12 Jun 2019
Matt Hall - The importance of continuous training

Matt Hall - The importance of continuous training

As a young pilot during my RAAF training, I distinctly remember a day when I was sitting in a Macchi jet at the base in Williamtown – and yes, that does make it a long time ago – watching a pair of hornets line up and take off. I was in the Operational Readiness Platform (ORP) waiting for my own take off clearance and my thought was ‘how good for those pilots, they have already made it to Hornets and can now just enjoy flying without all the effort still ahead of me learning to fly it.’

How wrong I was about the training process. 

I have since found out that I am always learning. There is never the perfect flight, there is always another system or regulation to learn, new tactics, new equipment. And, if you think you have plateaued, it’s time to find something else to push yourself with.

From my experience, one of the biggest risks for individual pilots after gaining their main qualification, whether it be your ATPL, Hornet rating, instructor rating or something else, is complacency. It is a natural human condition to want to sit back and smell the roses, particularly if you have been very busy. And pilots are typically very busy trying to get their main qualification. So, it makes sense that once you get to where you want to be, you want to have a break and enjoy being qualified.

I am not saying to never enjoy the job, and in fact I am a big advocate to enjoy the journey, otherwise you forget what encouraged you to become a pilot in the first place. What I am saying though, is to never sit back for too long without pushing yourself or challenging yourself with another ‘module’ of learning.

These ‘modules’ can come from a large variety of sources. The key is to have the intrinsic challenge to improve yourself. 

Typically, the improvements early on in your career should be almost completely based directly around your profession, as you still have quite a steep learning curve. For an airline pilot, it will be improving your knowledge for the next simulation, learning the systems better; for the young instructor it could be increasing their own accuracy of flying, moving forward to a more complex aircraft; for the fighter pilot, increasing category, becoming a subject matter expert on a new weapon system; and for the recreational pilot, attending fly ins and competition days to improve your aircraft handling.

But, as you become ‘more experienced’, something I talked about in my previous blog, you will start to stagnate a little and run out of ideas directly relating to your primary job. 

This is when you may need to be a little more creative in your ‘modules’. For example, I went and completed my helicopter CPL. Not because I want a career in it, just because it was a great way to re-energise my enthusiasm for flying, and also get me back in the books on not just helicopter specifics, but Met, Air Law and Human Factors. There was a lot of revision for me, but as it turned out, most of it was necessary!

Go and get an instrument rating if you don’t have one. Get a formation rating, get an aerobatic rating. Each time you are getting a new rating, you are flying with an instructor, so be very clear with them that you want to also be assessed across the board. Park the ego, and let the instructor critique your checks, your radio calls, your airmanship, not just how well your loop went. 

I guarantee you that there will be something you can improve on, or the process will correct a bad habit that has snuck in. It will also help you regain your enthusiasm for hitting the books and having that spark of excitement while driving to the airfield.

In the end, we are all responsible for our inner attitude to flying, which has a general name of ‘airmanship’. 

We can pretend we have good airmanship and we maintain a standard because we fly with an instructor every 2 years on an AFR. Or we can push ourselves and continue to learn no matter how experienced we are, and never be too proud to have someone professionally critique our overall package of being an aviator. 

I have never found that time when I could say ‘now I can sit back because I can do it’. If the day ever comes that I do say that, it is probably the day to hang up my spurs because it is all downhill from there.

Chase your Dreams!