Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Challenge Yourself!

Comfort zones are slow death and are meant to be challenged

The More Runways, The Better
The more often we land on strange runways, the better our ability to adapt to new situations will get. As we hone our adaptability, we'll get better at everything we do, because our ability to see differences will get better. New runways challenge us to see and adapt. Our home runway is like an old shoe: We know all its personality quirks.

When we're on burger runs, try to change it up by going to different destinations every time. If we can't find more burger places, we can certainly find other airports on the way, and dog-leg out of our way to shoot at least one touch-and-go at each. The simple process of flying the pattern and setting up an approach to a seldom-visited runway challenges us every step of the way, and every time we're challenged, we get better.

Look for unusual runways. There's even the possibility that there's a runway in your area that you avoid because of its length or location. As long as it isn't actually dangerous (bad surface, too short for your airplane type, etc.), shoot a couple of landings on it from time to time, and develop the finesse and confidence required. Avoiding a runway that's well within your talent and aircraft capabilities is a sure way to let your skill go downhill.

The More Landings, The Better
Knowing the skill-building possibilities bundled into every landing, we should make a minimum of two, preferably three, landings on every flight. When we get to a seldom-visited airport, make at least two landings. Take advantage of the situation. When we come home, make a couple of touch-and-goes. It only takes a few minutes each.

When making multiple landings, raise the bar on each one, and do different styles. Make a short-field landing, and see how short we actually can land. Follow that up with a soft field. Mix at least one totally power-off landing in there to sharpen the judgment skills you'll need if you ever have an engine failure.

The More Critical, The Better
Regardless of how good we're doing in any flight regime, we should never be satisfied with our performance. In fact, the mark of good pilots—those who continue to improve—is dissatisfaction with themselves. They're constantly shaking their heads at their performance because their performance is never what they know it can be. That's not being picky. That's being determined to get better.


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