PILOT TRAINING ARTICLE
Pushing Pilots Beyond Their Comfort Zones
The fact that most experienced pilots seek to master skills they hope to never need is the great paradox of commercial aviation. It causes pilots of all skill levels and experience to grapple with thoughts like “what will I do if my aircraft goes inverted” and “how will I recover from loss of control in flight?” In the midst of prevailing uncertainty with potentially fatal outcomes, few have pushed to improve their skills to a point that these unknowns no longer pose a risk.
The biggest challenge in flight training today is pushing pilots beyond their comfort level to uncover how they’ll react when reaching their peak flying ability and physiological tolerance. Watching other pilots fly and mimicking their actions makes the determination of a pilot’s true skill set difficult for instructors. The best learning occurs when pushing limits on a pilot’s own terms and allowing the pilot to respond accordingly in a safe, non-threatening environment such as a flight simulator. This method allows for repeatable scenarios, allowing pilots to practice until correctly executing the maneuver, repeating it and honing it into muscle memory.
Knowing your personal limits is useful in Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (UPRT). Pushing pilots beyond their comfort zones without over stressing the aircraft or themselves is key to preparing pilots for those once-in-a-lifetime recovery maneuvers. However, it is imperative to establish a range to work within. Work too far below a pilot’s limits, defining the skills and techniques necessary for them to take the next step becomes difficult. Work too far above their current limits, it will invite panic and fear, making it impossible to improve.
Due to variations within the upper and lower limits of pilot skill, an effective training program should be tailored to each individual, using appropriate techniques and drills for their current skill level. Instructors need to avoid the common misconception that the same instructional techniques work for each trainee. This may work for the masses when developing basic flying skills, but does not apply to advanced pilots with a higher skill level.
Instructing a pilot is a very specialized job. You have to understand what is within each pilot’s grasp and customize lessons that challenge individual skills and physical tolerances. ETC’s UPRT training program at the NASTAR Center does just that: it develops the skills and physical tolerances necessary to properly prepare pilots for that once-in-a-lifetime event. We take small, evolutionary steps that will improve flying skills and provide the important benefit of instilling confidence.
Mastering advanced flying skills is a matter of unraveling confusion and defining a clear path to improvement. Whether it’s a lack of technical skill, a deficit of understanding, or even lack of confidence, ETC’s professional instructors can identify the pilot’s skill level threshold, develop a skill-level specific curriculum, and push the pilot to the limit, instilling the knowledge and confidence to successfully recover from a real upset condition.