Taking Flight

I’ve started studying for the written examination to become a light sport aircraft pilot. It’s not something I’ve always dreamed of doing, like most potential pilots, but my interest has been piqued after going up a few times in small planes (neither of which were light sport, but still – LSA seems more feasible to pursue right now than a recreational or private license).

I thought it would be more difficult, to be honest. I’m not saying that it’s not hard – a lot of the physics stuff is taking a while to sink in. I don’t understand how turns work, for example, and it might take a few actual lessons to comprehend landing procedures adequately. But there’s a philosophy that elevates learning to fly that I wish I’d picked up on years and years and years ago: You have to make mistakes. You have to.

Mistakes aren’t something to be avoided when you’re learning to fly. You’re in control of the aircraft, but not the circumstances that surround you. You don’t control the weather, for example, so you have to make different choices based on the direction the wind is heading. You might face different challenges at different airports, or because of the geography of the terrain you need to pass through. And, just as in driving, you cannot control the actions of other planes in flight. The plane is in your hands, but the situation is not.

So you make mistakes. It happens.

And you have to make those mistakes in order to learn how to recover from them.

My learning philosophy up until this point in my life has been to avoid mistakes. Never having to deal with the consequences of a bad decision is so much easier, right? Maybe. But easier does not mean better. I’ve been operating under the illusion that I am in control of every aspect of my life, but that’s not true. I’m in control of the vehicle, but not the circumstances, and avoiding issues and problems has made the vehicle more fragile and less adaptable. When circumstances force me into trouble, I am not prepared to recover.

So I’m borrowing this philosophy from learning to fly and applying it to more of my operating procedures, not just in the cockpit but in the classroom, in the kitchen, at the store, at the doctor’s office – wherever it may be applicable.

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