What makes a great pilot?

The Phoenix East Aviation blog has recently posted two posts concerning what makes a great pilot and the quotes from these posts are well worth repeating. In the first post, Barry Valentine who served as acting FAA Administrator during President Bill Clinton’s administration and who also earned the US Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary flying, was quoted as saying:

There is an old saying that a superior pilot is one who uses his superior judgment so as not to have to use his superior skill…What makes a ‘pilot’s pilot’? Attitude and judgment. Recognizing that a pilot’s license is simply a license to learn………..and all flights are proficiency flights on which something can be learned, and skills cab be honed. That is the right attitude. But the best of skills must be coupled with judgment. Experience is, of course, important in flying as in virtually all endeavors. In aviation we generally equate experience with hours logged. This can, however, be deceptive. Does 10,000 hours in a logbook mean that the pilot has 10,000 hours of experience or one hour of experience 10,000 times? Approximately three-quarters of accidents contain an element of pilot error. So the right attitude and good judgment coupled with the right experience and skill are all necessary for safe flying.

In the second post, the Phoenix East Aviation blog mentioned an article by Jane G. Birch who quoted a master flight instructor as saying:

Thinking about what makes an expert pilot, I believe the first trait is one’s ability to maintain beginner’s mind.  Beginner’s mind is having an open mind to life experiences and the ability to recognize and use these experiences in the future. You may know someone who seems to know all there is to know about aviation.  However, if they do not possess beginner’s mind, then to me they are knowledgeable, but not an expert….besides being knowledgeable, the best pilots observe the environment around them…The expert will say this or that is going to happen, and it usually does further along the flight. When their prediction becomes realilty you think, ‘how did they know that was going to happen’?’

Apparently, the flight instructor goes on to say that great pilots share one thing in common: They are able to apply their aviation abilities to their environment.

Hence and its worth asking our readers: What do you think makes a great pilot or a “pilot’s pilot”? Feel free to post your comments below!

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