I was talking with one of our pilots the other day and he was lamenting what he perceived as his eroding flying skills.
I thought for a moment before commenting because I considered him to be of one of the company’s best. If he thought his flying was not up to par, I didn’t want to know what he thought of my lesser performance.
There was no doubt that what he considered to be his ability slipping was not a matter of a lack of ability but simply a lack of exercise. To fly safely and proficiently does not require a lot of flight time, both in hours flown for currency or total flight experience.
What this pilot was lacking was an inability to perform at the higher levels he had achieved in the past when he flew more hours on a regular basis.
I told him that I could relate to his problem although no amount of extra flying was ever going to get me to the skill level he had demonstrated in past years. “I may never be able to fly that well again either “he said.
“You may not”,I said , but you will always know how.
I had a Yo-yo when I was a kid and like a lot of kids my age I watched the Yo-yo trick masters and practiced till I wore a red groove in my finger and had more lumps on my head than a rugby hooker.
After a few months I could do most of the tricks to some degree and yet I knew I wasn’t as good as the masters. How many hours had they spent perfecting their craft?
It is the same for some of the work we do with helicopters. Vertical reference, long line, instrument approaches, precision hover maneuvers in tight spots, all those skills that take so long to acquire and perfect also take consistent exercise, use, or practice to maintain at the higher levels of performance.
I can still pick up a Yo-yo and make a few basic moves. For some of the more complicated tricks I can see my mistakes as they happen and after a few minutes or hours, if I had the patience, I am sure I could get be back to the skill level I had at age nine.
The knowledge stays and the doing allows the long term memory to dredge up the nuances of the finer points. Repetition and will or determination if you prefer, get you back to close to where you once were.
“So don’t sweat it” I told the other pilot. Most of us never made it to your level of skill.
Even at age nine I knew that being pretty good meant I didn’t have to wear a hole in my finger.