Lazy Pilot is a Good Pilot

When I first attempted driving, I was surprised how difficult it was to maintain speed. It was my grandmother who finally imparted her wisdom.

“Ease up on the accelerator before you get to the speed you want.” She said, probably tired of the back and forth she was seeing on the speedometer.

With a little practice, I successfully applied her wisdom to my driving technique, and within minutes, we were cruising along the freeway at sixty miles per hour, plus or minus two miles per hour. Eventually, this practice became seamless, and driving, like walking, became a conditioned response.

Within a few of years of obtaining my driver’s license, I was again learning to operate a new vehicle. I was done with the BS part of flight school, and learning to fly a helicopter. After a few lessons, the instructor imparted his own wisdom on me. Like my grandma, he was getting tired of watching the airspeed and altimeter needles go back and forth.

“A good pilot, is a lazy pilot.” He started the debriefing with.

H e then went on to explain that I need to make a change, then wait and see how it affects the helicopters flight envelope. If the aircraft is low, pull a little collective, and wait and see if it climbs. If you’re a little slow, nudge the aircraft forward a little, and see if the airspeed increase. Don’t chase the needle.

For the purpose of grading, we had to maintain a certain standard while in flight.

* Altitude, plus or minus 100 feet.

* Airspeed, plus or minus 5 knots.

* Rate of climb, plus or minus 25 feet per second.

The above numbers are just representations of what the standards where. I cannot recall the exact standards at the moment. But they allowed for variations caused by updrafts, head winds, and the human ability to see changes and adjust for them.

Initially I was reluctant to embrace the “Lazy pilot is a good pilot.” philosophy because I wanted perfection. I wanted to achieve the allusive “A” ride. But as the aircraft bounced around, and the sweat poured down my forehead, I decided maybe the old veteran was right.

When I saw or felt a change, I gave the helicopter a moment to prove to me it was a trend, and not an event. Then, if it was trending, I input a corrective action, and watched to see if the trend changed. Before long, I became very relaxed in the cockpit, and enjoyed the full breadth of the standard.

“Remember when I told you, ‘A good pilot is a lazy pilot’?” My instructor asked after a week or so of me applying my new found philosophy.

“Yes.” I replied.

“Well I think you have become a little too lazy.” He said with a smirk.

Basically, I was letting the aircraft wonder throughout the full spectrum of the standards. I needed to tighten up my flying a little bit. Instead of settling for a “B” ride, I needed to once again strive for an “A” ride.

His admonishment was fine by me, I wanted to be a better pilot. But now I was flying the aircraft the way I should be. Letting control inputs happen, before I corrected more, all the while doing a good job maintaining standards.

Piggly WigglyAlabama life taught me a similar lesson. When I first moved down there, it drove me nuts how laid back everyone was. To them, it was no big deal to wait in line at the Piggly Wiggly to check out. They just chatted with the people next to them and waited their turn.

As a northern boy, this laid back attitude was infuriating!

However, once I moved back north, I marveled at the pace in which everyone moved. What was the hurry? I wasn’t quit Alabama speed, but I no longer sped along at northern city boy speed either.

I achieved a balance.

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