Never Stop Getting Better

You’ve probably got a long list of people you have been promising to
take for a ride, so call them up as the opportunity arises and share your
joy. But, please, do aviation a favor and pick a good, quiet, still-air hour
for their ride if they haven’t been up before. Treat them gently; explain
what you’re doing so they won’t jump and clutch when the wings bank
and the sound of the engine changes. Keep the turns gentle and the
climbs and descents shallow; don’t try to prove your prowess as a
fighter pilot.
Some people may seem reluctant to ride with you, a little afraid for
their necks, perhaps, because they’re being flown by a newly licenced pilot.
If they would only read the accident statistics, they would find that
you’re a safer bet now than you will be a couple of hundred hours down
the road. Right now, you’re still cautious and unsure of yourself. You’ll
ask for advice, you’ll use your checklist, you’ll preflight carefully. Sadly,
all this tends to change when your logbook reaches the vicinity of the
200 hour mark. With that amount of flying time, you’re no longer a
green hand; you’re feeling like an old, experienced pilot. You don’t need
those student pilot crutches any more; you figure you’ve been around
and seen it all. Most 200-hour pilots make it through this settling
period, but some don’t. The accident charts show a similar trend around
the magic 1,000-hour mark. “This is a lot of flying time,” you’ll think,
“Surely I know it all by now.” Take it from me – you don’t. I’m still learning
just as much today as when I passed that thousandth hour.
Never stop getting better.

Now, where you go from here is up to you. You can fly the next 500
hours and gain 500 hours of experience, or you can log 500 hours and
get one hour’s experience repeated 500 times. Take your choice: either
learn from each hour and get better, or sit there insensitive and regress.
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Heck, I’ll bet some of the private
pilots I know couldn’t pass that flight test.” You’re right- they stopped
learning the day they passed their checkride. They have never gone
on to master 30-knot winds or high-density traffic; they’re right there
where they were as student pilots. Resolve not to let this happen to
You. You told your instructor you would be back every little bit for some
refresher training. Did you notice his or her half-smile? They’ve heard
every pilot that’s graduated make that statement, and it almost never
happens. Please, surprise them by coming back. As you will find out
in the coming years, a short flight review does not constitute
adequate refresher training. In keeping with your desire to learn all you
can, get curious about something once in a while; watch an online video

and take an hour of dual to see what it’s all about. Maybe you want to
see inside a cloud, for real; get an instrument flight instructor
and try it–the right way. Maybe you want to see the world roll
around the airplane; if so, take a sample aerobatic lesson. We all need a
flight instructor to ride with us now and then, so find some excuse to make it
interesting and you’ll be more likely to do it.
Convinced that you want to get sharp? Good, just keep your eyes and
ears open and fly–that’s the way to begin. Now that you’re a real pilot,
take a short weekend cross-country trip or two. Just avoid a rigid schedule,
so the weather can’t trap you, and have more than one destination
in mind, so you can outflank a front. Get out there and see how it really
is. If you stay in the local area, hopping friends on a Sunday afternoon,
you’ll gradually lose your confidence and desire. Besides, someday you’ll
want to see another seacoast or the other side of the mountains, and
you need to warm up first by making small trips before tackling a week-
long journey.