Intelligent Pilot, Foolish Pilot
By Nate Newkirk


Over the past four years I've been observing some of the best pilots. I try to surround myself with the best and either directly or indirectly learn from them. What I'm about to tell you is very powerful information. You need to shift your mindset. All too often you hear pilots talking about performance in the form of how high they got, how far they flew, how long they stayed up, etc. It can become your focus. A focus dedicated to getting high and going far and achieving that performance. But that's not what makes the top pilots successful over the long run. That's not what makes them the intelligent pilots. What makes them successful pilots over an extended period of time is their excellent risk management. How often do you actually hear someone instead of saying how high or far they plan to go say they plan to implement excellent risk management throughout the flight?

There are two types of pilots, the intelligent pilot and the foolish pilot. You can choose to be an intelligent pilot or a foolish pilot. The intelligent pilot takes an extreme effort to minimize risk and strives to succeed. The foolish pilot takes unnecessary risk and follows a path that is more prone to lead to failure. Both types exist in you. Choose to reduce the foolish pilot in yourself and strive to be an intelligent pilot.

Itís a choice; you decide which you want to be. Choose to practice, practice, practice. Choose to balance risk and reward. Choose to learn from your mistakes. Choose to fly with the best pilots. Choose to build good judgment. Choose to be cautious. Choose to be a defensive pilot. When you act on these choices, you will become a better and more intelligent pilot. You separate yourself from the foolish pilots who never come close to reaching their full potential.

How badly do you want to be the intelligent pilot? It is ultimately up to you to make the most of what you know and do. There are habits that make you intelligent and habits that make you foolish. Most pilots are foolish because they have foolish habits. The foolish pilots develop bad habits which over time can be hard to break and unlearn. These traits can lead a pilot to disaster. Train yourself to adopt the more intelligent habits. Do them over and over again, as long as you are flying.

It's about reducing risk to a near risk free level and increasing your success as a safe pilot without getting into detailed risk assessments. Some have viewed flying risk in terms of probability and risk ratios. Such as, there is a hypothetical 1 in 1000 chance of getting injured on any given day. That risk ratio decreases to another hypothetical 1 in 100 by flying in progressively riskier conditions. The problem with using statistics is that the flying population as a whole is used. It would generally fail to acknowledge pilots individual efforts. Certain measures can be taken to minimize risk. Although risk may be related to a chance event and expressed as a probability, there is much more to it than that.

The degree of risk is not necessarily proportionate to a pilotís number of flights, hours, equipment or even the conditions they fly in, but instead on the amount of intelligent effort a pilot is willing and able to make. What this suggests is that the more knowledge and intelligence you have about flying, the less risky it will be. It is the quality of decision making that minimizes risk. It is the pilotís personality and habits they develop. The key is knowledge and not hypothetical risk ratios or probabilities that increase or decrease. Itís not about rolling the dice and getting snake eyes. The intelligent pilot will create a manageable near risk free level of flying within their comfort zone.

Most pilots donít say to themselves, ďThis decision Iím about to make is going to set me up for serious failure!Ē Nobody ever thinks that their decision to fly will lead to them getting hurt or injured. It you ask someone who has been in a crash if they expected it to happen, they will of course tell you no. Failure is an unwelcome and unexpected event. Yet despite this, accidents do happen and they can almost always be prevented. The probable cause of most accidents is pilot error.