What kind of habit that a pilot has to instill in ourselves so that it will become a routine n discipline that can make us to be a better pilot?

In life one should strive for continuous improvement in whatever that one does. This concept is also applicable in flying and it is even more important for a pilot to continuously improve himself; his skills, knowledge and to learn from his own and other pilot’s experiences.

How many of us consciously and habitually review what we went through at the end of each day? The objective here is to learn from the day’s experiences. If it was something good, we would want to know what was it that we did well and why. On the other hand, we too would want to know and learn from our mistakes; lessons learned so that we will not repeat the same mistakes when faced with a similar situation.

You will notice that modern aircrafts are so safe and the systems are so reliable that most pilots will hardly encounter any serious problems throughout their career. Only a handful will face such problems. Does it mean that pilots who encounter more problems throughout his career are better pilots compared to someone who encounters little or no problems at all? Not necessarily so if he does not learn anything from his experiences and therefore will repeat the same mistakes again and again when faced with similar problems.

How can we improve ourselves and be better pilots if we do not encounter any problems throughout our career? Well the answer is simple, we can learn from other people’s experience. This can be achieved by talking with them during flight or over a cup of coffee. What we do is to collect all their experiences, problems and solutions and deposit them in our “experience” file that can be used when we are faced with a similar situation in future.

From my own experience, I notice that pilots who do not mix around socially and keep to themselves all the time are the ones who have problems with flying as well as problems interacting with other team members. Because they are “loners,” they do not get any feedback about their performance and therefore cannot make any comparisons with other pilots. Since they do not exchange views and ideas, their experience bank is rather limited and therefore cannot easily adapt to the various situations that he encounters during flight and in life. It will be very difficult for him to learn and thus improve himself.

In order for anyone to continuously improve himself he has to learn from his and other people’s experiences and I find the following model to be useful to achieve this:


Step 1 – The Experience

At the end of each flight I make it a point to mentally replay the flight, from take-off to landing, taking note of areas or sections of the flight that I did well and those that I was not happy with. After that I will pick and choose a particular area that I feel I could have done better and this will be the experience that I will use for the learning process. This step is merely to identify and prioritise which of the many experiences that I will use.

As an example on a particular flight from Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow, I am not happy with the “descent” phase of the flight, resulting in being high on my descent profile, resulting in a rushed approach and I feel that I could have done it better. I will then use this phase of the flight and proceed to the next step.

Step 2 – Review

This step involves data collection. What I will do is to replay that particular phase of the flight in greater detail and collect as much information as possible such as the descent speed, the weather, the distance from the airport when the descent was initiated, the workload during this period, the number of aircrafts in the vicinity, any distraction from the cabin crew, the air traffic control and any relevant information that I could use for the next step. Remember this phase is purely to collect as much information as you possibly can remember. Do not form any conclusions yet at this stage.

Step 3 – Concluding

Based on the information gathered from step 2 and my previous experience, I could then conclude why I ended up high on the descent profile – the cause or causes. During this phase, the more experience you are the better you will be at coming up with conclusions. If you think that you lack experience, you can always refer to or consult someone who is more experienced. If you are operating in a multi crew environment, talk to the captain. He is ever willing to volunteer information. In this way you are also learning from him.

Step 4 – Planning for next step

This last step is merely to come up with action plans, that is, the steps that I would use to ensure I will better manage my flight if I were to end up in a similar situation in future. What I am doing is to find solutions and remedial actions needed for that particular problem.

I have been using the above process and have been encouraged with the result. I am also using it during my training flights to help my trainees learn from their flying experience to further improve themselves. Just imagine what it will do to ourselves if we are to discipline ourselves to continuously learn from our experiences daily and as pilots after every flight.

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