I subscribe to Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day, and I recently got a very interesting word: “poetaster.” Here’s the definition:
po·et·as·ter [poh-it-as-ter] noun
an inferior poet; a writer of indifferent verse.
Essentially, a poetaster is an imposter poet.
And I thought about my flying and other pilots I have flown and worked with in the past – and I realized that many pilots, once they “finish” training, become “pilotasters” – indifferent, inferior, imposter pilots!
How do you know if you are a pilotaster?
- Do you rush your preflight, and miss things in the process (like visually checking your fuel)?
- Do you try to “save” a bad landing instead of going around and trying again?
- Do you skip checking weather (DUATS or 1-800-WX-BRIEF) because you’re “just staying in the pattern” or only going to the practice area?
- Do you have a hard time believing what is actually happening with the weather because “it’s not what the forecast said” or “not what the METAR / ATIS said?”
- Do you fly lower than necessary or “buzz” your friends’ or family’s houses?
- Do you “stretch your fuel” and pass up perfectly good refueling spots on cross-countries,even though you might have a stronger headwind (or weaker tailwind) than anticipated (or for some other reason you are burning fuel more rapidly than you originally planned)?
- Related: Do you even pay attention to your ACTUAL fuel burn and your time between checkpoints on your cross-country flights?
- Do you note the time you takeoff on your cross-country flights so you can actually keep track of how long you have been in the air?
- Do you forget to lean, or lean improperly (or maybe were never taught to lean your plan and then never took the time to learn it on your own)?
- Do you regularly forget to untie or un-chock the airplane?
- Do you accidentally leave the parking brake set as you start your taxi (or even all the way through takeoff, and maybe even landing)?
- Do you review your Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) regularly to refresh your knowledge of your V-Speeds and emergency procedures?
- Do you play “what if” every chance you get, and actually pick out a good emergency landing spot “just in case” something happens and you need it? Do you keep that always in mind as you fly?
I’m sure you can think of more items to add (so tell us in the comments what you think should – or should not) be on this list.
I’d also like to point out that I don’t think that anyone always “is” or “is not” a pilotaster. I, myself have been guilty of just about every item on the above list at one time or another (never all at the same time, but sometimes more than one at a time) – I think that we all have days when we are pilotasters and days when we are not. My goal is to not be a pilotaster most days – to minimize the flights where I would have to consider myself as a pilotaster after the fact.
So I strive to avoid these situations by doing my absolute best, absolutely every time I step up to an airplane. I hope you can say the same!
Thanks for reading the Smart Flight Training blog – I hope you enjoyed this post, and please add to the list above if you have things that you – ahem – know other pilots do that might bite them someday! Tailwinds, and have a great week!
Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.