When was the last time you hand flew an instrument approach from IP to landing? When was the last time you practiced the stall series; takeoff stall, approach to landing stall, turning stall, etc? How often do you keep the aircraft perfectly aligned on the runway center-line throughout the takeoff and landing rolls? Are you as proficient as you were when you took your last FAA/DPE checkride?
These are tough questions for many of us to examine and answer. The painful fact may be that many of us are not as proficient as we think and believe. We climb into our wonderfully capable machines and hurl ourselves into the atmosphere with complete faith and reliance upon the marvels of technology to guide us to our destinations. And, that technology rarely fails us. But, it does occasionally fail. Or, as is more often the case, the pilot fails to properly employ the technology at his/her fingertips. This has been made painfully and tragically clear in the recent rash of airline accidents in both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Highly capable flight crews in technological marvels coming to grief in what should have been routine flight operations.
Unfortunately, we in GA are not immune to the same traps of over reliance on technology. Many “technically advance aircraft” instructors report that basic airman-ship it the most common problem encountered during initial training in a new aircraft, or in subsequent recurrent training. Many pilots have lost the ability to put the aircraft where they want it, when they want it, and how they want it without relying upon the autopilot.
So, back to my first couple of questions. How proficient are you? If these tasks seem foreign to you, maybe its time for a BFR. Grab your favorite instructor and go knock off the A/P and knock off some rust. On your next flight, see how closely you can hand fly to practical test standards. Or, challenge yourself to hit an exact runway spot on your next landing.
The 1936 Olympic gold-medalist Jesse Ownes has been quoted, “A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” That lifetime of training may just give us the ten seconds we need to save ourselves and our plane.