Another year off to a cold start this time (although as a glass half full person it certainly eliminates the immediate threat of mosquitos and poisonous reptiles). The New Year is a rather arbitrary marking of time but it seems a good way to establish goals, take stock of recent performance and place our benchmarks. Hence the tradition of “resolutions”. When I was younger it was easy to find all the things that should change both personally and in the world in general. My resolutions were vague, global and often not practically achievable such as I will be more “green” or I will lose weight or I will improve my landings. There are some people who can address such a list but I’m not one of them. Resolutions for most people are best accomplished not only with more specific goals but also including an action plan and timeline. For example, the better landings resolution might include a predetermined day to find helpful videos for review, then a schedule to book a flight (or two…) with an instructor plus some practice time. It is also most important to remember that the symptom may have causes much further back in the chain of events. It might be as simple as understanding speed and altitude control before turning base so that a stabilized approach is actually possible. Even some slow flight practice may be germane.
Of course, there are also recurring events that need to be considered such as biennial currency. Certainly, your annual check with an instructor accomplishes that and more, but there are many other opportunities to brush up and increase your knowledge and understanding. For those who are members of COPA, they publish an annual self study “exam” which I highly recommend. Various flying organizations run “Rust Remover” sessions, which often have certified instructors or Transport Canada personnel that can give you a currency sticker for your log book.
CASARA has a mandate to promote flight safety as well as duties of Search and Rescue and, under the aegis of Transport Canada, is going to be presenting public flight safety seminars that will qualify as your review and can be inserted in your log book. As search tools as well as navigation and positioning systems become more sophisticated, the need to actually search for accident sites (and false alarm ELT activations) is decreasing greatly so CASARA is putting more energy into other activities and responsibilities. There definitely continues to be a need for highly trained search and rescue resources to cover the enormous area of our Canada but the number of “call-outs” is gradually declining especially because of the new 406 ELT’s. Conversely, aa police services, National Parks and other emergency organizations are developing confidence and understanding of our capabilities CASARA is increasingly tasked to missing persons, amber alerts and other public service aerial tasks.
But back to resolutions. For those in ground school or looking at more courses in the future it may be daunting in the same way as the prolonged cold weather but remember, keeping young and maintaining a “sharp” mind is a proven by-product of learning and doing new things. (As a sidebar, recent evidence suggests that continuing to do mental push ups such as crossword puzzles eventually only serves to make you better at solving crossword puzzles but if you’ve never done a crossword puzzle spending some time learning to do that is beneficial). Good news for aviators because every flight is unique and there is always something new to learn, no matter how experienced you are. Of course, different people have different balances of aptitude and therefore book learning is difficult for some very fine pilots. For those folks who have truly struggled with the academic issues, take heart and keep getting up from stumbles, then, when you’ve accomplished the task celebrate greatly. Nevertheless, if you haven’t planned a learning activity, a good resolution would be to schedule something. Perhaps instead of scheduling flights only on the basis of a specific trip or errand think about scheduling practices. Maybe a minimum of four in a year…the second Saturday of the first month of each quarter (remember to put in an alternate date or two for weather). !. might be engine out practice; 2. Perhaps upper air work…slow flight, steep turns, stalls etc.;3 Precautionary landings, and; 4, whatever your personal bugs are (maybe circuits, maybe navigation without your iPad or G1000 or maybe even low-level diversions). These are all elements from your flight test but it is far too easy to procrastinate review when there isn’t a test looming. Of course, we never know when there might be an actual test in real life and being able to meet it with reinforced skills would help to improve the outcome. Remember though, excellent pilots have good flying skills and great decision making skills. That means regardless of stick and rudder skill level we need be diligent in our flight planning and go/no go decisions.
After going from vague in my youth to structured in my mid-life, at this stage I really have only one resolution – to constantly try to be a better and happier person. It may seem like a cop out but a better person would plan, prepare and make important decisions based not only on immediate self interest but on the effect on the world around us (which applies to everything from flying to personal health to how to vote in an election)
So, while I wish the best for everyone this coming year and beyond, it is my belief that happiness is a decision not a circumstance, similarly safe flying is by intent not by coincidence. Knowing you will all choose to be happy and fly safely, here’s to great friends and fair winds. MAY THIS BE YOUR BEST TRIP AROUND THE SUN YET!