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Judg(e)ment.  “Opinion; Critical Faculty; Discernment; Good Sense”

As pilots judgement is fundamental to what we do.  We need to assess and correct actions and behaviours all the time to arrive at a safe outcome, e.g. a flight untroubled by either the attention of the  CAA Enforcement Branch or the services of a licensed engineer.  Of course, there is more to it than just not getting found out.  Whilst we use our judgement others judge us and we judge them back in return.

So who judges us?  Well, for a start, we are judged by everybody listening to us on the radio.  Poor RT is often indicative of a pilot who is having trouble keeping up with his aeroplane.  Slapdash or non-standard RT is often indicative of a pilot who approaches other aspects of flying in a similar fashion.  Think before starting a transmission as the first impression any pilot gives is the one given over the radio!  My top tip is to know what the person at the other end expects/wants you to tell them and to know what information he should give you in return.  You will thus be ready to note things down if required and reply quickly to calls.  If you think your RT is weak then speak to GoFly to arrange some ground lessons that will allow you to free up some spare capacity in the cockpit.  Listen to other pilot’s RT, think about how you will sound and what impression you will give.  Above all……listen out before pressing transmit!

How are your circuits?  As an Instructor, I judge people (rightly or wrongly, but I do!) on their ability to fly a “standard” circuit. .

Irrespective of experience or hours, a well flown circuit tells me that a pilot will be able to complete other exercises to the same level.  The same applies to poor circuits!  Practise.  I am sure we all think it is a pain to be in the same circuit as some clown who doesn’t know what they are doing so make sure you are doing the judging in this case!  Why not fly an academic circuit next time you arrive back at Old Sarum?  Make it the right shape, at the right height, at the right speeds, with the correct RT at the right points!  Your ability to join and fly a correct circuit at a “foreign” airfield will leave a good impression. PFL’s.  When did you last practise?  We use our judgement to arrive in the place of our choosing.  Without practise that judgement may not be up to the job.  You only get one chance for real.  It is not good enough to do a PFL every two years during your bi-ennial FI flight.

What will your passengers think of you after their flight?  When I fly someone who has no previous experience in a light aircraft, whether it is a trial lesson or in my own aircraft as a passenger, I try really hard to leave a good impression of the overall experience.  Experienced passengers need even more care, even if I am unlikely to change Mrs P’s opinion of my ability as a pilot after all these years.  Brief your passengers well, keep them informed of what you are doing and why, let them get involved but also do not let this distract you from your prime task of keeping them safe.

Students.  Do you judge your instructor as a teacher?  That is what we instructors should be doing after all.  You should have learned something new by the end of every flight that you can take forward to your next lesson.  Do not be intimidated by our vast experience and knowledge as we are unlikely to keep things to ourselves– there is no such thing as a stupid question – only stupid answers!

At the end of every flight, judge yourself.  On very rare occasions it might be that an instructor feels the need to give you advice about something he has seen, but it is much more likely that you have done something undetected that you know could have been done better or differently.  Only rarely do I think that I have got everything done absolutely correctly and so proceed onwards to get a Biggles award!  Try to be better next time.

Currency is the great enemy of much of the above.  Money is tight and times are hard as everyone involved in General Aviation is painfully aware.  Use your flying wisely, don’t just go the Needles and back but occasionally flex your general handling muscles and also go somewhere new.  Where possible try to concentrate your flying over a few months.  Build up a skill set that will fade with time, but from a higher level to start with.  Perhaps think about sharing flights to cut costs and see new airfields.  A circuit every six weeks will keep you legally current, but poorly placed to do much else.

So judgement applies both ways.  Only by trying to give a better impression will we be placed higher up the judged scale by our peers.  If you judge that you could be doing something better then you are more than halfway to improving as a pilot – book a short flight with an Instructor (like me!!) so that we can target whatever you would like to change/improve.  Practise on your own if you are confident you can judge your own flying.  Always consider expanding your horizons to keep your flying interesting (lunch in France anyone?) but remember first impressions are hard to change, so make the first impression a good one.

Happy Landings!

Mark Phillips