Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Looking Versus Seeing

A visual nuance that spells the difference between good and perfect

The concept of seeing the nose and making it do what the pilot wants it to do is much more complex than it appears. Many pilots think they're seeing the nose, but in reality, they aren't. There's an old flight-training mantra, "You can't fix what you can't see," which alludes to, among other things, the critical nature of the ability to see exactly what's happening over, and around, the nose. However, there's a big difference between "looking" over the nose and actually "seeing" what's going on out there. It's a huge, but frustratingly subtle, difference!

Seeing And Looking: The Difference
The difference between "seeing" and "looking" is really difficult to define in a meaningful way. This is partially because those who are "seeing" are doing it instinctively, while those who aren't have zero awareness of what they're missing. They're getting by okay, but they don't realize how much better their flying would be if they were seeing the details that they're missing. This is a very difficult thing to visualize, and even more difficult to explain and teach.

Try this: Think about driving down the street. You've been watching the road carefully, so you're doing a good job of keeping the car between the white lines, and you're obeying all traffic rules and regulations. Now, after you've driven for 30 seconds or so, think back: Do you remember the cars that passed you going the other direction? More important, can you recall noticing the distance between the yellow dividing line and the oncoming car? Was the distance constant? Was it changing? Or, did your brain automatically ignore it because it didn't appear to represent a threat at that moment? You got the overall image, but no details.

Ditto for the cars at the intersections: You probably saw the cars, but did you try to guess what the car was going to do by observing the driver? Was he looking at you? Was he on the phone? Was he talking with someone in the front seat and not paying attention to you? Worse yet: Was he texting?

It's one thing to be watching the road and keeping your car on it. It's something entirely different to use the dozens of details around you to protect yourself. That's rule one in defensive driving: Use your eyes to not only control the car but to analyze what's going on around you to help in precise, safe driving.

Flying is pretty much the same: We need to "see" the details, all of them, and use them to understand what's happening, what's about to happen and what we have to change to alter the outcome.


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