The answer to these aviation headlines is "professionalism." Professionalism in terms of the way people conduct their jobs, their daily lives and their flying responsibilities -- conducting them in a positive, intelligent and disciplined manner. Pilots should not be offended when it is said to "strive to be more professional" because, as professional pilots, we must periodically evaluate ourselves to assure 100 percent performance at all times. This is very important because not one pilot leaves their home in the morning planning to have an accident, but something happens during the course of time that gets them into a difficult position. Either the aircraft gets them into a terrible situation or they get themselves into trouble. Through professionalism and good training, a pilot can get out and stay out of potential trouble.
As professional pilots, there are definite steps and precautions that can be taken to keep professionally fit. The first is a strong, positive attitude. A positive attitude will change a pilot's habits, situational awareness and approach to flying performance. Just because a pilot has thousands of hours does not mark him as a professional. There is a lot more to it. A good attitude, combined with knowledge and skill are the marks of a true professional.
Professional pilots must constantly train and maintain the knowledge we already possess while reaching out and acquiring new knowledge. Pilots should constantly ask themselves if they have the knowledge and understanding of all systems in their aircraft. Do they know all the emergency procedures of the aircraft? If not, how do they expect to survive if an emergency takes place? Do pilots periodically return to the basic skills of flying? For instance, there is a basic skill of keeping one's head out of the cockpit or flying basic maneuvers upon which advance maneuvers are built. Can the pilots visualize all flight maneuvers prior to initiating them? If a pilot cannot visualize a flight maneuver or procedure, how can he perform it?
Pilots must continually work on developing and maintaining their flying skills, both visual flight rules and instrument flight rules. If a pilot plans on an IFR flight, then proficiency -- not only in skill, but also in knowledge -- is paramount. Pilots cannot go IFR inadvertently and survive unless they are current and proficient in IFR flying.
Professional pilots must discipline themselves to work in today's complicated aviation system. Pilots must stay abreast of the current Federal Aviation Regulations and any changes to those regulations. They must read and study the aircraft flight manual frequently. Pilots must know what their capabilities are and must discipline themselves not to exceed them. When they reach their limits, they must not push themselves beyond that point and into a dangerous situation.
As pilots, we have three common failings. First, pilots tend to be prouder of their willingness to take a chance than of their observance of caution, conservation and carefulness. Second, pilots tend to use powers of logic and reasoning to find justification for things they want to do, rather than determine what is best to do. Third, pilots will risk losses out of all proportions to possible gains if they feel that through their skill and luck they can probably avoid the loss.
If you were to sit with a pilot in his or her living room and present them with the above three failings, they would tell you they would do the safe thing. In reality, the chances are excellent they would gamble, for it is human nature. It comes back to the old conflict of knowledge versus desire. Being a pilot is a hazardous profession, but it is only as hazardous as you want to make it. Control or discipline the desires and temptations and be aware of the traps human nature has laid for you. It may save your life -- and that is what professionalism is all about.

Page last updated Tue January 31st, 2012 at 14:23