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Passion for Proficiency

by Joel Pierce

A common bond among aviators is their strong passion for flying. However, do pilots share a common passion for increasing their level of proficiency with every flight? Yes, I believe most pilots take their passion for flying very seriously. There have only been a few times that I’ve flown with a pilot who seemed to lack a proper passion for true proficiency in their level of aviation knowledge and skill. Although the negative indicators may be multiple, the two most common negative indicators I see are a lack of willingness to spend money or time on improving their piloting skills.

feature_intro_1At a minimum, pilots should be willing and self-motivated to go beyond the FAA required currency requirements as needed to maintain a high level of proficiency. I encourage every pilot to take this idea to the next step. Fly with a dedicated passion for learning more every day in order to become more proficient and safe with every flight. The more proficient you are the more you’ll enjoy each flight knowing your knowledge and skills are well fit for your mission.

It is commonly said that a pilot is at the peak of his level of knowledge and skill on the day he obtains his certificate or rating. However, in my opinion, you’re now safe and legal to enjoy the privileges of your new achievement as a license to continue learning. Is satisfying the FAA’s requirements for currency good enough to be a safe pilot? Although each person has differing capabilities and limitations, I think it is nearly impossible for a pilot to maintain a safe enough level of proficiency by simply complying with the FAA’s bare minimum currency requirements. My question is, “Why be satisfied with being legally current and just proficient enough to hopefully be safe?” Take your passion for flying and continually apply it to looking for ways to become a more knowledgeable and skilled aviator.

What might this enjoyable and satisfying quest for an increasing level of proficiency involve? That will vary from person to person, but here are some ideas. Read AOPA articles and highlight, or rip out and place in your flight bag, the ones that stand out to you. Complete AOPA online safety courses and quizzes. Spend time hanging out with aviation experts. Analyze every flight you take, and learn all you can from it. Closely evaluate the weather on the days you have to make a “no go” decision to see what actually transpired in comparison with your original forecasts.

Join us for a ground school session that covers an area of interest or difficulty for you. Fly with a certified instructor and practice some crosswind takeoffs and landings while flying out for a $100 hamburger. I know a pilot who flies with an instructor every month. He rotates each month between emergency procedures, instrument procedures, and basic maneuvers to include takeoffs and landings. I like the saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Enjoy your passion for flying and apply it to an ever increasing level of knowledge and skill. Whether you’re flying for fun or flying for business, fly with proficiency. It will help to reward you with a long, safe, and enjoyable flying future.

Joel Pierce

General Manager & Chief Flight Instructor

A fan of flight ever since childhood, Joel earned his private pilot certificate in September 2002. In 2003, he attended the International ALERT Academy, where he obtained his instrument rating along with his commercial and flight instructor certificates. After graduating, he joined the ALERT faculty as a flight instructor and an assistant department manager. During this time, Joel met his wife, Laura. They married in 2006 and now have two children. In 2008, Joel became the flight operations director for Smith Field Air Service and now leads the staff at Sweet Aviation. Joel has over 5,000 hours of flight instruction and is driven by a passion for helping customers achieve their dreams. Joel is type rated in Sweet Aviation’s Cirrus Vision Jet, certified to fly a customer’s T-28, able to go fly some aerobatic maneuvers in the Super Decathlon, and on top of all this, he gets to share his intense passion for flying with so many other aviation enthusiasts in the Fort Wayne area.

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