Flight Training - June 2021 - 10

UNUSUAL ATTITUDE BY DAVE HIRSCHMAN

Editor at Large DAVE HIRSCHMAN identifies
with humorist Mark Twain who, at 14,
considered his father ignorant, but at 21,
" was astonished at how much the old
man had learned in seven years. " (Or so
the story goes.)
dave.hirschman@aopa.org

STAY CURIOUS

" It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's
what you know for sure that just ain't so. "
This homey quote, widely and, as it turns out, wrongly attributed to Mark Twain,
perfectly encapsulates my most common, regrettable, and easily avoidable errors
in both flying and writing. And I think the saying, versions of which appeared long
before the dawn of powered flight, applies especially broadly in aviation.
During a recent IFR flight to Caldwell, New Jersey, for example, the recorded voice
on the automated terminal information service (ATIS) said the RNAV approach to
Runway 22 was in use. I dutifully loaded that approach into the airplane's GPS, checked
in on the radio, and was told to proceed to a fix for an approach to Runway 28.
I searched in vain for the fix, and it wasn't until a fellow pilot (who came along as a
passenger) pointed out my error that the confusion was resolved. I had expected one
approach, got cleared for another, yet the actual clearance didn't register because I'd
already written down and loaded the other one. I was hearing without listening.
I also wrote a story for AOPA Pilot recently in which I misspelled " Clamar " (as in
Clamar Floats) because I was sure I knew how to spell the Maine company's name and
it had a Y. Heck, I'd recently flown an airplane with floats that had the name Clamar
emblazoned on the side. I didn't check the spelling because I was convinced I already
knew it. My error was doubly embarrassing for being so easily avoidable.
These two errors, fortunately, were resolved without permanent harm. But there
are plenty of examples of airplanes running out of fuel, landing with the gear in the
wrong position, and suffering other serious consequences as a result of things pilots
knew, or assumptions they made, that turned out to be false.
10  FLIGHT TRAINING JUNE 2021

Our default position should be one of
not knowing. When questions come up
in flight, as they always do, we ought to
be inquisitive. If you think you know the
runway length, the latest wind, the airport
elevation, congratulations. Double-checking will provide reassuring confirmation.
The best pilots I know are curious.
They're interested in new information,
in learning, and challenging their own
assumptions-and, most of all, they accept
and are even amused by their human
fallibility. New information that differs
from what they thought they knew, or
even proves them wrong, isn't rejected,
explained away, or cause for angst. They
welcome it as information that will enable
them to make smart choices.
I was overflying an area of bad weather
at night and the airplane's radar reported
the cloud tops were 6,000 feet below
my current altitude. That seemed like a
safe margin. But redirecting the radar to
a close-in, level scan showed towering
spires of stormy weather reached to our
airplane's altitude and beyond. A more
skeptical reading of the weather picture,
and a timely diversion away from the bad
weather, would have been a wise choice.
Instead, I blundered through an area of
violent weather that peeled the paint off
the airplane's radome.
I went to school to learn a new-to-me
airplane last year, and my biggest obstacle
in training was my desire to impress my
instructors with how thoroughly I had
prepared. A more secure pilot with an open
mind would have asked questions, listened
better, and absorbed the flood of new
information quicker. By trying to show how
much I already knew, I missed opportunities to learn from subject-matter experts
with many years of real-world experience.
It's a mistake I don't intend to repeat.
The more experience pilots gain,
the more we should question our own
assumptions, double-check all the information we can, and acknowledge the
things we don't know.
And that's true of writing, as well. I
was so sure that the quote at the beginning of this column was said by Mark
Twain that it didn't occur to me to check
it. Neither, apparently, did the makers of
the movie The Big Short who used it, and
attributed it to Twain. I'm glad I found the
mistake before repeating it.
Only by admitting what we don't know,
can pilots avoid things that just ain't so. FT



Flight Training - June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - June 2021

Contents
Flight Training - June 2021 - Intro
Flight Training - June 2021 - Cover1
Flight Training - June 2021 - Cover2
Flight Training - June 2021 - Contents
Flight Training - June 2021 - 2
Flight Training - June 2021 - 3
Flight Training - June 2021 - 4
Flight Training - June 2021 - 5
Flight Training - June 2021 - 6
Flight Training - June 2021 - 7
Flight Training - June 2021 - 8
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Flight Training - June 2021 - Cover3
Flight Training - June 2021 - Cover4
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