Having good airmanship skills is something which can be acquired, sometimes through a good instructor, your local aero club and even just observing the habits of the older passionate aviators. Airmanship (which also means airwomanship in this case), is not only having the skill to fly the machine well, but can also be likened to good manners in the air and on the ground, This means always being considerate of the people on the ground, the persons in your aircraft, and other aircraft around you in the air. Displaying good airmanship, will not only impress your examiners along your path in aviation, but it will certainly earn you respect from your passengers and fellow pilots. Here are some that I came up with, in no particular order, but please feel free to add yours in the comments below, so that we can make the sky a better place:
- Taxi Slowly – This one is especially for a particular friend, who has an impeccable hangar and man cave situated on the taxiway – zooming around on the ground is really bad manners, and shows a lack of consideration for the people who are getting dirt blown into their faces, lunch or hangars. It also allows for cars, people or other aircraft in your way, time to move out of the way. Remember, that taxiing fast is also going to mean having to use the brakes more when stopping, so save your brakes and do it slowly!
- In the Circuit – Especially at unmanned fields, where there are usually some flight schools with students in the circuit, or slower aircraft, don’t be a bully and try and push in front. If you are flying a faster aircraft, be considerate, analyse the safety and necessity, and then ask the other traffic if you can pass, and then state your position in the circuit, as well as your order for landing. Always use the correct procedures for overtaking – read this if you are not sure.
- Make Radio Calls – I am not sure why some folk consider this as optional, but there is nothing worse, and more dangerous than seeing an aircraft that you have not been made aware of, flying a few feet (and a narrow escape) past you. Even if you don’t have a brilliant late night radio voice, please just let the skies (and other aircraft) know where you are and what you are doing. Working on your radio skills will make you a more impressive pilot!
- Converging with another aircraft – If, for example, you are approaching an airfield or converging with another aircraft in the air, please don’t just keep making radio calls of your position, be polite and make a decision as to who will go first etc. It does not help just making calls as to how close you are getting to each other without actually taking any action!
- Safety Briefing – I have seen many pilots load up passengers for a weekend flip without giving them a proper briefing on safety and the general operations of the aircraft. If you need a reminder of what to say, then read this. While it may seem a bit awkward to you, remember that this may all be very new to some of your passengers, and your actions will actually show how professional and committed to their safety you are.
- Clear Prop – When starting up, check how your aircraft is positioned – will you be blasting any people or open hangars? It is not merely sufficient to call out ‘Clear prop!’ , and then send a Sahara dust storm into the faces of people or someone’s newly swept hangar. Hairdos are expensive, and cleaning hangars is not the most fun form of exercise.
- Cigarettes – I unashamedly HATE cigarettes and smoking, so I am going to hate you if you do any of that near me, or the machines that I love! Please, if you, or any of your passengers smoke, please do it outside of the hangar, away from any fuel or dry grass. If you need to extinguish those dreaded things, then do not squash them on the hangar floor or outside of the hangar. If your passengers do this, then it is your responsibility to command them to pick them up and dispose of them appropriately.
- Seatbelts – Be nice and do not leave these in a tangle. Even seats on commercial flights always have the belts neat and tidy.\
- Windscreens – Especially if the aircraft is not your own, ALWAYS clean the windscreen before locking up the hangar for the day. There is nothing worse than starting your day having to use elbow grease to remove hardened bug splatters. Actually, just make the effort and ensure the aircraft is clean enough that you would want to fly it.
- Weather – Always check the weather reports for the time of day that you will be flying, and the destination. This is something everyone has been taught to do, yet somehow, it has become all to common to just look up at the sky and go! You may find yourself stranded somewhere without a change of undies and your toothbrush, all because you did not consider the return forecast. Worse still, you could end up flying into dangerous weather…
Good airmanship is a mindset, where the pilot knows the mechanics and performance of her machine thoroughly, and is always thinking ahead of the next action, while being cognisant of the possible reaction. Be self disciplined and use each flight as an opportunity to learn something for the next, hold yourself accountable (even if you are flying on your own) and aim to be the pilot you admire.
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