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We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

This is a popular saying in the engineering and science world that applies directly to general aviation. As we start out on that very first lesson, it is a whole new world.

Things are happening fast, and that long-dreamt desire to become a pilot is actually happening. I know for me, a lot of my preconceived notions about flying, the work required, and the limitations that come with it went out the window the first week. How we react to the changes and the unknown determines whether or not we actually become a pilot — and, if we do, how good of a pilot we are. The most important decision every pilot faces is whether to make the trip or not.

If we don’t know what we don’t know, how do we ever find out? Well, that is a tricky proposal. The first step is to humbly admit that we don’t know everything and that we better work hard to find out all that we can. For me, I tried to find out what I didn’t know by questioning everything and assuming every trip would be made. Even when it looked like there was no way to fly, I wanted to push through the information so I could build a data bank of things that someday may be helpful.

I think the mental exercise of collecting information and forcing yourself to really analyze things is a great teacher. What I have found is that learning from those experiences, the process of whether or not to fly, actually comes pretty easy. Trial and error may work in the laboratory or the shop, but in aviation, it is a very short course.

Some pilots see a cloud and immediately cancel their flight plans. Others see a hurricane and say, “No big deal!” Pilot must make decisions for themselves based on their experience, equipment, and information.

Push the envelope on the ground in your thought process, and then the decision to fly or not becomes easier.