Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Light-Sport Chronicles: Befriending The Enemy

We have met the enemy...and he is us

“Well, maybe I am,” he says, looking sheepish. “You could have made it, but it would have put a side load on the landing gear.”

“Naw. Really?” I was sure I had lined up properly.

Then I reflect on John’s 5,000 hours and multiple ratings. And he’s got more time in CTs than I’ll probably ever have. Maybe I’ve got a case of what an old art director pal used to describe as: “Better than I never was.”

John, patient and generous guy that he is, offers to do a demo so I can see what he’s talking about. Around the box we go.

On short final, he says, “Okay, here’s how we were set up before.”

“Except for the too-high part,” I chuckle.


Rounding out the descent, he flares, calling out the moment just before stall when the nose begins to swing left. Just then, we abruptly contact the runway.

“Honestly, I didn’t really see the nose drift much,” I say.

“Really? Well, that wasn’t the best landing to show you either. Want to do another one?”

“Sure.” We taxi back and launch into the clear blue sky. “You know,” I add, “maybe you’re not letting me make enough mistakes today. I feel like I’m making corrections by rote a bit too much, rather than figuring it out for myself.”

John takes that in with customary good cheer. “Tell you what,” he says, “this time you do the whole landing and I won’t say a thing.” I laugh. If anybody ever took on the Impossible Dream, it’s loquacious John Lampson attempting to clam up for a few minutes.

“No way I’ll hold you to that, pal,” I joke. “I just think I’ll do better if I see more of my mistakes before you step in.”

“No problemo.”

Back around the patch we go. My approach is better this time. On short final, John almost keeps his promise, only occasionally calling out speeds, sink rate and flap settings.

We glide into ground effect, then it’s flare time and back on the stick—easy, easy now, feeling good, speed’s right, settling nicely...and as the nose rises, there it goes to the left!

“That’s it, see what it’s doing?” he asks.

“Yeah!” I say, feeding in right rudder, suddenly remembering this characteristic of the CT.

We touch down, straight and true, with no side load on the gear.

“That’s it. Perfect!” he exclaims.

Rolling up to the café, we’re babbling back and forth about that CT nose drift I wasn’t sharp enough to notice earlier.

“When I flew more frequently, I guess I got used to correcting for it automatically. I had forgotten all about it!”

“There you go,” John explains with a nod. “That’s why I had you go around—to see for yourself.”

There are these opportunities in flight—if our egos will let us have them—when we have “aha!” moments.

Like the comic strip character Pogo once famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

My enemy here was false confidence: my certainty—even in the face of incontrovertible evidence from both John and the airplane—that I was doing fine when I wasn’t.

“Better than I never was.”

Now I’m reminding myself to befriend the enemy within. To remind him that I’m always learning, that I need to fly more often, that I’ll never know all there is to know about even the simplest flying skills.

And whether I’m flying alone or lucky enough to have an ace copilot like John along for the ride, I will listen, learn and challenge myself to always stay focused and alert.

Then one day, maybe—just maybe—I’ll be as good as he is.


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