COMMENTARY / TOWER FREQUENCY
The next level
YOU KNOW THE DRILL. Earn certif-
icate, then take all your friends
and family flying until they
won’t fly with you anymore.
Then, usually through the
influence of your fellow aviators, you discover the $100
hamburger and wing off into
the expansion of your social flying circles with new adventures
in new places.
If airplane ownership has
come your way, you most likely
find yourself in the type club
that has built itself around your
particular airplane. These type
clubs are fabulous creations
within the wide world of aviation and deliver huge value.
From maintenance and operating support to specialized safety
training and the now more-popular-than-ever network of passionate owners who seem always willing to lend a helping hand
or share their knowledge with other members of “the brotherhood.” And it’s for sure a brotherhood, sometimes even
cult-like. Ever been to a gathering of Waco types? They have
their own “secret handshake”—it’s called “explain the model
numbering system of Waco airplanes.” I’ve seen nothing in
my aviation life more effective at sorting out the unworthy
than that technique.
And, assuming you are an EAA member, you are now transforming yourself from the ever-so-plentiful status of pilot, to the
much more appreciated flier known as an aviator. Yes, I’m
throwing down the gauntlet; there is a difference between a
pilot and an aviator.
So what’s the difference between a pilot and an aviator, you
ask? Plenty, is my short answer. But the fundamentals are two
things—attitude and experience.
I met a pilot the other day who regaled me with his day VFR
adventure in a rented Piper Arrow visiting a fraternity brother
while on spring break. The good news: He survived the ordeal.
Compare that to a gentleman I met during a recent unplanned stop
in Kankakee, Illinois. After I had secured the airplane, stripped off
several layers of clothing, and poured a cup of coffee, the stranger
said, “Those G models don’t like the ice
much, do they?” Now we’re talking to an
aviator, and boy was he! Thousands of hours
in nearly every legendary airplane known
and experiences that reveal an inner core of
intelligence, respect for limitations, trustworthiness, and confidence.
In aviation we have some experiences
available to us that can take us to the next
level. Experiences such as instrument ratings, seaplane ratings, ATPs, multiengine
ratings, and others. These are wonderful
enhancements to your pilot skills and
unquestionably progress your journey from
pilot to aviator. But there are two experiences that will make you sit up and take
stock of what you are really made of—
aerobatics and formation flying. Think you’re
smooth? Think you know just how much of
what is needed in any situation you may
find yourself in?
As the old saying goes, you don’t know
what you don’t know.
During a recent formation flight clinic,
I was assigned the “second look” at a wingman candidate. Now, “second look” can
have two meanings in formation flying.
First, and most noble, is the “I think he’s
ready for the checkride, and need your
assessment of his skills and my judgment”
second look. And then there is the “He
thinks he’s ready, but he’s not, and I need
your support before we break the bad
news” second look.
Unfortunately, the wingman candidate
was the latter “second look” type. A high
time airline captain who was disappointed,
as you would imagine, at being given the
bad news. But, he had the right attitude,
took two more training sorties, and was
rewarded with his wingman card during
the last checkride of the clinic.
An aviator reaching for the next level is
to be respected for his or her aviation passion and professionalism that is most likely
supported by the right attitude and drive
for more experience.
You’ll find some links to various formation
flying clinics under the “Tower Frequency”
heading on www.SportAviation.org. I encourage you to reach for the next level on your
journey from pilot to aviator.
Now, let’s go aviate!