As a professional pilot I have spent my career learning and relearning, honing my skills and knowledge year after year. That doesn’t mean to say I’m getting better with age and experience, these skills atrophy like everything else, but it does get easier when the routine is more or less the same. Engine failure? No worries, practiced it hundreds of times, loss of cabin pressure? Masks on, non-event. How about losing control in flight? Well, I have no idea – I’ve never tried…
As a younger man, I was fortunate to do my dream job for a living and spent many hours flying upside down and inside out, pushing a purpose built aerobatic aircraft to the edge of control, beyond, and back again. That was great for building confidence and respect for the element of air, but back then I viewed aerobatics as a discipline which existed in a realm entirely separate from other forms of flight. When I began flying passenger aircraft and corporate jets that type of flying took a back seat, something I’m sure my passengers were grateful for. Air transport requires a different skillset, not one where a pilot demonstrates her prowess by nimbly dancing across the sky, but by adherence to precise and methodic procedures, carefully managing every detail, where every possibility is rehearsed and briefed, all in the aim of keeping a flight as smooth and uneventful as possible. That is a skill in itself, no less so than those I honed as an aerobatic pilot, but a different skill nonetheless.
I recently had the opportunity to merge these two worlds in the training environment at an advanced upset recovery course. There, experienced former military fighter pilots put pilots through their paces, teaching techniques to identify and recover from a variety of inflight upsets. The aircraft are purpose built for high performance aerobatics, but the scenarios are tailor made to give pilots an awareness that upsets can occur in our regular day (often night) job, and to teach the skills needed to be able to recover safely.
The flying was reminiscent of my past job, but designed to apply to my current one. This was an unsettling yet intriguing combination where my two professional worlds collided. It taught me that the fundamental principles that both let an aircraft fly and tear it unapologetically from the air are the same, irrespective of the size of the aircraft or how fast it is going. This is a sobering thought which, while I knew innately, had never seen demonstrated with such alacrity.
I can’t recommend the training enough; as a pilot with an aerobatic background I found immense value in this training. I can only imagine it’s importance for pilots who have only ever flown transport category aircraft.
Give Aviation Performance Solutions a shout, it could be the best decision you ever made.