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Airmanship, Who Needs It?


"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity of neglect" 
Pilots' folklore, Author unknown  

You may have come across the term Airmanship many times, or you may have never heard of it. In this article I will try to answer several basic questions such as: What is Airmanship? Who needs it? Can you improve your airmanship? Will it improve your piloting techniques and increase the safety of your flying?

In a narrow definition, airmanship is the art and skills of operating an aircraft. Unlike many other arts, operating an aircraft requires a high degree of professionalism at every level of the art. Airmanship combines the overall knowledge, skill, judgment, and demeanor of an airman.


It is fair to say that an airman who has more options available to him or her, will perform better than the an airman who lacks them. This is true during normal operation of an aircraft, and it is magnified during emergencies where other human factors are introduced into the situation.

The options that are available to an airman are not arbitrary. They are a result of the airman's knowledge, skills and capabilities. The combination of knowledge, skills and capabilities are the factors that determine the airman's judgment and performance under any given situation.

Knowledge is not limited to the aircraft only, but covers all the following:

Skills can be improved by practice. Skills are not limited to the manipulation of the aircraft controls. The following are other skills that an airman must possess:

One's capabilities are also a factor in his or her competency to safely operate an aircraft. A pilot's capability is not restricted to physical limitations only, but it is subject to his or her training. A pilot may or may not be restricted to perform certain duties based on certification or competency only. It is obvious that a pilot may not operate an aircraft which he or she is not licensed to operate, but it is not so clear to some airman when it comes to his or hers individual limitations.

While exceptional technological progress took place in aviation, a deterioration in pilot competency occurred in the last 30 years. Many airmen limit their studies merely to satisfy the requirements for obtaining a certificate. An increased number of flight instructors teach their students only flight maneuvers that they may encounter during a flight test. At the same time aviators accept flight operations which they are not capable of performing. As a result we see an increase number of accidents which are attributed to "Pilot Error". This is an educational problem. Unless something is done, we will see an increased in Pilot Error type of accidents.

Airmanship is the core of the airman's professionalism. Professional aviators are a guarantee for safer flight operations. Attention to airmanship should be begin from the first day of the aviator's ground and flight instruction. However, licensed pilots can also improve their airmanship by acquiring more knowledge, skill and training on a continuous basis. That can be accomplished by reading books and magazines, participating in seminars and workshops, and by obtaining higher certificates.

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Last update May 17, 2005
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