccounted weight for sure.

Now think about this – No brakes! So when that engine starts you are moving. A new concept in planning. How about learning how to do a run up and pre take off check list on the go? Another new concept.  Now comes the take off, elevator all the way back until it is time to move up on the step. What’s the step? Aha, another new aviation thing! OK so now we are finally flying but how are we going to land these big feet on that water? I guess we might learn a new trick or two here as well. Different techniques for normal and glassy water, but good news, no soft field take off required.

Want to try a little float flying? Go to seaplanes.org, click on training and select sea plane flight school.

Then there is the helicopter training program. Helicopter flying is so different from our fixed wing world that the FAA requires us to go through many of the same requirements that we completed as fixed wing pilots. For example, we need to do a required number of solo hours including solo cross country. Sound excessive? Not so if you have ever tried flying a helicopter. To fly a helicopter requires at least two feet, four hands and lots of other skills.

While I understand that helicopter training can be expensive, an hour of ground and a short flight will give you a new set of skills that will make you a better pilot I am sure.

Here is a site to locate a helicopter training school nearby: helicopterschoolinfo.org.

I am willing to bet that if you try one of these three ideas, you will come away a better pilot in some way for the effort.

Anyone else have a good suggestion about a unique way to improve our knowledge and proficiency?