AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 20

FLYING LIFE

Being human

BY NATALIE BINGHAM HOOVER

Let's stop being so hard on ourselves

NATALIE BINGHAM
HOOVER is a
CFI, CFII, and
multiengine
instructor with
more than 3,000
hours of dual given.

2020. THAT WAS THE YEAR OUR ROADS WERE supposed to be full of driverless cars. But here it is 2021,
and we're still driving our own vehicles. Even with
all the mistakes we make, humans exhibit better and
more consistently safe decision-making than robots.
If you were to ask a group of pilots their predictions
for the future of pilotless skies, most would give you
10 reasons why humans are better pilots than artificial intelligence. We exhibit critical thinking skills.
We can make rapid decisions in situations we have
not been trained for. We consider passenger comfort,
et cetera. I wonder why it is, then, that we so often
demand absolute robotic perfection of ourselves and
our fellow pilots?
In most cases, it's not the FAA demanding blood
when bad things happen. For an honest mistake, the
agency usually just requires the pilot to get some more
training on the issue that led to the incident. No, we
do this to ourselves. When we hear about an incident,
we look for all the mistakes those " incompetent " pilots
made so we can tell ourselves it would never happen
to us. And when I make a mistake, the harshest critic
is often...me. While that type of thinking might help
us manage the discomfort of things not turning out as
planned, it doesn't make us any safer as a pilot group.
One of the privileges of my position as a designated pilot examiner is that I get asked to give
FAA-mandated remedial training to those who have
had an aircraft incident, such as a runway excursion
or incursion. Many times, when these people walk in,
shoulders slumped, the defeat is evident on their faces.
But folks, one mistake does not make you incompetent. It makes you human. As a recovering perfectionist
myself, I'll tell you the very worst thing we can do is
continue to beat ourselves up over a failed checkride
or a mishap in the airplane. That self-doubt becomes
a self-fulfilling prophecy, making us weaker instead
of stronger.
So, for the last long-faced person who showed up in
my office, we watched the courtroom clip from the film
Sully before we got down to the business of dissecting
the runway excursion that led to remedial training. For
those of you who haven't watched the movie, go do it.
As a pilot, it will help you breathe a little easier.
Here's the part that did it for me: Capt. Sullenberger
and his first officer, Jeff Skiles, are in the NTSB hearing, watching simulator pilots re-create the dual engine

20 | AOPA PILOT February 2021

loss scenario-but instead of a water landing on the
Hudson, the sim pilots make it back to LaGuardia and
Teterboro. (Note: This scene is Hollywood sensationalized. Sullenberger himself requested that actual names
of the NTSB inspectors not be used because he did
not want them unfairly demonized.) Sully then turns
the tables by eloquently delivering the point that the
sim pilots are effectively robots, having the benefit of
warning and 17 practice runs before the courtroom simulations. " You are looking for human error. Then make
it human, " he says. In the movie, this promps the NTSB
to agree to a 35-second human factor delay before the
sim pilots can turn for the runway. Those attempts at
airport landings are unsuccessful.
The NTSB ultimately rules Sullenberger and his
crew were heroes for managing to make a safe water
landing and get all 155 souls out alive. But here's the
question: What if the NTSB had ruled pilot error?
Would that make Sullenberger and Skiles any less
heroic? No. They were proficient pilots who managed
to keep their cool and form a plan of action in an impossible situation. Hindsight says there may have been
a better plan, but there was no way they could have
known for sure there in the heat of the moment.
As a group, we pilots tend to dislike excuses.
We demand accountability and logical answers to
problems. So, if something went wrong, then it was
obviously the pilot's fault. And if it was pilot error, then
he must not be a very good pilot. No, it was pilot error
because that pilot was human. When things happen, we
need to analyze the incident (minus the self-inflicted
abuse) and determine a course of action that will prevent such a thing from ever happening again.
Yes, after the incident, someone sitting in a warm,
still room sipping their coffee may come up with ways
we could have done it better. We probably will even
do this to ourselves. Was there a way we could have
reacted differently when the engine failed? Did we miss
something on the preflight that might have prevented
the problem? Could we have better briefed our students
to prevent them from locking up the brakes? Of course,
we could have. And with experience, and practice, and
more knowledge, we will do it better next time.
That's what our failures should be good for. They
make us better the next time. We are not robots, we're
something better. We're human. 
AOPA
myaviation101.com


http://www.myaviation101.com

AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 12
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 13
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 14
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 16
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 21
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 26
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 29
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover4
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