Attitude is everything.
You think you’re a hot shot because you’re learning to fly helicopters? Check that attitude at the door. It won’t do you any good if you plan to make flying a career.
Attitude is everything when it comes to any career. A cocky, overconfident attitude will not help you in training and it certainly won’t help you get your entry level job — likely as a flight instructor — when your training is done.
Be open to what your instructor and other knowledgeable pilots have to say. If you don’t understand something, admit it and work with your instructor to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Show respect for your CFI, chief flight instructor, flight school employees, other students, and FAA examiners. Act mature. (This isn’t high school, grow up.) Be helpful and cooperative. Don’t be a whiner.
Beyond the Flight School Environment
Attitude also extends beyond training and into your jobs.
Just the other day, while flying in the high-traffic area around the Hoover Dam, I had the displeasure of conducting a useless radio exchange with a tour pilot. This little twerp probably had half the flight experience that I have, yet he talked down to me in a sarcastic manner that was obviously his [failed] attempt to prove how much smarter he was. The radio exchange wasted bandwidth and provided little useful information about what could have been a traffic conflict. It was clearly more important for him to try to intimidate me than to provide me with the information I needed to avoid his aircraft, such as position, altitude, and flight path.
Yet only moments later, another pilot operating nearby communicated exactly what he was planning to do and even offered to wait a minute or two until I was clear of the area.
Which one had the better attitude? Which one do you think other pilots would want to fly with? Or employers would want to hire?
Attitude Extends to Safety, Too
And it’s not just a positive attitude that will help you achieve your goals. It’s a safe attitude. If you don’t conduct yourself as a safe pilot, you will simply not move forward in your career.
Back in 2009, I had a run-in with a tour pilot in Sedona. He was upset that I’d parked my helicopter in the spot across from his at the airport. Apparently, he liked that spot kept free so he could fly through it on departure. To “show me a lesson” he departed nearly right over my passenger’s heads as we waited for him to leave the area. His action was foolish and dangerous. I reported him to the airport manager and the FAA. I later learned that this same pilot had demonstrated his bad attitude at the local FSDO within earshot of one of the inspectors. It was the pilot that was taught a lesson that day.
Accidents like the one at Grand Canyon West in 2001 are teaching employers the importance of their pilots flying safely. The accident pilot had a history, backed up with videotape, of performing aggressive maneuvers during tour flights.
One of the [past] passengers stated that there were particularly exciting episodes during the tour that were frightening to some of the others. As part of the tour, they flew over a site that was used in the commercial motion picture film Thelma and Louise, and the pilot pointed out the cliff. … During the return to LAS, the pilot asked if they wanted to know what it was like to drive a car off of a cliff. She stated that they all said “no” to this question; however, he proceeded to fly very fast toward the edge of the cliff and then dove the helicopter as it passed the edge. The passenger reported that it was “frightening and thrilling at the same time but it scared the others to death.”
On August 10, the pilot and six passengers were killed; the other passenger received serious burns on most of her body that have likely destroyed her life. The NTSB report’s probable cause was:
the pilot’s in-flight decision to maneuver the helicopter in a flight regime, and in a high density altitude environment, in which the aircraft’s performance capability was marginal, resulting in a high rate of descent from which recovery was not possible. Factors contributing to the accident were high density altitude and the pilot’s decision to maneuver the helicopter in proximity to precipitous terrain, which effectively limited any remedial options available.
Evidence shows that the pilot may have been attempting to perform the “Thelma and Louise” maneuver when the aircraft crashed. (You can read the details of this accident to learn more by downloading the full NTSB report as a PDF.)
You can bet that if there are any questions about your attitude regarding safety, you simply will not get hired as a pilot.
Getting into the habit of having a good attitude should stick with you throughout your career — and your life. Start now, before you even begin your search for a flight school.
Next up, I’ll remind you why flight training is like any other school.