What is good Airmanship?

Heart sinking quickly into my chest, I scribbled down seven digits on a kneeboard
containing ineligible ATC clearances, weather reports, and an IFR cancellation reminder,
pondering on whether I should continue to fly. Embarrassing airmanship landed me on an
unfortunate date with Air Traffic Controls’ finest to discuss the discrepancies of my aviation
fiasco. A thousand flight hours later consisting of more than 500 hours teaching, flying private
owners, and corporate aviation experience, I have come to a conclusion as to what makes good

Reaching the hearts of millions, the FAA published the Airplane Flying Handbook aka
“AFH “, describes almost everything a general aviation pilot will learn during initial training.
Its first chapter “Introduction to Flight” uses hot terms students will hear on repeat during training
such as “checklist usage”, “stall spin awareness”, and “collision and runway incursion

These hot terms are the foundation of aviation safety as the community constantly
preaches the importance of situational awareness and vigilance during flight operations to
prevent the next major accident. However, to get to the root of sharp airmanship, you must
understand the human who interacts with the machine, the challenges they face, their concerns, and
the risks they must mitigate to operate an aircraft safely.

Multiple articles will explain the characteristics of a great pilot, but the truth is that it has
changed over time. Once upon a time, whoever had the swankiest sunglasses, sipped their
coffee the slowest, and held the most macho attitude was considered a legacy, however, this
lifestyle has been overturned. The community now preaches patience, methodology,
conservatism, and admitting vulnerability as some of the good qualities of healthy airmanship.

From personal experience, carrying extra fuel, waiting out poor weather, and always using a
checklist have kept me safe since my memorable phone call. Flying is a privilege and thinking
your machine is greater than external factors that exist, is simply not true. Aviation will humble a
pilot quickly.

So the next time you yell “clear prop” remember all the successful behaviors a good
airman must demonstrate. With good training and skill, an airman can tackle obstacles a
common person cannot, but this means nothing if we are not safe. Being a pilot is one of the
greatest blessings of my life and humbles me to further develop my aviation education. Being
aware of the qualities of a good pilot will lead you to a safe and successful future.

As always friends…
Blue skies and tailwinds everyone

David Kollins
Professional Pilot / Flight Instructor / Aviation Consultant

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