Each day we strive to be better. We try to remember to take out the trash on time, pay that bill on time, eat fewer calories, be more kind, take more time with family, or even as simple as spending a full two minutes brushing our teeth rather than rushing through it.

In all of us is a drive to do things better. In some people that fire burns hotter than others. Some go on to achieve many ‘great’ things because of this drive, and for others, simply doing enough so time can be passed by while gardening, or something else they enjoy, is their way of ‘being’.

To each their own.

That drive to be perfect lives in all of us- whatever perfect means to us individually.

Over the last several weeks, there have been some interesting discussions coming up in comments on our website, and additionally internally here as a team. These discussions have revolved around the desire for trainees and instructors alike to want perfection at all times. Perfect landings, perfect setup, perfect numbers- the list goes on.

Here is some big news:

You will never be perfect

You will make mistakes

That’s part of life

I don’t intend to get too philosophical about how these principles apply in every day personal life, but I can sure speak to aviation. The points I make are nearly one in the same, and the lessons can be drawn similarly between the two.

From this, I hope you’ll learn that as a pilot you’re not meant to be perfect. As a pilot, you are bound to make mistakes. Through this knowledge and humility, you can become a safer and stellar pilot.

You Aren’t That Good, Maverick

In the famous movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise plays ‘Maverick’; a hot-headed yet talented US Naval Aviator. Maverick is good. REAL good. And he knows he’s good. During the course of the movie, he ends up screwing up, essentially putting his friend Goose in harms way (Goose dies. Sorry for the spoiler).

Eventually Maverick learns through unfortunate events that he must trust others, play as a team, and that he too is prone to mistakes. Although he fails Top Gun school, he is an integral part of the final scene, where he saves the day by helping shoot down ‘bogies’ and save the carrier fleet from an international crisis.

To a small degree, he learned a bit of humility, and it paid off.

This may be a cliche and terrible example, but it’s relevant. If you ever hear a pilot say, “I know it all, and I’m the best”- run, no FLY the other way! And without him in your airplane. That’s a dangerous dude!

Make Minor Mistakes

Mistakes are normal. I’m not talking about major mistakes like performing a runway incursion, blowing clearances or altitudes, or any number of other things that put your passengers in immediate danger.

I’m talking about forgetting a switch here, or a number there.

I also recognize full well that forgetting a switch, or a number, can lead to horrible and serious consequences when compounded by additional mistakes and events, even an event like not knowing you had done something wrong.

What I’m getting across here is that you will make these mistakes. It’s not your job to be perfect, and not make these mistakes. It’s your job to realize you WILL make those mistakes, and that you need to have the mentality to continually cover over your work, doing checklists and flows, and so on. This way you’re breaking any domino effect.

Another tremendous benefit to this is the addition of another crew member. With that crew member, and with proper crew resource management (CRM), your crew can operate a tight ship.

Most simulator pilots do not have that opportunity, however. Most end up flying an aircraft meant for a crew, but as a solo pilot. Certainly not what it was designed for, and the workload is high.


Learn From Your Mistakes

I’ve established that you must be humble and know you’re not perfect, and beyond, that mistakes are inevitable and just a part of being.

Mistakes can be brushed off as minor, or ‘not a big deal’. Granted, some mistakes are not a big deal. You dropped your pencil? And you also have a backup? No big deal.

The reason why flight experience by the hours measurement in aviation is so powerful is because most pilots, quite naturally, continually improve and refine their craft as pilots over those hours. They recognize a mistake here, or a place they could improve there, and they learn little-by-little and improve one bit at a time.

If you look at mistakes as being a one off event, that same mistake will most likely come back to bite you. But if you look at mistakes as events that will happen every time unless you take conscious action to improve that area, then you’re bound to repeat them.

The lesson: learn from your mistakes.


In recap, there’s good news- You’re human. As a human, you’re designed to make mistakes. It’s in your DNA. The more you fight that reality, you’ll miss more opportunities to fix the things that are preventing you from being a full on awesome pilot. You will never be a perfect pilot, as perfection is unattainable.

Through constant refinement, humility, and perseverance, you can become closer to perfection than those that have ‘learned it all’ and therefore have shutoff their minds to increased learning.

We will all make mistakes. The least we can ask of ourselves is to recognize that we aren’t perfect, but still strive for that perfection through constant refinement.

Join the Conversation!
What are your thoughts on mistakes in aviation? Acceptable, unacceptable?


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