Now all that said about the wonderful advances technology has made to enhance safety and create a clear pathway to a career in aviation comes with a price. Students starting out in a modern trainer and being fast tracked into the cockpit of a sophisticated turbine powered aircraft often miss out on an ample exposure to basic stick and rudder flying. A skill that no matter how much experience you have and how sophisticated your airplane is, will be needed at the most unexpected times during your career. It’s crucial that hand flying skills be second nature. This is a serious problem finally being looked at by the FAA and the airline industry. Over reliance on automation and lack of basic flying skills is cropping up more and more as the cause of fatal crashes. It’s ironic that statistically flying has never been safer thanks to the many technological advances being made, however these new levels of sophistication have created a unique safety problem of its own. Pilots are actually forgetting basic “stick and rudder” flying skills when faced with an unexpected loss of automation.
The other problem a fast track into sophisticated turbine airplanes often creates is a lack of lack of exposure to flying for the sheer joy of being aloft and just enjoying the experience. After forty years of sharing a cockpit with fellow aviators in everything from a 1930’s DC-3 to an ultra sophisticated AirBus it’s obvious that the pilots that love their job tend to be the best fit for a piloting career. Those pilots have had the good fortune of never having to work for a living, they pursued a passion. While enjoying what you do makes any job easier, it also lends itself well to an enhanced skill level. If your focus is solely on the technological marvels of your airplane and all it’s sophisticated autopilot and navigation options available to you it can be easy to miss out on the pure joy of flight at its truest level.